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Zeljan Kurst is one of the main antagonists of the Alex Rider book series and is the boss of the criminal organization SCORPIA. He has orchestrated several major global catastrophes before the series takes place, all with the aim of getting rich.
Kurst comes from Eastern Europe. He was the director of the Yugoslavian Police Force before the Cold War and knew the efforts spent on warheads would bankrupt his country, so he decided to quit his job before his country went bankrupt. He was right, as Yugoslavia did go bankrupt in the eighties. Kurst then moved to Britain and decided to form an organization, SCORPIA, made of ex-spies like himself who had gone bankrupt. There were twelve of them and they met in Paris to do finances, and then SCORPIA was created and it took down governments and businesses all over the world and was paid by rich clients to do henious crimes, usually murder.
Operation Invisible Sword
Although Julia Rothman was in charge of this operation, Zeljan Kurst was presumably influential as well. He voted to send a sniper to kill Alex Rider when Alex stopped the operation in its tracks and caused Julia Rothman's death as well as the death of her assassin Nile. The assassin missed though, and was assassinated himself.
Operation Reef Encounter
When the 2008 G8 Summit took place in Rome, Zeljan Kurst was contacted from a government representative who didn't want another summit taking place in the Pacific Ocean which was to be in competition with the G8, called Reef Encounter. Zeljan Kurst and SCORPIA were paid to kill all the eight politicians and pop stars on Reef Island. This was doubly hard because the murders had to look accidental, as the politician who had hired them didn't want the eight celebrities to become matyrs. After much consideration (R5 Virus, chemical toxins) Zeljan Kurst handed the assignment over to Major Winston Yu, another SCORPIA director, who said he had a bomb which would go undetected as a nuclear blast when it smashed apart a tectonic plate. Essentially the bomb would blow apart two tectonic plates and go unregistered by satellites as a nuclear blast, and then the shockwave would create an artificial tsunami which would crash into Reef Island and destroy it, killing the celebrities, and then travel on to Australia, decimating the coast and killing thousands, thus making the world forget about the eight celebrities on Reef Island, as SCORPIA hoped. However, once again Alex Rider, through pure accidental means, stumbled upon the bomb. He had previously dismantled a SCORPIA boxng ring in Thailand and for this Zeljan Kurst confronted Winston Yu publicly, telling him that things were getting out of hand and Yu would be replaced if Kurst thought him unreliable, but Alex deactivated the bomb, thus thwarting SCORPIA, and Winston Yu was destroyed by the bomb's blast as it detonated above the sea rather than beneath it, thus causing no tsunami.
In 2009, Zeljan Kurst was paid to have a visit from Yannis Ariston Xenopolos, a rich Greek billionaire, who wanted the Elgin Marbles returned to Greece. Zeljan said he would see what he could do. Yannis said he didn't care how it was done, that SCORPIA could kill half of Britain if that would get the Marbles back. Zeljan met with MI6 on the way out of the British Museum where he had met Xenopolos, and was almost killed by them in a gun battle, but was assisted by his SCORPIA henchmen, who killed several MI6 agents as Kurst escaped. At the next SCORPIA meeting, Zeljan told his board of the assignment, and assigned his newest recruit, Abdul-Aziz al-Razim, to be the project's director. Israeli ex-soldier Levi Kroll, another director of SCORPIA, said that they shouldn't challenge Alex Rider again because they had done so twice and suffered great humiliation, and although every member of SCORPIA agreed to Razim's plan to have Alex shot down by a foreign government to blackmail the British government about publicly revealing the truth of their teenage spy to humiliate them into returning the Marbles, Levi Kroll disagreed, and for this, he was shot in the head by one of Zeljan Kurst's gunners. Zeljan Kurst allowed Razim to continue the mission, but Razim was alerted by Alex Rider to the Egyptian government, who gunned his fort down and Razim sank into cement and drowned. Afters, SCORPIA were a laughing stock because they had failed to gun down a teenager three times and for this the governments easily arrested them. Zeljan Kurst was one of the first to be arrested and he remains in prison to this day.
Zeljan Kurst was a cold and cruel man who loved manipulation and torture. He would go any lengths to get information out of his enemies and he trusted no one. He was shown to think twice about travelling round to a meeting because he considered himself above summons. But Kurst was greedy and it was his greed which would be his downfall. Kurst was prone to extreme violence despite his apparent sophistication; when cornered in public he would lash out and not care who he killed. He never undertook a trip unless he was protected by loyal henchmen and assassins. Kurst was extravagant nonetheless, as he wore cashmere coats and charcoal suits. He had a brutal face, wrestler's shoulders, and a squashed nose, making him look like a pissed-off cat.