By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
On the West Coast, where a nonprofit group called the International Rescue Committee first set him up with an apartment, Gadzhiyev's fantasies of capitalist enrichment soon gave way to harsh immigrant reality. Alone and nearly penniless in San Diego, he got work as a cab driver. More-extravagant capitalist endeavors, most of them involving food, would not come until years later, after he had moved from California to Florida.
"My wife, she cooks real good," Gadzhiyev says reverentially, eyeing a picture of the leggy blonde he met while on business in Moscow a few years ago and married in Fort Lauderdale in 1996. He emerges from the kitchen carrying a big glass jar full of fist-size plums bobbing in purple liquid. "These are much bigger than the ones we'll produce for the public," he says, slicing off a chunk of the vinegar-and-garlic-scented fruit. The plums are an Azerbaijani delicacy Gadzhiyev and his wife hope to market in the U.S. along with pickled grapes and fresh pomegranates. "This will give her something to do," he says, explaining why, last March, he launched Pickled Purple Plums, Inc. for the former business-school instructor. "She's used to working, not sitting home bored, reading allday."
Before relaunching his career in law enforcement, Gadzhiyev, who once hatched an ill-fated scheme to raise Caspian sturgeon in South Florida, was determined to turn all his bright ideas into legitimate corporate gold. One day in San Diego, having started to learn English at the local Berlitz school, Gadzhiyev was rifling through the yellow pages in search of opportunities. A small advertisement caught his eye, and he dialed George Schmalhofer, the man described in the ad as a former Secret Service agent turned private investigator, who answered the phone. "Here was this guy on the phone telling me he was a former KGB agent," recalls Schmalhofer. "I was like, 'All right, and I suppose we've been invaded by Martians too.' I mean, how often do you get a call like that?" Gadzhiyev told the PI he had a brilliant idea: The two of them should join forces and launch a firm called the Eagle and the Bear, a sort of Secret Service-KGB partnership. "Gadzhiyev was about three or four years ahead of his time," says Schmalhofer, who wound up hiring him to do surveillance work after checking him out with friends in intelligence. The year was 1990; the Soviet Union, though teetering on the brink of collapse, was still intact, and the KGB was still very much an international force with which to be reckoned. "People would look at him strangely when he told them who he was," says Schmalhofer. "I didn't tell that many people. He didn't seem to care, but I was a little more concerned for his health than he seemed tobe."
Gadzhiyev says that later that year the U.S. government offered him a $30,000 education grant to be used as he saw fit. He gladly accepted the money and moved across the country to Stuart, where he used the scholarship to learn how to fly. In April1991 he became the first former Soviet citizen to earn an American pilot's license. It was around that time that he met screenwriter Ken Roberts and his wife, with whom he developed a lasting friendship.
"One day Emin came over to the house," recalls Roberts. "He had this microcassette tape with him, and he handed it to me. He said, 'Listen Ken, I'm flying back to Baku. Hold on to this tape. If I'm not back in a few months, take it to the press.' It was all very cloak-and-dagger." Though he was tempted, Roberts says, he never listened to the tape but came terribly close to handing it over to the press. "He'd been gone an awfully long time," he recalls. "Then, out of the blue, I get this call. He was on a plane back from Moscow."
Gadzhiyev, who says the tape contained dirt on former Soviets currently in power, had traveled home to Baku at the invitation of old friends who had taken up positions in the government of newly independent Azerbaijan. The capital of the war-torn country was beginning to resemble a Wild West boom town, overrun by corruption, mobsters, and American oil men. While there he caught up with his teenage daughter and arranged to bring his ailing parents, who he had long hoped might follow him out of the country, back with him to the United States. He also came very close to being thrown into prison. "I realized I was under surveillance," says Gadzhiyev, who claims he was being tailed by a bitter, economically strapped former colleague. "This guy was trying to frame me. It was all about money. He must have thought I was a rich American now." The officer took out an arrest warrant on trumped-up charges that Gadzhiyev had been traveling with a phony passport. "I had to leave the country," he says. "It was obvious there was nothing left for me there." With his parents in tow, he returned to the States via Moscow and New York City, then helped the couple settle down in an Azerbaijani community in Utah. When Gadzhiyev was back in Florida, his troubles in Baku served as a dark reminder of his last days with theKGB.