Russian Mobsters Consort with Terrorists, Slave Traders, Drug Cartels
by Jim Kouri, CPP
Russian crime syndicates and military officers are supplying sophisticated weapons to Colombian rebels in return for huge shipments of cocaine, according to reports from CIA officials. A senior intelligence official described the smuggling ring as “literally an industry” that threatens to overwhelm the Colombian government and turn the US-backed fight against the Colombia cocaine cartels into a losing proposition.
The US intellligence community believes that an alliance of corrupt Russian military figures, organized crime bosses, diplomats and revolutionaries has been moving regular shipments of up to 40,000 kilograms of cocaine to the former Soviet Union in return for large shipments of deadly weaponry.
Meanwhile, Russian human traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues and casual acquaintances. Upon arrival at their destination, victims are placed in conditions controlled by traffickers while they are exploited to earn illicit revenues. Many are physically confined, their travel or identity documents are taken away and they or their families are threatened if they do not cooperate.
Women and girls forced to work as prostitutes are blackmailed by the threat that traffickers will tell their families. Trafficked children are dependent on their traffickers for food, shelter and other basic necessities. Traffickers also play on victims’ fears that authorities in a strange country will prosecute or deport them if they ask for help. A major purveyor of these de facto slaves is the Russian organized crime syndicate. Brutal, cunning and ruthless, these 21st Century mobsters present a new threat to US national security.
Over the past decade, trafficking in human beings has reached epidemic proportions. No country is immune. The search for work abroad has been fueled by economic disparity, high unemployment and the disruption of traditional livelihoods. Traffickers face few risks and can earn huge profits by taking advantage of large numbers of potential immigrants.
Trafficking in human beings is a crime in which victims are moved from poor environments to more affluent ones, with the profits flowing in the opposite direction, a pattern often repeated at the domestic, regional and global levels. It is believed to be growing fastest in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
In close to two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become the target of a new global crime threat from criminal organizations and criminal activities that have poured forth over the borders of Russia and other former Soviet republics such as Ukraine.
The Russian mobsters are considered a key source of weapons for terrorist groups. Although they do not share the ideology or the goals of terrorists, Russian gangsters are interesting in profits and do not discriminate against potential customers.
The nature and variety of the crimes being committed seem unlimited -- trafficking in women and children, drugs, arms trafficking, stolen automobiles, and money laundering are among the most prevalent. The spillover is particularly troubling to Europe because of its geographical proximity to Russia, and to Israel, because of its large numbers of Russian immigrants. But no area of the world seems immune to this menace, especially not the United States.
America is the land of opportunity for unloading criminal goods and laundering dirty money. For that reason--and because, unfortunately, much of the examination of Russian organized crime (the so-called "Russian Mafia") to date has been
rather hyperbolic and sketchy -- many in law enforcement believe it is important to step back and take an objective look at this growing phenomenon.
Russian organized crime has come to plague many areas of the globe since the demise of the Soviet Union just more than a decade ago. The transnational character of Russian organized crime, when coupled with its high degree of sophistication and ruthlessness, has attracted the world's attention and concern to what has become known as a global Russian
Mafia. Along with this concern, however, has come a fair amount of misunderstanding and stereotyping with respect to Russian organized crime.
Trafficking is almost always a form of organized crime and should be dealt with using criminal powers to investigate and prosecute offenders for trafficking and any other criminal activities in which they engage. Trafficked persons should also be seen as victims of crime. Support and protection of victims is a humanitarian objective and an important means of ensuring that victims are willing and able to assist in criminal cases. As with other forms of organized crime, trafficking has globalized.
Groups formerly active in specific routes or regions have expanded the geographical scope of their activities to explore new markets. Some have merged or formed cooperative relationships, expanding their geographical reach and range of criminal activities. Illegal migrants and trafficking victims have become another commodity in a larger realm of criminal commerce involving other commodities, such as narcotic drugs and firearms or weapons and money laundering, that generate illicit revenues or seek to reduce risks for traffickers.
With respect to organized crime, certain geographical or infrastructure characteristics, such as the presence of seaports, international airports, strategic border locations, rich natural resources, and so on, provide special criminal opportunities that can best be exploited by criminals who are organized.
More so than common crime, organized crime is fed by the presence of ethnic minorities who furnish a ready supply of both victims and the offenders to victimize them. Organized crime also thrives in environments characterized by a relatively high tolerance of deviance and a romanticization of crime figures, especially where government and law enforcement are weak or corrupt (the history of the Sicilian Mafia illustrates this).
Sources: US Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, United Nations Protocols, National Criminal Justice Reference Service, National Association of Chiefs of Police, Department of Homeland Security
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.