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HISTORY OF RUSSIAN MAFIA

 

The Russian mafia is the most diverse organized crime group in the world. It operates in over 60 states, including the USA. There are over 6,000 mafia groups in Russia, employing directly and indirectly over 3 million people.

 

These groups form a state within a state with politicians, army officers, businessmen and policemen on their payroll. Around 200 of the groups are global conglomerates, laundering crime money at an estimated rate of one billion dollars per month. In 1999, an investigation exposed a six-billion dollar money laundering operation through the Bank of New York. The basic business of these groups in Russia is extortion – it has been estimated that nearly 30% of the income of practically every business in Russia goes to the mafia coffins. The operations run in the US range from healthcare, auto insurance, securities and investment fraud to drug trafficking, cybercrime, extortion, human trafficking and prostitution.

 

The Russian mafia has its origins in the vory-v-zakone (thieves with a code of honor), a society of thieves that evolved during the era of the Imperial Russia. This society was fully formed by the time of Stalin’s era at the gulags where the criminals were sent as a punishment. The criminal groups gathered strength from the black economy during the 1970s but by this time their nature was changing. The original thieves refused to cooperate with the state but the new criminal class teamed up with the corrupt officials, army officers and politicians to ransack the government resources. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 many former soldiers, KGB agents, scientists and policemen joined the troops, making the Russian mafia the most educated and violent crime group in the world. By now, the mafia had very little to do with the original society of thieves. Together with the corrupt army officials the Russian mafia groups began to strip the army bare of its hardware, shipping missiles to the Middle East and submarines to the Columbian drug cartels amongst their illegal businesses.

 

Unlike many other mafia groups that operate through strict hierarchies and often have hereditary leadership, the nature of a Russian mafia group is entrepreneurial and the group structures are flexible, based on opportunities rather than tradition. The Russian mafia groups get involved with whatever makes money, including legitimate businesses but are willing to use lethal force to reach their objectives. The death rate of lawyers, journalists and government officials that pry into their businesses is high. The government’s attempts to curb the power of the mafia groups remain largely cosmetic.

 

 

Unlike many other mafia groups that operate through strict hierarchies and often have hereditary leadership, the nature of a Russian mafia group is entrepreneurial and the group structures are flexible, based on opportunities rather than tradition. The Russian mafia groups get involved with whatever makes money, including legitimate businesses but are willing to use lethal force to reach their objectives. The death rate of lawyers, journalists and government officials that pry into their businesses is high. The government’s attempts to curb the power of the mafia groups remain largely cosmetic.

 

The Russian mafia is a real danger in the US. During the 1970s and 1980s over 200,000 Russians immigrated to the US, mostly as Soviet Jews. The Soviet government used the visas that were given almost automatically to the Soviet Jews to offload thousands of criminals to the US in an effort to destabilize the nation.

 

The FBI established investigative squads that focused on the Russian mafia in New York and Los Angeles in 1994, San Francisco in 1995, Miami in 1997, Philadelphia in 1998 and in Newark and Chicago in 1999.  According to a Stratfor Global Intelligence report published on November 14, 2007, the US law enforcement has established links between Russian organized crime in the United States and La Cosa Nostra. The two groups appear to be cooperating in such ventures as gambling, prostitution, fraud and extortion. The Russian mafia is responsible for vice operations from Miami to Tokyo to the Persian Gulf, and it is also deeply tied into Turkish and Israeli organized crime, most of which came from Russia. Additionally, Russian organized crime groups reportedly have been involved in such enterprises as drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting with several other international organized crime groups, including the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra, the Japanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads, Turkish drug traffickers and Colombian drug cartels.

 

Armen Keteyian, investigative correspondent for CBS News interviewed two FBI undercover agents in May 2008. The agents’ undercover work had led them to Atlanta and a Russian general willing to sell them long-range missiles, tanks and submarines from the Russian army’s arsenal. “The public has the perception that organized crime has largely gone away,” told Mark Mershon, the FBI assistant director in charge of New York to CBS News. “That of course is not at all true.”

 

Sources:

 

The Russian Mafia: Private Protection in a New Market Economy. By Federico Varese. OUP Oxford (10 Feb 2005)

 

Organized Crime: From Trafficking to Terrorism. Edited by Frank G. Shanty and Patit Paban Mishra. ABC-CLIO (1 Sep 2007)

 

Russian and Post-Soviet Organised Crime. By Mark Galeotti. Dartmouth Publishing Co Ltd (20 Jun 2002)

 

Undercover Look Inside The Russian Mob. By Armen Keteyian for CBS News 13 May 2008 (www.cbsnews.com)

 

Russian Organized Crime. By Fred Burton and Dan Burges.

 

A Stratford Global Intelligence Report, November 14, 2007 (www.stratford.com)

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