A group of Russian policemen have been accused of selling confidential mobile phone data to contract killers who used the information to murder one of the country's leading anti-corruption crusaders.
A criminal investigation has been opened on three Moscow policemen suspected of selling the details. The killers used the data to track their target's movements and work out where and when it was best to murder him.
Their victim, Andrei Kozlov, 41, was the first deputy head of the Russian central bank and a prominent anti-corruption crusader. He and his driver were shot dead in September 2006 after being ambushed by two gunmen in an unlit car park in northern Moscow.
The policemen, who are being investigated for abusing their authority, insist they did nothing wrong and got a judge's permission to access Mr Kozlov's mobile records. It is not clear why a judge would agree to such a request.
Igor Trunov, a lawyer involved in Mr Kozlov's murder trial, warned that the allegations were part of a wider pattern. ''Corruption and the participation of law enforcement employees in illegal activity is widespread,'' he told Vzglyad magazine. ''Take any criminal case and we will find them in either the role of middleman or accomplice.''
In 2008, a businessman whose bank Mr Kozlov shut a few months earlier on suspicion of money laundering, was found guilty of ordering the murder and jailed for 19 years.
Experts say the officers probably charged the equivalent of between $700 and $1850 for their services but that the price demanded by corrupt police now for similar services is much higher.
Police corruption in Russia is rife with officers routinely extorting bribes from motorists and demanding cash to let people off real or invented crimes. In a recent case, a policeman took a bribe from a funeral agency in exchange for informing them about recent deaths so that they could get a head start on rival agencies.