“I Am Not a Russian Mafioso," a shakedown bestseller

If you write a damning book about someone, print a few thousand copies, then offer to sell all those copies to the person who is the subject of the book, it’s extortion, not a clever business deal. Canada’s top court says so.

Emmanuil Royz might have figured he had a bestseller on his hands when he wrote I Am Not a Russian Mafioso – he’s Russian – or at least he figured it was worth 70 large, as a mobster might say. So Royz kindly offered to sell all the copies of his book, written after he was convicted of defrauding the federal government, to Mrs. X, the female protagonist of the story. Mrs. X can’t be named, by order of the court, presumably because she is in witness protection after rolling over on Royz. According to the record of the case, Royz and Mrs. X were pals going way back to the mid 80s. The meat of the story is recounted tidily here in a 2008 Ontario Court of Appeal judgment:

They were close friends in 1996 while Ms. X was a project officer at Human Resources Development Canada in Ottawa responsible for funding job-training projects. Mr. Royz had received funding for one, or more, projects. In 1999 Mr. Royz and Ms. X were charged with 12 offences arising from Mr. Royz paying kickbacks to Ms. X and taking money from the project for his personal use while Ms. X did nothing to stop him. In consideration of her total co-operation with the RCMP, all of the charges against her were dropped and she paid restitution in the amount of $6,500. Mr. Royz pleaded guilty to one count of defrauding the federal government in the form of Human Resources Development Canada.

But of course that’s not where this story ends. After he had paid his debt for the frauds, Royz went all Hemingway, penning the naughty tale of fraud and deception, the story of his conviction and Mrs. X’s involvement. He called her and said he had printed 10,000 copies and would sell her the distribution rights for $7 a book. She called the police. There continued some toing and froing over the business deal, with the key rub being that Royz cautioned Mrs. X that she had “ruined” him, that her testimony in the fraud case was untrue, and some people had to pay – and by that presumably he meant more than 7 bucks a book. Mrs. X never paid and Royz went before a judge and jury.

He didn’t testify at his extortion trial.

He was convicted and he appealed.

The Ontario Court of Appeal rejected the plea, though one judge dissented and said a new trial was needed.

Royz appealed to Canada’s top court. The Supreme Court of Canada recently rebuffed him.

The judgments don’t tell us if we can expect to see I Am Not a Russian Mafioso on the shelf at Chapters soon.

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