U.S. Sanctions Top Members of Crime Groups

Published: 26 February 2012


The U.S. Treasury Department Friday sanctioned seven people it identified as “key members and associates” of the Brothers’ Circle organized crime network and an entire faction of Japan’s Yakuza gang, including the two men who lead it.

The government froze all U.S. assets of the identified persons and have prohibited U.S. persons from doing business with them.

“Today's action casts a spotlight on key members of criminal organizations that have engaged in a wide range of serious crimes across the globe,” said David S. Cohen, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in a news release.

The Brothers’ Circle is a multi-ethnic criminal group composed of several Eurasian criminal groups largely based in countries of the former Soviet Union.  It allegedly operates in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

The seven members who have been sanctioned come from syndicates operating throughout Eurasia and the Gulf, specifically within Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Treasury Department said it sanctioned Vladislav Leontyev, Vasiliy Khristoforov, Kamchybek Kolbayev and Gafur Rakhimov for being key members of the organization, while Lazar Shaybazyan, Aleksandr Manuylov and Aleksey Zaytsev have been identified based on their support to Leontyev.

The groups are accused of involvment in organized criminal activity including producing and trafficking narcoticsand fraud.  Several of the alleged operatives live in Dubai, according to the news release.

An entire faction of the Japanese Yakuza organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, has been sanctioned for “its involvement in serious criminal activities, including weapons trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, drug trafficking, fraud and money laundering.”

The Yamaguchi-gumi has a strict leadership structure, with a kumicho, or “godfather” at the top followed by the wakagashira, or “deputy godfather.”  The Treasury department sanctioned Kenichi Shinoda, who has been acting as the kumicho since August 2005, and Kiyishi Takayama, the wakagashira, for acting on behalf of the group.

These are the first such designations since a July order by the Obama administration to sanction members and supporters of “significant Transnational Crime Organizations.”

The move follows 2011 Obama Administration executive order targeting the groups as two of the four organized crime syndicates that most threaten American interests. When originally announced by President Obama, even organized crime experts had not heard of the Brothers Circle.  Calls to administrative officials were not answered.  The individuals mentioned however are known and some work along the lucrative northern heroin route that transports drugs from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Russia and Europe.

Officials indicated that more such sanctions would follow.

“We will continue to work with our international partners to target those who deal in violence, narcotics, money laundering, and the exploitation of women and children,” said Cohen.

“Today's designations are just the first under our new our sanctions authority to target transnational criminal organizations and isolate them from the global financial system.”

The July report also identified the Camorra, a Naples-based Italian narcotics smuggling group, and Los Zetas, a Mexican gang that traffics narcotics to the U.S., as major threats to the country’s security.