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Russian Organized Crime in America
The fall of Soviet Union worked as a catalyst for the spread of crimes throughout the world. Not only the countries connected to the Russia are vulnerable to "Russian Mafia," but entire world is facing the threat of criminal activities originating from Russia. Crimes like human trafficking, money laundering, trading stolen automobiles, arms and ammunition, and drug trafficking are among the major activities, which is being done by Russian organized crime. Europe, being closest to Russian border, is the most affected region, however, Israel and United States are affected too as these countries have the highest number of Russian immigrants. Hence, it can be stated that no place in the world is immune of Russian Mafia. This paper would try to shed light on the Russian organized crime, who are known as Russian Mafia? What do they do? How they engage and expand their criminal network? How do they appear? What are the sources and motivation for fueling Russian organized crime? All of the questions will be answered in later discussion. We would also try to ascertain that how United States is being affected by the criminal activities of Russian mafia (Finckenauer and Voronin, 2001).
Criminal activities or criminal groups originating from Russia are summed under Russian Organized Crime (ROC). This report will focus on the activities of this group in United States. At times, the organizations for crimes at this place are different from ROC in Russia or in other parts of the globe. It is important to keep in mind that this difference is due to difference in external circumstances and opportunities provided to conduct a crime. Due to proliferation of different groups there is no specific body that may be characterized as a single criminal organization. For instance, Eurasian crime groups are characterized as Russian though most of them are not even Russian. American, Ukrainians, Lithuanians along with them the Chechens, Dagestanis and Georgians which belong to Caucasus district of the former Soviet Union are among the functioning criminal groups in United States. These groups are known by several names, the law enforcement agency and media call them as Russian mafia, Russian mob, Bratva, Bor and Organizatsiya. They are also named according to their terrestrial location as Izmailovskaya, Dagestantsy, Kazanskaya, and Solntsevskaya. According to Finckenauer (2007), the following are indicating the geographically determined roots of few of the Russian criminal groups.
It is likely that almost 15 groups of criminals are actively functioning in United States and out of these 8 to 9 have well maintained Russian links. There are approximately 5000-6000 members present in these groups. According to Finckenauer (2007), also (Cited in New York, 1996) and research conducted by Global Organized Crime Project of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies which was published in (Russian Organized Crime: Putin challenge), it is estimated that 200 huge Russian Organized Crime groups are functioning actively in 58 nations around the globe which includes United States.
The most thorough and factual-based explanation about the groups of Russian Organized Crime within United State is comprehended in Finckenauer and Waring (1998:198).
The form and structure of the crime does not seem to be an organized crime or related to mafia gang in the common terminology. Such networks are not specifically trained for crimes and not even consist of few individuals. In these networks, individuals are present on basis of their peculiar characteristics; therefore no proper chains of these networks actually exist. This makes it clear that these networks do not comprise of small groups of individuals who are independently involved in these practices instead of this these actors seem to have strong relationships among one another. They have connections with many people but do not have direct relationship to large number of groups. By this situation we come to know that these networks are very flexible within their organization in performing crimes and they avail every opportunity to take illegal undertakings. When these networks get any such opportunity, any member of the network can go to other specialist to raise maximum capital and other related resources. Due to the flexibility of the members to adjust themselves in these networks to perform crimes leads to higher level of such internal violence. The unorganized structure of the networks makes them more chronic and uncontrollable. Due to the breakups of formal subgroups, lack of loyalty is experienced which ends up in more violent conditions. Like many murders recorded are because of the disputes that take place among the former group individuals.
The best illustration of these criminal networks is given in a segment of ROC such as Sicilian Mafia and La Cosa Nostra. These networks are known because of their organized hierarchy, recruitment, resolution of internal conflicts and internal codes related to conducts which is commonly called "thieves-in-law" or vory v zakone. It is said that a few Russian criminals are also present in USA and act like vor but there are no proper proof of their presence as vory v zakone have been found.
The main characteristics of Russian crimes are the use of threats and violence in an organized way. The criminals perform violent activities to gain control of the criminal markets and to take revenge among their own groups. Usage of protection rackets and blackmailing are the common practice of Russian criminals (Cockburn, 2000). Mainly ROC is behind the contract murders, arson and kidnapping of the businessmen who refuse to give back the extortion money. An example of such crime was recorded during September 1999 in which six of the members of Gufield-Kutsenko Brigade found guilty and were charged for federal racketeering in New York. They were found to be engaged in blackmailing businessmen for large sum of money.
The violent activities in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey region are specifically looked after by Tri-State Joint Soviet-Emigre Organized Crime Project. According to a report given by this organization in the year 1995, many Russians were found involved in contract murders, assaults, extortion and attempted murders. Mostly no proofs were found of these criminal activities because usually the witnesses as well as the sufferer both do not cooperate with the violence controlling authority. In the attempted murders recorded in the period of 15 years, both the murderers and the victims were found to be criminals. Most of the time the evidences were found that the murders were committed as a result of fight between two criminal groups or any past dispute was resolved like this. These killing activities are mostly very well planned. The tricks used to take over the victims are mainly distraction and decoys etc. It was recorded that about 53 murders were done by using all types of automatic, silencer fixed, and semi-automatic guns. It is also found that victims were either shot from a moving vehicle or in close proximity (l995:19-20). The report also identified that as there was no regulated competition among different groups of ROC, violence increased. Furthermore, since the report was publish, no measure has been developed that could measure whether criminal activities by ROC have increased or decreased (Finckenauer, 2007).
Defining Russian organized crime by naming it as "violent" is not enough. The most interesting characteristics about ROC is its exclusion from the traditional criminal activities. Except for money laundering and extortion, ROC has never been engaged in crimes like loan sharking, gambling, or drug trafficking, etc. (New York, 1996). ROC engages in activities that extend beyond traditional crimes in United States. ROC engages in scams and frauds, such as stock frauds, forgery, healthcare fraud, tax evasion schemes, insurance scams, and antiquities swindles. Currently, it has been identified that West Africans stands at second (after Russians) n credit card fraud occurring in United States (Finckenauer andVoronin, 2001).
As identified earlier, ROC does not cater traditional organized crime. Their ability to enter into new forms of criminal activities has taken them to enter into financial markets to conduct fraudulent transactions. In this regard, 2 recent prosecutions have been presented below (Finckenauer andVoronin, 2001):
U.S. v. Alexander Lushtak has alleged multimillion dollar fraud, in which the taxes on proceeds of the project (almost 2 million dollars) were deposited in another account of Bank of New York.
U.S. v. Dominick Dionisio, et al. alleges that 2 persons in association with LCN and "Bor" ROC's member are carrying out multi-million dollar investment fraud. The scheme's proceeds have been laundered.
If ROC from Russia will absorb in American society, criminal activities will increase. Russian enters in the business world of United States to conduct organized crime. They are mow entering into the businesses of cinema and textile too. Their main aim remains the same i.e. To do money laundering. Whatever ROC activities that have been conducted in USA till date, money laundering has been the topmost activity. Government of United States indicted 4 people and 2 companies for money laundering. The total amount for these cases amounted to 7-10 billion dollars. For this activity, BONY (Bank of New York)…[continue]
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