NEWS: Russian Organized Crime in the USA and Israel

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (
Fri, 18 Sep 1998 10:18:21 -0700 (PDT)

Former Soviet Union a Playground for Organized Crime
A Gangster's Paradise

     The FBI has
     identified 25
   distinct Russian
   organized crime
   operating in the
   United States in
      the areas of
     fraud, money
     extortion and

      The FBI has
     250 pending
    Russian gangs
      in 27 states.

               By Barbara Starr
               W A S H I N G T O N, Sept 14 — In addition to all Russia’s
               political and economic troubles, the beleaguered
               country also suffers from a crime problem the FBI
               says went out of control long ago.
                    According to the bureau, the number of Russian
                                         organized crime groups has
                                         reached 12,000 —nearly
                                         triple what it was in
                                         1992—with no sign of
                                              The FBI is reporting an
                                         “an emerging trend which
                                         suggests a growing level of
                                         sophistication in the area of
                                         large-scale financial
                                         institution fraud and
               transnational money laundering.”
                    The impact of the Russian Mafia gangs on Russia’s
               economy is getting particular attention from the United States.

               Worldwide Crime Networks
               “What we have is an immense country practically controlled
               by organized crime,” says Emilio Viano, professor of
               Criminology at American University and an expert on Russian
               organized crime.
                    “These groups are getting stronger and stronger and using
               Russia as a base for their global ventures—taking over
               everything from drugs and prostitution to currency exchange
               and stealing World Bank and IMF loans.”
                    According to the FBI report, different groups “dominate
               the economic life of Russia,
               … exerting control over key
               economic sectors such as:
               petroleum distribution,
               pharmaceuticals and
               consumer products
                    And it’s not just in Russia,
               Viano says. “Russian Mafia
               groups are directly building
               alliances with Italian, Latin
               American, Chinese, and
               Japanese organized crime families.”
                    Russian law enforcement sources, the FBI report also
               reveals, estimate that 550 Russian banks—about half of the
               nation’s credit and financial organizations—are now
               controlled by organized crime groups.

               Stealing Russia Blind
               These groups use the banks to launder money and avoid
               paying the taxes desperately needed by the government to
               pay salaries and debts.
                    By now, the FBI estimates that Russian mafiosi may have
               control of banks in Cyprus and Antigua. In the last year, five
               Russian-owned banks opened branches on the Caribbean
               island of Aruba.
                    “From these locations they electronically launder large
               amounts of cash around the
               world,” the FBI said, noting
               that the men in charge
               routinely resort to violence to
               defend their interests.
                    “This transnational
               banking activity has been
               accompanied by a high level
               of violence directed against
               senior banking officials in
                    In fact, the bureau noted
               that these days a Russian
               banker has the life expectancy of a bomb-disposal specialist.

               The West Shares the Blame
               The West, says Viano, is partly responsible. He believes the
               huge International Monetary Fund loans to Russia are often
               mismanaged and diverted by the criminals controlling the
                    “The minimum we can do is just stop making huge loans
               to Russia,” argues Viano. “What we are doing at this point is
               to feed the monsters, since all this aid is being siphoned off by
               organized crime.”
                    The disturbing news doesn’t stop there. The report also
               recounts that many of the highly trained professionals in the
               Russian Special Forces (and some of those who have
               mustered out) have been recruited by the Russian Mafia.
                    These tough soldiers, many of them combat veterans, then
               act as private bodyguards, hit men, debt collectors and
               security guards for illegal smuggling. The high pay for this
               “unofficial” work is especially appealing to many soldiers
               whose regular military wages remain unpaid due to the
               economic crisis.
                    The bad news goes on and on.

               Empires of Crime
               While the state seems to be losing its power to cope, the FBI
               says, Russian organized crime groups have been building their
               empires vigorously.
                    Reports say they are recruiting experts in computer
               software, international law and finance, intelligence gathering,
               corporate security, international banking, casino gaming
               operations and hotel and restaurant management.
                    In the face of information like this, Viano says, the
               international community’s first step is simple.
                    “Address the truth,” he says. “Organized crime is basically
               controlling that country.”

              Gimme That Old-Time Recidivism
  These growing Russian gangs are not
  neglecting old-fashioned crime either.
       In the last five years the amount of
  drugs smuggled into Russia has grown
  fifteen-fold. Russian organized crime
  groups have established links with the
  Colombian Cali drug cartel, passing military
  weaponry in exchange for the heroin and
  cocaine from Colombia that is then sold on
  the streets of Moscow.
       “At one point,” the FBI says, “cartel
  members were considering the purchase of
  a surplus diesel-powered patrol submarine
  from Russian organized crime sources, for
  drug smuggling purposes, but canceled the
  deal at the last minute.”
       The FBI also reports that Russian
  criminals are operating hundreds of
  brothels and striptease bars in Europe and
  Asia—and are expanding.
                                Bar and casino operators offer young
                                Russian, Ukrainan and Baltic women
                                high salaries to work in their clubs, but
                                the women end up in near-slavery,
                                unable to return home.
                                     Russian crime groups’ influence has
                                also spread to Israel.
                                     “Reports have surfaced which
                                suggest that Russian organized crime
                                figures played a prominent role in
                                selecting and supporting certain
                                candidates during Israel’s recent
                                national election,” the FBI says.
                                     After it became apparent that Russian
                                groups were trying take over state assets
                                and infiltrate the Israeli government,
                                Israel changed the name of its National
                                Unit for Serious Crimes to the National
                                Anti-Mafia and Serious Crimes Unit.

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