Russia: Arrests of 34 as Crime Bosses

Published: 07 April 2009

By Beth

More than 30 alleged gangsters were arrested outside Moscow last week, reported independent news site Mosnews last week, citing police statements in the local press.

Police arrested 34 people in the town of Elektrougli, about 20 miles east of Moscow, saying they suspected the men were crime bosses who were meeting to divide territory and head off a turf war. Police described two of them as “godfathers” and three as “enforcers.”
No charges were filed, according to the site, but police said they’d found 11 grams of cocaine on one man.

In international Russian mafia news,
two Americans were sentenced to a total of nearly nine years in prison for using fake debit cards to bilk more than $800,000 from the bank accounts of unsuspecting victims. Federal prosecutors believe the debit card and PIN information came from Russian mob hackers.
: More Arress in Housing Scandal

Six more high-ranking Serbian officials were arrested last week in connection with an abuse of office investigation related to Serbia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD). Police arrested two defense ministry officials, a colonel from the Military Medical Center, two retired majors and a retired sergeant major on suspicion that they abused their positions when allocating apartments.

The arrests were part of an investigation into an alleged crime ring within the ministry that is suspected of forging documents for people who were then allocated military housing, pensions and compensation for wartime injuries.
Police arrested 17 people in February.

The MoD scandal has its roots in the old Yugoslav tradition of allocating free housing to most military personnel. Since Yugoslavia collapsed, Serbia has instead given housing to some military men based on their combat records or wounds sustained during the 1990s wars. From the looks of what the police suspect, Serbia’s system has been at the mercy of certain MoD officials and military doctors for a long time.

Also this past week, crime police and
gendarmerie arrested nine people – one of them a police officer – thought to be behind a spate of so-called “ambush killings,” robberies and other felonies in the western town of Valjevo. Saturday night’s arrests had been prompted by Friday night’s murder of a prominent Valjevo businessman-cum-criminal, Zeljko Djedovic. His shooting death in the city center was the third such gangland-style murder in the town in the past two months. Police have not yet released the names of the suspects.

Police directorate chief Milorad Veljovic tried to reassure the town, which hasn’t had a police chief since January, saying that his sending in the crime police and the gendarmerie should be a signal that no crime group will be able to terrorize residents of Valjevo or any other town.  

And in Serbia’s north, the
special prosecution has charged Zrenjanin’s mayor and 21 other people with criminal association, abuse of office and taking and giving bribes. No word on the specifics of the charges, but prosecutors did allege that the group’s actions cost the Zrenjanin municipal budget €1.6 million from 2006 to 2008.  

: Assets Seized, Arrests in Rome, Campania Area

Italian authorities last year seized the assets of more than 1,100 companies suspected of infiltration by the mafia, Italy’s anti-mafia prosecutor told parliament last week. About 430 of the companies were based in Sicily, while 225 were in the Campania region surrounding Naples.

The mafia is investing in Italian firms to launder "the permanent, enormous, unlimited financial liquidity" it has accumulated from its drug trafficking and extortion rackets, Grassi said, quoted by (Italian weekly) Panorama.

Among the key industries the mob infiltrated were the building sector, real estate and finance.

In Rome at the weekend,
police arrested an alleged Camorra boss after raiding an upmarket apartment building. Guiseppe Sarno was arrested Saturday night after attempting to escape from the roof of the building. Police had sought him since January.

Last week in the Campania region,
Italian Carabinieri arrested five people, including an alleged crime boss, suspected of links to the Camorra. They’re accused of running an extortion racket against businessmen in the construction sector. And on Monday, police arrested five more alleged Camorra members in two southern cities and three northern cities, showing that the Naples-based group has growing influence outside its home base.  

The chief of Italy's paramilitary Carabinieri police, Vittorio Tomasone, said that the mafia is not just a problem of Italy's southern regions, but that it is also penetrating Rome, where it already has a "significant presence".

The arrest of of Sarno and two other recent anti-mafia operations in Rome "show that mafia-linked criminality has a significant presence in Rome," Tomasone sai. He described Sarno as a "high-profile" Camorra member.

Police across the Atlantic have also been busy trying to stamp out Italian organized crime.
Montreal police last week arrested five people and seized guns, marijuana and a kilo of cocaine in a police operation targeting Italian organized crime. The provincial government, meanwhile, is thinking about launching a full public inquiry into the construction industry following police raids revealed the possibility that organized crime may be involved.

: AG to Charge Olmert?

Israel’s attorney general
warned former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert at the weekend that he may be indicted over alleged corruption during his 2003-2006 term as industry and trade minister.

Olmert is suspected of having granted favors to clients of his former law partner while serving in the cabinet post. He has denied any wrongdoing in the case, one of several police investigations against him.

Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz said he was considering charging Olmert with fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing with his lawyers, the Justice Ministry announced.

While police have been investigating Olmert for more than a year without laying charges, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman may
not be so lucky. Lieberman has been questioned by police twice since taking office earlier last week, and police told the press on Saturday that he will likely face charges of money laundering, fraud and breach of trust.

: Property Seizure Law Passed

Mexico’s Senate last week passed a law that
would allow the government to seize property from drug traffickers and other criminals even before they’re convicted of crimes. The law now goes to the lower house for approval there.

Under existing laws, suspects must first be convicted before their property can be seized and trials often last years in Mexico. The new law allows prosecutors to ask a judge for a seizure order before the end of the trial.

The law covers property bought with income from, or used in connection with, organized crime, drug trafficking, kidnapping, human trafficking or vehicle theft. No compensation would be paid for any property seized.

The law was controversial even in Mexico, which has seen thousands of people killed in drug- war violence in the past year alone and seems to be in the grip of organized crime. Opponents had pointed out during debates that someone renting a house in good faith would have no legal recourse if the property was seized, something we’ll be talking about soon in an upcoming article on asset forfeiture. The bill was then passed with provisions to protect landlords or other property owners who have no ties to organized crime.