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Man loses chance at posting $1M bail in Brooklyn after his tattoos connect him to Russian mafia


Tats a made man in the Russian Mafia.
Federal prosecutors persuaded a Brooklyn judge to reject $1 million bail for a reputed mobster, arguing that his distinctive tattoos suggest that he is a made member of a notorious international crime group known as “thieves in law.”
Aleksey Tsvetkov had two stars tattooed on each shoulder while he was in prison serving a 78-month term for his last federal conviction for racketeering, extortion and assault in Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
Tsvetkov, 37, was arrested last week on similar charges in connection with a Brooklyn-based mob syndicate, but the tattoos indicate that his status in organized crime has changed since the prior case.
“He’s holding himself out as a ‘made man’ in this Russian Mafia,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrey Spektor argued Tuesday in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The prosecutor also pointed out that a Russian eagle tattooed on Tsvetkov’s side suggests he might flee to that country. Another tattoo of a cross on his right arm raised questions about Tsvetkov’s previous claims that feared persecution in his homeland because he is Jewish.
The new federal indictment alleges that Tsvetkov, a Ukrainian national, and eight co-defendants report to high-ranking thieves in law mobsters in Eastern Europe in connection with collecting extortion money and loansharking debts from victims overseas.
Defense lawyer Joel Cohen acknowledged that his client was a bad guy in the past, and did indeed get the thieves in law tattoos while doing time in prison.
“The fact that he has some tattoos is not indicative of who he is today,” Cohen argued.
“I actually have a dragon tattooed on my right arm. Does that mean I’m a member of China’s organized crime?”
Tsvetkov got the ink “to hold himself out as a tough guy ... that’s how you survive in prison,” Cohen added.
The lawyer also pointed out that thieves in law are prohibited from having a wife and children, legitimate jobs and cooperating with the police.
He said that Tsvetkov is married, has two young children, owns an auto body shop and called the NYPD about a customer who tried to commit insurance fraud.
But the prosecutor noted that the tattoos speak for themselves and that trying to falsely pass oneself off as a made member of thieves in law would be a death sentence.
Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes ordered Tsvetkov held without bail.
Cohen is appealing the decision.

Playboy model and Miss Bosnia goes on the run after she is given a jail sentence for luring mafia boss into assassination trap


A former Playboy model has gone on the run after she was sentenced to jail in Bosnia for laying a honey trap in the attempted murder of a gangster, a court said Tuesday.
Former 'Miss Bosnia' Slobodanka Tosic, 30, was convicted in March for arranging a date with local mafia boss Djordje Zdrale in 2006 and betraying him to his arch-rival Darko Elez, who then attempted to have him killed.
Zdrale was wounded in the assassination attempt but managed to escape.
In July an appeals chamber upheld a two-and-a-half year sentence for Tosic, who had been staying at her parents' house near Sarajevo with restrictions on her movement.
But she has not come forward to serve her sentence.
A spokesman said: 'Upon a demand of the State Court of Bosnia-Hercegovina an Interpol arrest warrant was issued for Slobodanka Tosic.'
The spokesman did not elaborate on why the court took so long to request the warrant, but it is believed the police were trying to find Tosic in Bosnia first.
The model was awarded the 'Miss Bosnia' title when she was 19.
She appeared on the cover of Serbian Playboy in 2008 after moving to the neighbouring country and was declared 'girl of the month', according to the magazine's then editor-in-chief.
Tosic was proven to have belonged to Elez's crime syndicate, described by prosecutors as 'one of the largest groups of organised crime' in Bosnia.
It was smashed in a major police operation in September 2012.
A total of 32 people, including Elez, were charged with a number of gangland murders and raids on cash delivery services.
Elez was jailed in Serbia for nine years after being convicted of involvement in organised crime.

In Portuguese Arrests, Suspicions Of Dirty Russian Money And European Soccer

By Carl Schreck
May 08, 2016
The heavies arrived at the pop-up marketplace on a frigid morning packing pistols, knives, and steel pipes. One strapping young man reportedly brandished a submachine gun. A day earlier, a group of thugs had pummeled a beefy ex-boxer nicknamed Broiler in a dispute over two leather coats sold by a merchant paying him protection money. Now, Broiler was back with a dozen of his allies in tow, staring at his assailants and the muscle they’d mobilized for the meeting.
 The confrontation near the Devyatkino train station on Leningrad’s northern outskirts escalated quickly. In the ensuing scrum, Broiler stabbed a martial arts coach nicknamed Fedya Crimea, who died at the hospital later that day -- December 18, 1988. The deadly brawl led to a schism between the two sides that clashed that day: the notorious Tambov and Malyshev crime syndicates, whose alleged links to allies of President Vladimir Putin are detailed in documents related to a Spanish warrant issued this week for the arrest of Russians including current and former officials.
Over the next decade, these groups would establish ties to the upper political echelon in the city where Putin grew up and began his political career. While they came to wield pervasive influence in St. Petersburg, with control over key industries and key officials in their pocket, their power base was initially on the streets, manned by members of a fearsome fraternity at the center of Russia’s turbulent transition to capitalism: gangster athletes.

“In St. Petersburg, from 1992 to 1995, the power at the middle and lower levels of society was completely in the hands of gangster athletes. Completely,” says Yevgeny Vyshenkov, a prominent Russian crime journalist and a former St. Petersburg police investigator.

They had nicknames like Sledgehammer and Flatiron, and they had come of age pounding heavy bags and pumping iron during the zenith of the Soviet sports machine. But as a capitalist free-for-all supplanted communist ideology amid Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms -- and as the state’s lavish spending on sports began to dry up -- legions of these athletes ditched their dreams of sporting glory and became ruthless mob enforcers.
 With brute strength and a blase attitude toward life and death, these jocks served as foot soldiers in the protection rackets that helped define the era of gangster capitalism in Russia. It was a profession that the Soviet state had unwittingly trained them for in its relentless push for supremacy in the sports world.
 “A combination of qualities, such as competitiveness and team spirit, physical aptitude and willpower, readiness to use force and to sustain injury, leadership and discipline, make [an athlete] particularly fit for violent entrepreneurship,” Vadim Volkov notes in his 2002 book Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism.
The Soviet government incorporated sports into its official ideology while still in its infancy following the 1917 October Revolution. But it was after World War II that it made a serious push to deploy sporting excellence as evidence of the communist state’s superiority over the capitalist West, establishing thousands of sports schools and clubs to identify and train future champions.

It was during this postwar push for sporting preeminence that Soviet athletes made their first serious contacts with the criminal underworld, says Vyshenkov, the author of a 2011 oral history of protection rackets in St. Petersburg and a former volleyball standout with deep contacts among gangster athletes in the city.
 Boxing coaches in the city would toughen up their proteges by sending them out to the park to test their skills on street hoodlums who were armed with pocket knives and ambivalence toward the rules of the sweet science, he says.
 Pickpockets, burglars, and black marketeers observing these dust-ups concluded that putting a pair of fists on the payroll could be a wise investment, Vyshenkov says. “A pickpocket works in the bus. These days if someone steals your wallet, the victim might just get angry. Back then you could get thrashed for it. And a thief needed a boxer to protect him.”
 As they grew closer to the leaders of Leningrad’s underworld, the athletes glimpsed a life of illicit luxury that was far removed from the Soviet hoi polloi’s humdrum existence.
 “They invited them to restaurants and showed the boxers that there’s such a thing as the good life,” Vyshenkov said. “Pretty watches, pretty jackets, jazz. The boxers had never seen that. They’d seen poverty and labor. They didn’t know anything else. And gradually the boxers started to become their friends -- and to protect them.”
Gangster athletes were easily identifiable by their appearance: track suits, short haircuts, gold chains, and bulging muscles that earned them the nickname "kachki" --from the Russian word to pump up one's muscles.
 As the criminal underworld began to grow in the 1970s and early 1980s under the shortage-plagued reign of Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet mafiosi began stationing athletes in bars and restaurants to effectively work as bouncers while black-market dealings were conducted. This job was a rite of passage for many gangster athletes both before and after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

“I calmed down people who were acting up. In general, I just made sure everything ran smoothly,” Andrei, a 50-something former karate enthusiast and a veteran of one of the city’s protection rackets, told RFE/RL on condition that he only be identified by a pseudonym.
Eventually this hired muscle bonded into a kind of informal union capable of mobilizing instantly if their intimidating presence was needed.
 “Everyone who worked in those bars got along well. We had our own sort of corporate solidarity,” reputed Tambov gang leader Vladimir Kumarin, whose influence among St. Petersburg officials earned him the moniker Night Governor, told crime journalist Andrei Konstantinov in Banditsky Peterburg (Bandit Petersburg), a seminal account of organized crime in Russia’s northern capital during that era.
 They were also eyeing opportunities for career advancement in this underground economy, Vyshenkov says, starting with a promotion to bartender, which paid better than the bouncer gig.
 "Not only do we want to wear jeans, we want to drive Volgas. We don’t just want red caviar, we want black caviar, too," Vyshenkov says. “And gradually they become bartenders, they gradually start to infiltrate and seize the business. They have little knowledge, but a lot of confidence."
 Violent ‘Pioneers’
 It was Gorbachev’s rise in 1985 and his subsequent reforms that ultimately propelled gangster athletes to the front lines of a brutal battle for wealth nationwide. Thirty years ago this November, his government passed a law on individual enterprise that would help trigger the proliferation of “cooperatives” -- small businesses that would form the bedrock of the Soviet Union’s nascent market economy as the government’s grip over citizens began to wane. Soviet athletes didn’t miss their chance.

“As the state weakens to the point that it can no longer effectively contain violence, sports, especially fighting sports and the martial arts, can supply everything needed to create a racketeering gang: fighting skills, willpower, discipline, and team spirit,” Volkov writes in Violent Entrepreneurs.
 Their business model could essentially be boiled down into the mob cliche: “Nice place you got here. Be a shame if something happened to it.” But they also provided a valuable service, Volkov and Vyshenkov argue: Because the communist superpower had few effective mechanisms to regulate business disputes, the country’s emerging entrepreneurs needed some way of enforcing contracts and protecting their assets.
 "A market is born, and it has to be regulated," Vyshenkov says. "What does it mean to regulate? ‘You’re right, you’re wrong. Give it to him.’ Who is going to do that? Suddenly athletes see a niche. They enter this market and say: ‘We’ll decide who’s right and who’s wrong. But we’re going to collect taxes in exchange.’"
 City markets and other forums “for the free economic exchange of privately produced goods,” Volkov writes, “began to attract those who were able and willing to display and use force.”
 “Former [athletes] were the pioneers of this movement -- gyms and sports clubs were the initial breeding grounds for the fresh wave of organized crime,” he adds.
 Andrei, the St. Petersburg racketeering gang veteran who spoke to RFE/RL, recalled the case of a businessman whose bank collapsed.
 “He was left with a pile of debt, and they started tearing him apart like a terrier does a badger. The good thing for all sides was that we caught him first,” Andrei said. “We even had to live with him, 24 hours a day over the course of two weeks without letting him out of our sight. And of course he ended up paying.... We ate and drank off that money.”
 In the beginning, gangster athletes’ chief weapon was brute strength. But by 1988, the same year that Gorbachev fully legalized cooperatives, a Soviet Interior Ministry organized crime specialist named Aleksandr Gurov told a Moscow newspaper: “There are a lot of athletes among these warriors. Unfortunately, it’s no problem for them to get their hands on a gun.”

Global Reach
At the time of Gurov’s interview, the Soviet Union boasted that 250,000 of its citizens had achieved the Master of Sport qualification. Some 12,000 were deemed masters of an international caliber, while more than 3,000 had earned the country’s most exclusive athletic title: Decorated Master of Sport.
 Most of the Soviet and, later, Russian athletes who moved into protection rackets specialized in combat sports -- martial arts, boxing, wrestling -- or weightlifting and bodybuilding. They ranged from amateur gym rats to international stars like Yury Sokolov, a world and European judo champion from Leningrad. He reportedly oversaw a gang of boxers before being killed in murky circumstances in 1990 at the age of 28.
“Most of the people who came into organized crime in this way, they were muscle rather than mind. They weren’t really the gang leaders and the planners,” says Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian organized crime and a professor at New York University.
 There were purported exceptions, such as Sergei Timofeyev, a karate expert nicknamed Sylvester who led the Moscow-based Orekhovskaya crime group and was killed in 1994 car-bomb attack in the Russian capital. The Solntsevtsaya organized crime group, based in Moscow but with an international reach, has long been said to be headed by businessman Sergei Mikhailov, a Soviet master of sport in wrestling. Authorities in Russia, the United States, and Europe have alleged that Mikhailov as a leading player in Russia's criminal underworld, though he has never been convicted on organized crime charges. Known by the nickname Mikhas, Mikhailov boasted in 2014 that Putin had honored him with a watch as a gift, a claim the Kremlin denied. Mikhailov rejects allegations that he is tied to the mob.
 The rise of gangster athletes did not go unnoticed in Washington. A 1991 report by the CIA on Soviet organized crime noted that “gangs often recruit former top athletes because they have access to modern weapons and cars, unlimited funds, and good connections abroad.”

“Athletes, in turn, may join gangs to continue living the ‘good life’ they lose when their government stipends end. Organized crime allows some athletes to translate their physical strength and prowess into quick money,” the reportadds.
 Moscow and Leningrad weren’t the only stomping grounds of gangster athletes: They operated in major cities across the country’s 11 time zones.
 They even extended their reach into the Russian-speaking enclave of Brighton Beach in New York City. It was under the elevated subway tracks there one night in January 1994 that a gunman shot a reputed mob enforcer named Oleg Korotayev once in the head at point-blank range, killing him instantly, and fled. Korotayev was a three-time Soviet boxing champion who in1974 defeated future undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks of the United States at a tournament in Havana.
 Legend has it that Fidel Castro personally presented Korotayev with a machete after the light-heavyweight impressed the Cuban leader at a tournament in Havana four years earlier.
 By the time Korotayev’s brains were blown out in Brighton Beach, a massive bloodletting among gangster athletes was already under way back in the motherland as well. The Soviet collapse had further empowered organized crime groups in Russia as money from protection rackets and all manner of official malfeasance sloshed around chaotically.
 “We always had money in our pockets. Always,” says Andrei, the former St. Petersburg gangster. “We were well fed. Of course, now I only regret that I didn’t buy any damn apartments with that money. We snorted and drank away so many apartments.”
 The competition among rival gangs for these riches became increasingly bloody, sparking turf wars in which mob bosses, businessmen, and politicians expired seemingly daily in a barrage of bullets or the blast of a deftly placed car bomb.

“From 1990 to 2000, around 6,000 people died in such conflicts,” Konstantinovtold RFE/RL’s Russian Service recently. “By comparison, in the same amount of time we had 14,000 people die in the [Soviet] war in Afghanistan. And that was just in St. Petersburg.”
 That gangster athletes were frequent victims of this carnage is unsurprising. Volkov estimated in his 2000 book that “three out of five middle- and upper-ranking members of groups specializing in private enforcement have athletic backgrounds.”
 "The Romans forgot how they stood side-by-side in the cohorts and fended off the enemy’s onslaught," said Vyshenkov. "They forgot how they died for one another. It ceased to matter. It was every man for himself."
 Andrei recalled his work becoming increasingly perilous, particularly at meetings -- called “strelki” -- of rival racketeering gangs to resolve business disputes between their respective clients. “People started showing up at strelki all jumpy and didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
 Like many of the toughs that populated the protection rackets in that era, several of Andrei’s colleagues didn’t survive the decade. Some were killed or simply disappeared. Another was shot dead and chopped up into pieces “like in an American movie.”
 “How did I stay alive? Well, thank God I didn’t end up owing anyone anything, and thank God I didn’t really know anything that was worth killing me over. I just gradually got out of the business,” said Andrei, who in recent years worked as a middle-manager in the construction industry.
 As the decade came to a close and Putin’s ascent began, Russian law enforcement officers began supplanting the gangs in the protection business, Andrei says. “Nobody wanted to fight with them anymore because there would be only one ending: jail,” he said.
 The more fortunate veterans of the racketeering game became “shareholders in something, had homes,” he added. “They were the New Russians, the new millionaires, the new oligarchs. The rest were either already dead, smashed up or rotting away in jail somewhere. They were of no use to anyone.”

 Those gangster athletes who did survive included several senior members of the Tambov and Malyshev gangs, to which Spanish prosecutors have tied several current and former Russian officials, including some close to Putin.
 The man for whom the Malyshev gang is named -- a former wrestler named Aleksandr Malyshev -- fled back to Russia last year after skipping bail in Spain following his arrest in 2008. Soviet master of sport Mikhail Glushchenko, a former high-ranking Tambov gang member and a quick-fisted boxer who relied on precision rather than power, is currently imprisoned after being convicted of extortion and organizing the 1998 murder of Galina Starovoitova, a widely respected lawmaker from St. Petersburg. Glushchenko, who was reportedly involved in the 1988 brawl between the Tambov and Malyshev gang members at the Leningrad marketplace, served as a deputy in Russia’s lower house of parliament in the mid-1990s.
 Glushchenko has since fingered Kumarin, the reputed Tambov leader once known as the Night Governor of St. Petersburg, as the mastermind behind Starovoitova’s slaying. Kumarin, who now goes by the last name Barsukov and is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence on gang-related charges, denies his involvement in the murder.
 As for Broiler, the Malyshev gang member who stabbed Fedya Crimea to death at the 1988 brawl at the Devyatkino train station: He served time for the crime and then, after his release, as president of a charity organization led by Putin’s political mentor Anatoly Sobchak, the mayor of St. Petersburg from 1991-96. A former city boxing champ in Minsk, Broiler survived an apparent assassination attempt in 1997, when his car was riddled with bullets by unidentified assailants. Four years later, he finished his dissertation, titled Strategy For Ensuring Production Effectiveness In A Market Economy.
 According to Vyshenkov’s oral history of protection rackets in St. Petersburg, published in 2011, Broiler -- whose real name is Sergei Miskaryov -- is a “millionaire.”

How Europe Became a Russian Gangster Playground

In early May, the moves came thick and fast. In Portugal, police swooped on a Russian criminal network that bought control of struggling lower-league football clubs and used them to launder millions of euros.
Meanwhile, in London, hedge fund boss turned campaigner Bill Browder presented evidence to British members of parliament that $30 million stolen in one of Russia’s most high profile frauds had passed through the country’s banks. The money was from a tax scam uncovered by Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who was imprisoned and died in jail in 2009. It was spent, Browder said, on private jets, elite school fees, lavish houses and designer dresses in Britain.
As Browder laid out his story, it was revealed that a Spanish judge had issued arrest orders for 12 Russians, including several current and former government officials. The warrant was part of Europe’s biggest probe into Russian organized crime. Investigators say Gennady Petrov, a gangster from St. Petersburg, plowed money into Spanish real estate that came from contract killings, arms and drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. They claim Petrov was the center of a money-laundering cabal that reached the top levels of Russian officialdom.
The events revealed the extent to which Russian organized crime has penetrated Europe. They also suggest that European authorities might be mobilizing against it.
Gennady Petrov fled Russia two decades ago. A heavyset bruiser who had climbed to the top of the criminal ladder in St. Petersburg while Vladimir Putin was a deputy mayor, he moved to Spain after losing ground to a rival gang.
He was not alone. Spain in the 1990s and early 2000s was “a kind of playground for organized crime figures … nice climate, and weak law enforcement,” says Mark Galeotti, an expert in Russian organized crime and security services.
Crime figures also spread to Israel, Cyprus and Germany. In the French Riviera, Russian criminals laundered suitcases full of cash through the property sector while bribing local politicians and judges to look the other way. By the 2000s, Europe’s police agency, Europol, was calling the Baltic States the “northeast criminal hub.”
London attracted a different crowd. These were the businessmen and political figures whose wealth could withstand at least a cursory probing of its sources. Euan Grant, an expert on transnational crime, calls these people “politically-protected looters.”
Organized crime had blossomed in Russia in the 1990s as state authority broke down. Under Putin, who became president at the end of the decade, the melding of the state and criminal networks was institutionalized, says Galeotti. No state employee lives off their salary alone. Instead, a culture of cronyism developed where personal connections were used to dole out favors and no one is truly clean.
Even Defense Minster Sergei Shoigu, a career official regarded as one of the less corrupt members of the government, was found by anti-corruption activists last year to have a lavish, pagoda-style mansion near Moscow allegedly worth $18 million.
When Russian businessmen and gangsters moved overseas, they took their personal connections with them. The Spanish investigation into Gennady Petrov appears to provide a snapshot into the system’s workings.
In the 1990s, St. Petersburg was practically run by criminals, and Petrov was a big figure. “Everyone knew him,” says Roman Shleinov, a Russian investigative journalist. He had cash to invest and could pull strings in different spheres of government and business. Petrov’s connections extended to Putin’s closest associates. In the late 1990s, Petrov was a shareholder in Bank Rossiya, later described by U.S. officials as the “personal bank for senior [Russian] officials.”
But Spanish prosecutors were on to him. They launched an investigation called “Operation Troika” in the late 2000s. Prosecutors tapped hundreds of telephone conversations and examined bank transfers and property transactions. Their report, issued last year, revealed connections between Petrov’s crime group and a wide circle of Russian officials and politicians. Among the senior figures mentioned were former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and current Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. Even Putin got a mention in one of the tapped conversations discussing his reported ownership of a house in Spain.
The 12 names on the Spanish arrest warrant revealed this month are only slightly less senior. They include Vladislav Reznik, a senior member of parliament, Igor Sobolevsky, a former deputy head of the Investigative Committee, Russia’s equivalent to the FBI, and General Nikolai Aulov, deputy head of the narcotics police. Among the accusations, prosecutors say Reznik helped Petrov get clients appointed to key posts in Russia in exchange for assets in Spain. Aulov, they said, was used to intimidate potential threats to Petrov’s group.
The accused have dismissed the claims. Aulov branded them “political.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the allegations against Putin were “beyond the realm of reason.”
But the investigation’s chief prosecutor, Jose Grinda, was convinced he had uncovered the true nature of Russian crime syndicates. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked to WikiLeaks, Grinda told U.S. officials in 2010 that Russian criminal groups operated “hand-in-hand” with the state, whose tactic was to use “organized crime groups to do whatever the government of Russia cannot acceptably do.” These tasks included running guns to clients such as Kurdish militia, he said. In return, the Russian state gives criminal groups support and protection.
Russian cash has certainly padded many pockets. Flows of illicit money are difficult to measure. They are also various in nature, ranging from direct proceeds of drug and people trafficking to kickbacks and sweetheart deals. But analysts say tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars have left Russia over the last two decades in criminal schemes. Deutsche Bank last year said $1.5 billion enters Britain each month without being recorded by official statistics. Half of that cash comes from Russia.
Russian money has been a boon for real estate agents, lawyers and purveyors of luxury services. But it has also cultivated an extensive network of former government officials and intelligence figures now working at private advisory firms. One such was Conservative Friends of Russia, a lobby group founded in London in 2012 and chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign minister. Rifkind was later filmed by Britain’s Channel 4 television boasting he could provide access to “every British ambassador in the world” and offering to use his political connections on behalf of a fake Chinese company for £5,000 a day.
 “No one wants to kill the golden goose,” says Browder.
That is a key reason for lackluster policing. Another is that much of the money looks superficially clean. It has been smuggled through multiple countries and often comes with the stamp of a clever corporate lawyer. Western law enforcement isn’t set up to deal with this, says Grant. “It’s looking for the smoking gun” — something Russian fraudsters are too clever to provide.
Spanish prosecutors say Vladislav Reznik, a senior member of the Russian Duma, helped Gennady Petrov appoint allies to senior positions in the Russian bureaucracy in return for assets in Spain.
•           Crackdown
Attitudes may now be changing. Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and support for Ukrainian separatists, many Western capitals now see Russia as a security threat. More people are worried at the effect of Russian money on Western politics.
Grant warns that the penetration of organized crime in the Baltic countries could be catastrophic in a potential national security crisis provoked by Russia. He says Russians connected to state-sanctioned organized crime form a massive quasi-intelligence agency for Russia. They are “political trojan horses,” he says. By spreading their money, they can “undermine morale, compromise officials and weaken Western resolve.”
Scandals around the Spanish investigation into Petrov and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 have also shifted public opinion. An enquiry in Litvinenko’s death published this year said the former Russian secret policeman had given evidence to Spanish prosecutors investigating Russian organized crime. Shortly afterward, he was fed radioactive polonium in an apparently state-sanctioned murder. Outrage over the Panama Papers leaks this year is also forcing governments to consider tighter measures against offshore companies and financial crime.
Shifting attitudes to Russia could help investigators access extra resources, says Galeotti. More significantly, it means that Western security services are now refocusing on Russia. These play a major role in monitoring and action on organized crime.
Few think that a full fledged attack on Russian money is feasible. More likely is “a partial and creeping lockdown,” says Browder. As in Spain and Portugal, individual prosecutors in different countries will investigate and seize Russian property, he says. “The more they do, the more empowered some of the timid ones will get, and this will become a much more wide ranging problem for the Putin regime.”
The process will be difficult and slow, says Grant. Russian organized crime networks have had time to deeply embed. Meanwhile, Moscow does not extradite its citizens. And its law enforcement agencies often refuse to aid foreign investigations. Petrov, now 68 and living in St. Petersburg, is unlikely to ever again appear before a Spanish court.
That doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Spain has seized property worth tens of millions of euros. Those on Spain’s arrest warrant cannot travel to Spain or any country with which Spain has an extradition treaty.
 “What this does is bit by bit begins to lock down the outside world to this criminal elite,” says Galeotti. This sort of action goes to the heart of the Putin regime. “This elite regarded globalization as a buffet — that they can enjoy all the opportunities of being Europeans while at the same time maintaining their capacity to steal with impunity back within Russia,” he says. “Now they are finding that this is becoming harder and harder.”
When Spanish police raided his properties in 2008, Petrov was living in a 20-million-euro villa in Calvia, a village on the Mediterranean island of Majorca. He had a painting by Salvador Dalí on the wall. Among his neighbors was the sister of King Juan Carlos.
A crackdown on criminal groups also raises questions. The omnipresence of crime in Russia means it is often difficult to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate business. Meanwhile, the entanglement of crime and state also means that every clampdown on a “businessman” or their cash is an attack on the foundations of Russia’s political system, which risks provoking Moscow.
However, the drip feed of actions against Russian organized crime continues. In early May, the European Central Bank said it would phase out 500-euro bills, a favorite of gangsters. A week after the Portuguese raids and Spanish arrest warrants, police in London said they had seized $22 million and arrested two men suspected of laundering money for a Russian gang.
To be truly effective, however, action has to be coordinated, with tighter regulation and information shared across jurisdictions. If not, it will amount to “squeezing the balloon,” says Galeotti — where pressure in Spain and Portugal merely moves the money to France and Greece. Despite encouraging signs, such continent wide measures seem a long way off.

Contact the author at p.hobson@imedia.ru. Follow the author on Twitter at @peterhobson15

London Police Seize $22 Million Transferred by Russian Gang

London police seized $22 million allegedly transferred into the country by a Russian organized crime gang running Ponzi schemes and laundering money through the futures market.
The move came six weeks after a 43-year-old Russian broker was arrested on suspicion of fraud, abuse of position and money laundering and released on bail. A British national was also interviewed under caution and released. Neither person was identified by police.
Detectives took possession of four checks from a clearing firm in the Square Mile, London’s financial district, after the firm closed the suspect’s five trading accounts. The operation came two weeks after authorities seized bankers’ drafts worth 30 million pounds ($43 million) in South Wales and arrested a 58-year-old man on suspicion of money laundering in the largest monetary seizure by a U.K. police force.
A Russian oil firm, a Swiss investment company, an investment firm in the British Virgin Islands and another Russian company were a front for the Russian gang, according to police. None of the businesses were identified.
The arrest was the result of an investigation into suspicious trading on the futures market by the police’s Money Laundering Unit and the Intercontinental Exchange Inc., which monitors markets to identify suspicious trading activity.
"ICE monitors trading activity around the clock using sophisticated market surveillance tools and technology to detect market abuse," Kelly Loeffler, a spokeswoman for ICE, said in an e-mailed statement. "We notified the authorities immediately upon detecting suspicious trading activity and continue to support the City of London Police in their operation."

Russian Mob Lawyer Tied to Whistleblower’s Death

Russian attorney Andrei Pavlov has been named as  a “candidate for the killing” of Alexander Perepilichnyy, a Russian national who became a Swiss informant on corruption allegation and then died under mysterious circumstances in Surrey, England, in November 2012.
Pavlov is considered to be the lawyer for the “Klyuev Group,” an alleged organized crime syndicate responsible, say U.S. officials, for perpetrating a $230 million Russian tax fraud in 2007 and then covering its tracks by framing and murdering the whistleblower who exposed the crime, Russian tax attorney Sergei Magnitsky. In 2012, U.S. Congress passed a law named for Magnitsky that aims to freeze any American assets, and ban from entering the United States, Russian officials implicated in the affair.
The Daily Beast has reported extensively on Pavlov in the last few months. Leaked emails and attachments revealed that he retained the legal services of the London branch of Debevoise & Plimpton, a white-shoe U.S. law firm, for the purpose of keeping his name off of European sanctions on Russia and rebutting the accusations made against him, primarily by William Browder, the CEO of the Hermitage Fund, which Magnitsky represented and whose corporate documents were allegedly used in the $230 million fraud. Pavlov’s lead counsel at Debevoise, Weiss reported, is none other than former British Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith. Also, acting on Pavlov’s behalf, Debevoise subcontracted the services of private investigation firm GPW & Co., whose chairman is Andrew Fulton, formerly British foreign intelligence agency MI6’s station chief in Washington, D.C.
—Michael Weiss


Report: NSA Tapped Phone Of Russian Crime Boss To Probe For Putin Ties

By Carl Schreck
May 17, 2016
Documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden suggest that the spy agency eavesdropped on a Russian mob kingpin in an effort to determine his possible ties to President Vladimir Putin.
According to an internal NSA newsletter published by the website The Intercept, the NSA in 2002 or 2003 successfully tapped the phone of Vladimir Kumarin, the reputed head of the notorious Tambov crime syndicate whose influence in St. Petersburg in the 1990s earned him the moniker "Night Governor."
The newsletter, published by The Intercept on May 16 states, says the State Department submitted a request to the NSA for intelligence on Kumarin "to learn whether there were any links" between the Tambov syndicate and Putin, who served as deputy mayor in St. Petersburg in the 1990s.
The website was co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, one of two American journalists who received secret NSA documents from Snowden. The document referencing Kumarin was among the first batch of internal NSA newsletters spanning a nine-year period that The Intercept plans to publish.
Putin has long been alleged to have maintained ties to organized-crime groups that flourished in St. Petersburg, where he grew up and began his political career, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed these claims.
Kumarin, who now goes by the last name Barsukov, is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence after being convicted on gang-related charges in 2009.

According to the NSA newsletter published by The Intercept, analysts from the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate "had their work cut out for them" with the State Department’s 2002 request because the agency "had neither Mr. Kumarin's phone number nor a sample of his voice."
The document, dated May 5, 2003, states that the NSA ultimately achieved "success" in the operation thanks to "many months of target development" and was able to issue intelligence reports based "on the intercept of Kumarin’s telephone."
The contents of those reports remain unclear.
A State Department official, when questioned by RFE/RL on May 17 about The Intercept report, said: "As a matter of policy the Department of State does not comment on specific intelligence allegations."
As experts on Russian organized crime have noted, the Tambov syndicate and other gangs were so entrenched in economic and political life in St. Petersburg in the 1990s that it was virtually impossible to conduct public affairs without dealing with them.
A Spanish judge this month issued international arrest warrants for several current and former Russian government officials and other political figures closely linked to Putin in connection with crimes committed in Spain, including murder, weapons and drug trafficking, extortion, and money laundering.

The Spanish documents target alleged members of the Tambov syndicate and another well-known crime group in St. Petersburg, the Malyshev gang. Both groups emerged as racketeering gangs comprised largely of former athletes during the twilight of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.