Igor Kuzmenko – who was part of a gang responsible for more than 50 murders – was snared trying to leave Russia using a fake Ukrainian passport.
Cops say Kuzmenko – also known as Vladimir Kishko, Viktor Kuzmenko and Roman Marchuk – used plastic surgery and fake passports to evade capture.
He even burned his fingerprints with acid claiming it was an “accident at work”.
Kuzmenko is now on trial for his part in the horror killings carried out by his gang known as “Les”.
Among their first victims was Boris Terpugov, 30, chairman of Rodnik bank in 1999.
He was gunned down near the headquarters of the Russian government, it is alleged.
Kuzmenko was detained 17 years ago in southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don over an axe attack.
But he fled court and vanished before allegedly continuing his reign of terror.
One alleged victim was a Sochi businessman Alexander Raznikov, who was battered with a crowbar.
Other murders were disguised as domestic killings.
Kuzmenko’s fellow gangsters were gradually arrested and jailed – one being extradited from Spain – receiving sentences of up to 23 years.
Police say Kuzmenko lived abroad in several countries including Ukraine using fake passports until he was caught on a trip back to Rostov using a false identity.
Yulia Ivanova, senior assistant to the head of the Investigative Committee in Moscow, said: “Kuzmenko underwent plastic surgery, radically changing his appearance, and at the same time destroyed the papillary patterns on his fingers.
“He repeatedly forged documents, constantly moved from one country to another and had expensive plastic surgery, changing his face”.
When he was eventually caught “he behaved like a professional spy from the movies”.
Kuzmenko is on trial with two men who allegedly ordered his gang to intimidate and kill as a way of “solving” business disputes.
He faces charges of murder, attempted murder, gangsterism, robbery and trafficking in weapons.
Kuzmenko is understood to be facing a life sentence if convicted.