By Mihai Munteanu
CHISINAU, Moldova - One of the most powerful criminal groups in Moldova offered a reporter from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) Russian army weapons including rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) units last month.
The reporter purchased one RPG from the group to demonstrate the ease of getting weapons.
The flow of such weapons into Ukraine has fueled separatist tensions, and the transaction offered a glimpse into a black market that has revived since Russia annexed Crimea and ignited conflict in eastern Ukraine this year. Pro-Russian forces have shot down Ukrainian helicopters and planes with similar heavy weapons.
The unusual deal began last February. Amidst breaking news about Yanukovich, the former Ukrainian president, fleeing Ukraine, a clipped, mechanical sound from his mobile phone alerted an OCCRP reporter to a new message.
He opened it to find a photo of Al Pacino from the movie “Scarface” emptying an automatic weapon. The text read: "Don't you need these? I believe the war in Ukraine is only now starting." P9
The message was unusual for several reasons:
• It came from Ion Anton Druta, 42, an organized crime figure who was serving time in a high security prison for a triple homicide.
• Druta knew the reporter was a journalist, but believed he had connections with intelligence agencies who might be interested in buying lots of guns to influence the conflict in Ukraine.
The weapon OCCRP bought was Russian-made. Druta said it came from the armories of the Russian 14th Army. This unit has been stationed for more than 20 years with a peacekeeping mission in Transdniestr, the Russian-speaking separatist region wedged between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The UN and other international bodies have expressed concern that Transdniestr for years has outfitted Eastern European organized crime with weapons, but no definitive proof has ever been provided.
OCCRP initially contacted Druta’s group last year in Moldova as part of a wider investigation into a network of hired killers operating across Europe.
This time, journalists put down € 1,000 (US$ 1,365) to buy an RPG anti-tank weapon system from the group in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, which is 180 kilometers from the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa. Druta threw in a semi-automatic pistol for free.
Civil War, the Weapons Dealer and the Criminal Group
The transaction took place 10 days after the Odessa massacre in which 40 people died and hundreds were wounded in street fighting between pro-Russian and Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian security forces claimed that paramilitary groups from Transdniestr were involved in the Odessa fights.
The man offering the weapons for sale has a long and violent history with police. Nearly a year ago, in July 2013, Druta, or Vanea the Writer as he’s known, was taken into custody to begin a 20-year prison sentence imposed by the Chisinau Court of Appeals for his part in a triple homicide in 1998.
Moldovan authorities held a press conference to mark the event.
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that BORIS LISYANKSY was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for his role in hiring a hitman to kill two Queens businessmen, which resulted in a non-fatal shooting in May 2010. LISYANKSY was convicted of one count of murder for hire and one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire on April 29, 2013, after a six-day trial before Judge George B. Daniels in Manhattan federal court.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Boris Lisyansky ordered the cold-blooded murder of two innocent men. Thankfully, his intended victims survived the attempt. Today’s sentence makes clear that even when you send others to do your dirty work, you will be found and held accountable for your crimes.”
According to the Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court and the evidence at trial and sentencing:
In May 2010, LISYANKSY hired an associate, Jesus Rosa, to kill the father and son owners of a catering hall (the “Catering Hall”) in Queens. Torrance Crayton, a/k/a “King Blood,” another associate of LISYANKSY’s, provided Rosa with a gun to use in the murders. LISYANKSY arranged a meeting with the intended victims at their Catering Hall under the ruse that LISYANKSY was considering booking the Catering Hall for his wedding. LISYANKSY met with the victims in the Catering Hall on a weekday during normal business hours. Acting at LISYANKSY’s direction, Rosa entered the Catering Hall during that meeting and brandished his firearm. LISYANKSY, pretending to be a victim, covertly signaled to Rosa the two intended victims of the murder. Rosa pointed the gun at the head of one of the two victims, but decided he could not go through with the murder and instead shot the victim in the leg, and fled the Catering Hall. Rosa jumped into a waiting getaway car driven by Jayson Vasquez-Soto. Vasquez-Soto and Rosa drove back to LISYANKSY’s apartment where they proceeded, at the direction of LISYANKSY, to destroy evidence from the murder plot, including wiping the car down to destroy fingerprint evidence. The police arrived at the Catering Hall soon after the shooting and LISYANKSY, still posing as a victim of the hold-up, gave false details about the shooter to the police.
* * *
In addition to the prison term, Judge Daniels sentenced LISYANSKY, 39, of Queens, New York, to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a special assessment of $200.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Police Department in connection with this investigation.
A number of co-conspirators and accomplices were also prosecuted in connection with this case. Jesus Rosa pleaded guilty to murder for hire, conspiracy to commit murder for hire, and other offenses, and is awaiting sentencing. Torrance Crayton, a/k/a “King Blood,” pleaded guilty to firearms possession and was sentenced by United States District Judge Richard Sullivan to 5 years in prison. Jayson Vazquez-Soto was convicted at trial of obstruction of justi
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander Wilson and Harris Fischman are in charge of the prosecution.
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BANGKOK, June 25 (RAPSI) – Alexander Matusov, aka Basmach, the alleged leader of the Shchyolkovo organized crime gang, has been arrested in Thailand at the request of Interpol’s National Central Bureau for Russia, the CIB deputy commander, Police General Wut Liptapanlop, said at a news conference in Bangkok.
Matusov was arrested in Thailand’s eastern seaside town of Sattahip in Chon Buri Province.
Wut said the 52-year-old Russian first entered Thailand in 2009 and left before returning on a forged Armenian passport. He said Matusov had been living in Thailand on a retirement visa.
“Matusov was arrested through the cooperation of Russian and Thai law enforcement agencies and will be deported to Russia soon,” Alexei Falunin, a vice-consul at the Russian Embassy in Thailand, told RIA Novosti.
The Shchyolkovo gang was active from 1995 to 2009 and was notorious for contract killings, extortion and kidnappings in the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas. The gang is suspected of having killed at least 60 people. In 2009, police found the bodies of 15 of the gang’s victims in forests near Moscow.
Matusov was put on the wanted list in 2009, when police brought three murder charges against members of his crime group.
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By JEFF D. GORMAN
(CN) - Investigative journalists who wrote about off-shore money laundering did not defame a former Russian diplomat and his company, a Maryland appeals court ruled.
At issue is a series of articles called "The Proxy Platform," which examined "the persons and entities that, unwitting or otherwise, form a platform used for money laundering by organized crime."
The nonprofit group Journalism Development Network released the series as part of its Organized Crime and Corrupting Reporting Project.
Its article "Opening the Door" described criminal investigations and an allegedly fraudulent business deal in the European country of Moldova.
In "The Invisible Empire of the Diplomat," the network described "a constantly changing set of shell companies that are channeling huge volumes of money to one another."
One company mentioned in that article was Midland Consult, a company founded by Maxim Stepanov, the former consular secretary and embassy attaché for Russia in Panama.
Midland director Edward Aslanyan is quoted in the article as saying, "Imagine that we are a plant that produces bricks. Somebody buys bricks to build a house. But another bought a brick, wrapped it in the paper and hit somebody's head. Who is guilty?"
"Russian Laundering Machine" discussed Oscar Augusto Cedeno, who ran a company linked to money laundering. The story called Cedeno a "partner with Maxim Stepanov, head of Midland Consult."
The final article in the series, "The Proxy Platform," described a system that is "built on hundreds, maybe thousands of ever-morphing phantom companies."
"Many of the companies involved were registered by GT Group in New Zealand and Midland Consult in London - two companies that have registered many companies for organized crime," the article said.
Midland and Stepanov filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit, but the Circuit Court for Baltimore City dismissed the complaint after finding that the publications, "when read as a whole ... do not defame the plaintiffs.
The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed on June 17.
"Two of the articles make only passing references to appellants, while the other two articles accurately describe, appellants concede, how the companies were created and later used," Judge Robert Zarnoch wrote for a three-member panel.
The articles also did not defame Stepanov personally, according to the ruling.
"Stepanov is identified only as the principal of Midland; indeed, every mention of him in 'The Invisible Empire' includes a reference to Midland," Zarnoch wrote. "As the owner of Midland, Stepanov does not have a cause of action for defamation.'
The ruling notes that "Midland's primary business appears to be creating companies for its clients: the entity is created and put on a 'shelf' until it is ready to be purchased by Midland's clients."
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TOKYO, June 11, 2014 /Nassau News Live/ — Significant quantities of illegal timber products from the forests of Siberia and the Russian Far East are flowing into Japan, according to a new report by the US-based nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). While the United States and European Union have recently enacted new policies that prohibit the import of illegally sourced wood and wood products and require companies to conduct heightened due diligence in their sourcing practices, Japan’s failure to enact similar measures makes it an open market for illegal timber products from around the world.
The report, The Open Door: Japan’s Continuing Failure to Prevent Imports of Illegal Russian Timber,[i] details supply chains for illegally cut Siberian pine, bought by Chinese traders and imported to China, manufactured into wood products and sold on markets all over Japan. In undercover interviews, officials from San Xia, one of the largest Chinese importers of Russian timber, detailed how they purchase this timber from illegal loggers deep inside Siberia and launder this timber across the border using documentation from their forest concession. In factories across northeastern China, San Xia transforms this timber into edge-glued lumber, 90% of which is sold to Japan for housing construction.
“The no questions asked market for wood products in Japan is fueling rampant illegal logging in eastern Russia,” said Kate Horner, Director of Forest Campaigns at EIA. “The time has come for Japan to join other developed nations in support legal forest products trade. Without swift action by the government to prohibit illegal timber from entering its market, Japanese consumers will continue to be unwitting financiers of the timber mafias that are raiding the world’s forests.”
Illegal logging is estimated to comprise at least 50% of total timber harvests in eastern Russia, with some estimates nearing 90%, and poses one of the gravest threats to both the region’s forest ecology and the future of the Russian forest products industry. This trade fuels corruption and environmental destruction, including some of the most biodiverse and pristine forests in the Russian Federation. These products directly compete with Japanese domestic timber, depressing prices globally and putting Japanese forest producers at a competitive disadvantage.
This report follows EIA’s 2013 Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers.[ii] In the 2013 report, EIA investigators documented how Lumber Liquidators, the largest specialty flooring retailer in the United States, had purchased millions of square feet of hardwood flooring from a Chinese supplier who sources illegal oak originating in the Russian Far East, the northernmost range of the last 450 Siberian tigers in the world. In September 2013, the United Stated Department of Justice initiated a federal investigation of Lumber Liquidators reportedly for alleged violations of the Lacey Act.
“Organized criminal groups send out logging brigades to steal valuable hardwoods from protected areas, decimating Russian forests and depriving the Russian economy of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue,” said Horner. “Importing cheap illegal wood from eastern Russia is a tragic crime of convenience that directly undercuts Japanese business trying to play by the rules. Any company buying products containing wood from eastern Russia, whether directly or via China, should know that it may be using stolen wood and must take great care to ensure legality.”
Japan must take decisive and immediate action to close its market to the cheap, illegal timber that is undercutting both its domestic forestry operations as well as the forests and livelihoods of its trading partners.
[i] Environmental Investigation Agency. 2014. “The Open Door: Japan’s Continuing Failure to Prevent Imports of Illegal Russian Timber.” http://eia-global.org/news-media/the-open-door-japans-continuing-failure-to-prevent-imports-of-illegal-russi
[ii] Environmental Investigation Agency. 2013. “Liquidating the Forests: Hardwood Flooring, Organized Crime, and the World’s Last Siberian Tigers.” http://eia-global.org/campaigns/forests-campaign/liquidating-the-forests/
Kate Horner, +1 360 319 9444, firstname.lastname@example.org
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MOSCOW, May 22 (RAPSI) – A leader of a Russian organized crime group suspected of over 20 murders has been arrested in Spain, Kommersant newspaper writes.
In the late 1990s, Dmitry Zavyalov and two of his accomplices created a gang to assume control of the Pushkino District in the Moscow Region. They were involved in racketeering, hostile takeovers and contract murders.
The other gangsters in the district were nonplused. According to the newspaper, one of Zavyalov’s accomplices, Mikhail Prutov, was killed in Moscow in 2002 following a conflict with another organized crime group. That crime was followed by the murder of dozens of criminal leaders and businessmen. Zavyalov’s accomplice Dmitry Lesnyakov was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Zavyalov, 28, was living in Spain on a fake Belgian passport. He was arrested during a routine border check in La Jonquera, a municipality in Catalonia on the border with France. He was taken to a police station where his true identity was established, along with an alert indicating that he was armed and dangerous.
“Zavyalov was arrested because the Spanish police have many informants in the semi-criminal part of the Russian diaspora,” Kommersant writes. “One of the agents alerted the police about Zavyalov’s true identity. Zavyalov remains in custody pending an extradition hearing.”
The newspaper writes that the Spanish authorities had notified Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office about Zavyalov’s arrest.