Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fri, 18 Sep 1998 10:18:21 -0700 (PDT)
Former Soviet Union a Playground for Organized Crime
A Gangster's Paradise
The FBI has
operating in the
United States in
the areas of
The FBI has
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
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
“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:
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.
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
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
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
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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