In the '80s Soviet lawman Emin Gadzhiyev blew the whistle on corrupt colleagues and defected to the United States. Now he's training with the Broward Sheriff's Office. Someone should make a movie about this guy.

Rifling through a drawer in his Hallandale apartment, he pulls out a dog-eared manuscript. Awkwardly titled The Worm Within, the 20-page book proposal is more accurate but far less riveting than the movie treatment that preceded it. Ghostwritten as Gadzhiyev's autobiography by octogenarian journalist Joe Crankshaw of The Stuart News, the shopped-around-and-rejected proposal provides a brief introduction to the tumultuous career of an honest man in a den of thieves. It begins in the early '80s with the case that would be Gadzhiyev's introduction to high-level corruption.

"Two Latin American students, a Cuban and a Nicaraguan I think it was, had turned up dead at this illegal bar in Baku," he recalls. "I went to gather preliminary evidence early the next morning, and it was the strangest thing I had ever seen -- the bar had disappeared." The bar and all of the evidence had apparently been bulldozed overnight. Shortly thereafter the KGB officer in charge of investigating the illegal establishment was transferred to another republic. It was clear to Gadzhiyev that powerful people had a vested interest in keeping the bar out of the spotlight. In spite of those setbacks, Gadzhiyev says, he was able to use the vast network of confidential informants for which the KGB is famous to track down the killer, an Armenian thug named Spartacus, who confessed and was later executed. Informants recruited during the investigation implicated customs agents and federal police officers from the Ministry of the Interior in the illegal bar and in an enormous cigarette-smuggling operation headquartered there. The case was the young officer's first indication that corruption was far more endemic than he had ever imagined.

Over the next couple of years, Gadzhiyev says, he tackled one corruption case after another, discovering jars full of cash and gold in the back yards of party functionaries' houses, including officials from his own agency. "I couldn't understand why they would do it," he says. "You could use the money to pay off another official to get a higher-ranking job -- that's about it. I mean, there were no Rolls-Royces you could buy. You couldn't show any outward displays of wealth; it would just be too suspicious."

Emin Gadzhiyev received his BSO uniform in May. Next month he'll become a fullfledged deputy.
Emin Gadzhiyev received his BSO uniform in May. Next month he'll become a fullfledged deputy.
Emin Gadzhiyev received his BSO uniform in May. Next month he'll become a fullfledged deputy.
Melissa Jones
Emin Gadzhiyev received his BSO uniform in May. Next month he'll become a fullfledged deputy.

In the mid-'80s, while Gadzhiyev was being increasingly discouraged from investigating such cases, threats to his family and the death of his partner in a suspicious car accident convinced him it was time to get out. He abruptly resigned from the KGB and for the next few years took up security work, first with a space-research facility in Baku and then with the Soviet Ministry of Culture. Then in 1987, with his first marriage in shambles and his country on the verge of all-out war, Gadzhiyev decided toflee.

Sifting through a stash of black-and-white photos that are his only remnants of a previous life, he is lost in the memories he still hopes will someday put his name on a bestseller list or a movie theater marquee. There he is, a 12-year-old smiling for the camera, on his parents' boat on the Caspian Sea, framed by mountains. There he is again, a dashing young man in his twenties, playing jazz on an old electric guitar. That guitar, the one he used to play on the beach for his pals, is gone now, but he has a new one he sometimes pulls out of the closet when he's feeling nostalgic. There he is in Afghanistan, a young war hero squinting in the sun, cradling an AK47 assault rifle. He saw death there -- a friend blown away by a land mine, capture averted by using stones to kill armed mujahideen guards. And there he is in his KGB uniform, hair thinning, his Red Star proudly displayed beneath his lapel. Gadzhiyev says he earned the prestigious medal after he did his part for the Soviet space program by organizing the theft of space shuttle technology from a French scientist during an international conference in Baku.

"I won't ever be moving back to Azerbaijan," he says, putting the photos into a leather attaché case. "My life is here now." He glances at his watch. It's nearly time to head into the Broward Sheriff's Office station for roll call, but Gadzhiyev is feeling a bit under the weather. "I don't know if I should call in sick," he says, smiling, as if thrilled that he has the option. "In the KGB you didn't call in sick. They had their own doctors who checked you out and let you know if you were sick or not." He pauses for a moment, pondering the choices. "Aw, what the hell, I think I'll stay home," he says, opting to flush the sniffling and sneezing out of his system so he'll be in top shape to finish off his field training. "If I do my job well, my next promotion will be to detective," he says confidently. "That will be the pinnacle of my Americandream."

Contact Jay Cheshes at his e-mail address:

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