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Tadic Assails Organized Crime in Balkans

Published: January 26, 2011

PARIS — The president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, lashed out at organized crime and its corrosive effect on the Balkans in a speech Wednesday, pressing for an international investigation of human organ trafficking in Kosovo and broad protection for witnesses.
He made his comments in Strasbourg before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which on Tuesday adopted an investigative report that has roiled the leadership in Kosovo. It alleged that Serb prisoners were killed at the end of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 to harvest organs for transplant for an organized crime group, Drenica, with ties to the current Kosovo prime minister, Hashim Thaci.
The Serbian president did not refer to Mr. Thaci by name in his comments, but he made a direct connection between the spreading influence of organized crime and the report on trade in human organs.
“The real purpose of organized crime is not just to live in parallel with legal society. Rather, it seeks to become society,” Mr. Tadic said, adding, “It subverts politics. It corrupts economies” and “it kills to steal parts of people’s bodies.”
The assembly — a pan-European organization that investigates human rights issues and makes recommendations — was also weighing three resolutions on Wednesday to strengthen witness protection in the Balkans, particularly in Kosovo, where the authorities lack funding and a specialized police force to prevent intimidation of witnesses.
Kosovo, a tiny nation of two million people and close-knit clans, is particularly problematic because “witnesses are often perceived as betraying their community when they give evidence,” according to a report prepared for the assembly by one of its members, Jean Charles Gardetto, of Monaco. He noted that in a nation where everyone seems to know one another, “many people do not believe that they have a moral or legal duty to testify as a witness in criminal cases.”
Dick Marty, a former Swiss magistrate who investigated organ trafficking for the assembly, faced that issue when he tried to gather more information about the Drenica organized crime group. According to his report, based on intelligence reports, it had roots in the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Kosovo conflict in 1999 and evolved into a criminal enterprise that controlled the heroin and narcotics trade and six detention centers in Albania to develop a black market for human kidney transplants.
His report was commissioned in response to allegations about organ trafficking in a 2008 memoir by Carla del Ponte, the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a U.N. body that pursued war crimes suspects, but ultimately did not pursue the allegations of organ trafficking.
Mr. Thaci, the Kosovo prime minister, has strenuously denied the allegations, and he and other officials there have supported an investigation. So has Prime Minister Sali Berisha of Albania, who has dismissed Mr. Marty’s investigation as a “completely racist and defamatory report.”
“We are ready to face and we as Kosovo want to face” the report, Jakup Krasniqi, Kosovo’s acting president, told reporters. “We are convinced that this cannot be proven in any way.”
European Union officials in Brussels have requested more evidence of wrongdoing from Mr. Marty, who has been reluctant to release specific information because of a lack of safeguards for witnesses.
With the call for an independent international investigation of the organ trafficking allegations and witness protection procedures, the assembly is pressing for the sort of commission that can be costly and take years to give results.
An example is the U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was created to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and officially opened in March 2009. It is just now issuing its first indictments and could be operating through 2014.

OPSO arrests Russian native

A Russian native with suspected ties to the Russian mafia has been arrested after nearly a year-long investigation by the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office and Kentucky police.
Yuri George Schulman, 24, of 149 Wainright No. 16 in West Monroe, was arrested Tuesday on an outstanding warrant from Woodford County, Ky. Schulman is being held in the Ouachita Correctional Center awaiting extradition to Kentucky.
The investigation began in April after Ouachita Parish Cpl. Jim Funderburk began working an incident on Nick Spillers Road in Calhoun involving a wrecked and abandoned vehicle with a canceled Kentucky tag. The original owner of the vehicle was located and contacted in Versailles, Ky. The owner of the vehicle then contacted the Woodford County Sheriff's Office.
According to Woodford County Sheriff Wayne Wright, the vehicle owner's daughter had been reported missing and she was known to be with Schulman, who was wanted for second-degree burglary.
"He skipped town on a felony warrant on a burglary charge," Wright said. "The girl's family thought she was being held against her will, but we found out she was in a relationship with him."
Wright said he had been in contact with U.S.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement about Schulman, who was also looking for the Ukrainian native. However, Wright said he did not have specific information on why the fugitive was wanted by ICE.
A spokesman for ICE in New Orleans said the agency was not allowed to release information on the issue.
Funderburk and Woodford County Sheriff's investigators continued working on the case throughout the remainder of 2010.
Schulman also has an extensive criminal history with possible ties to the Russian Mafia, according to the Woodford County Sheriff's Office.
Wright said investigators got a break in the case when they recently learned Schulman had a cell phone in his name. This number began to show on numerous calls in the Ouachita Parish area.
After subpoenas were filed with AT&T, the (pay-as-you-go) phone was located at an area off Louisiana 34 in southwest Ouachita Parish.
"That's how we tracked him down," Wright said. "He had turned it off. But it just so happened he must have paid the minutes up and used it and we tracked him."
Schulman was arrested without incident and booked into OCC.
Wright said Schulman is also expected to be charged with rape after his DNA was positively matched to an open rape case being investigated in Woodford County.
"We've been after him for about a year," Wright said. (The Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office) has been great to work with. I cannot believe how quick and supportive they have been."

Russian mafia and not government controls Goa

MUMBAI: If any place in India is top of the mind recall for foreigners, it is Goa - a destination most popular and most known for holidaying. It's among the top 10 holiday places of the world for beach seeking holidayers. Goa has some of the most pristine beaches without doubt. Goa has hence thrived on tourism. But hang on. It may not retain its position for long if the government does not step in and take corrective measures.

While it has got all the trapings of perfect entertainment for holidayers with its innumerable shacks, water sports, adventure sports, India's top party place with Sunburn being the hottest, the rave parties, music, resorts, casinos, fashion, tattoos et al..., it has another facet that is increasingly disturbing: the alarming crime rate, murders, molesting foreigners, rape, drugs, custodial deaths and the list goes on.

While the average Goan is content with making money during the six month season between November and April, they are suddenly waking up to an identity crisis. Most of the businesses that are run in Goa are either illegal or not in order. The land runs on black money. None of the shacks accept credit cards. It's just pay cash.

The drug lords control the beaches and without any doubt in any one's mind, it happens with the connivance of police and politicians. The state government looks the other way, the Income Tax department probably has no real interest here, and the External Affairs Ministry finds it too cumbersome to monitor what is happening in Goa. There is no real data on foreigners buying land in Goa, though, everyone on the street will tell you that some of the properties are owned by foreigners in Goa. Well, for record sake, they are held in the name of a Goan. But that certainly is just a ploy to circumvent the law.

So, who runs Goa then. Ask the average man on the street and they tell you with a knowing smile - the mafia. First it was the Isreali mafia, and now it is the all powerful Russian mafia. Nobody wants to take a chance with them. The political class love it because they don't have to make too much of an effort to make their bucks. All they have to do is support the mafias and then their bank accounts look pretty (well, most of them do not have bank accounts!).

Today it has become so deep rooted that even if the politicians want to back out, it is difficult because the mafias know where the politicians have made investments abroad and their movements are monitored by them. Just to protect their ill-gotten wealth, politicians have to toe the line of the mafia. The police are finding an easy way out because their palms are greased.

There are many examples that stand glaring in front of you, yet no one wants to act on the goings on. The death of 16-year-old British national Scarlett Keeling on February 18, 2008 - her body was found in the waters of Anjuna Beach near Curlies was certainly not an accident. Some powerful groups were involved in the happenings. She, according to police, was seen coming to Curlies, a shack on the Anjuna Beach, regularly to drink and party hoppers knew where to get their drugs. Drugs were and are in free flow in all parts of Goa.Who runs Curlies is common knowledge in Goa. Yet, Goa's home minister Ravi Naik is not willing to take action. Why? Only he can tell.

The drug mafia-police nexus has had all baying for Ravi Naik's blood, especially after the Atala tapes became public. Both the BJP and the NCP are demanding the home minister's ouster, but chief minister Digambar Kamat is unmoved and only ducks the question by the media. It's high time that the Centre intervenes in Goa to make it a safer place for one and all, otherwise it will be too late to do anything.

The goings on in the last few years have not augered well for Goa. The moment you talk about Goa outside of Goa, the first things that people will say is `Wow, what a party place'. Well, it certainly is a happy thing to be known as the most happening place, a lovely party place, for all youngsters love it absolutely. But also with it, Goa has got the dubious distinction of being known as a place of drugs, drinks and sleaze. That has hurt the sentiments of Goans. No well meaning Goan, who is very proud of his rich heritage and culture is able to digest the fact that Goa is being demolished by characters who have become suddenly very powerful with money earned from the mafia.

Goans are themselves to blame for this situation. Most Goan children have gone away to far off desitnations in pursuit of good education, jobs, and opportunities, leaving behind their aged parents and relatives, who are too meek to fight the political system. Many of the shacks and businesses are either owned or run by MLAs and ministers. With literally no instititue of repute for higher education and lack of skills for employment, industry too is unwilling to take a risk to set shop in Goa. The only gainful employment for many Goans come from the marine industry both in Goa and abroad. But no economy can continue to run based on one industry.

It needs to expand to other zones. Goa needs to wake up. Goa needs to follow the example of Singapore in making it a more stable tourism destination, and its political class need to learn to follow the laws and not break them. To start with, a thorough overhaul is required in the way businesses are run, to make it a more conscientious society and bring back Goa's youngsters to live in their homeland for which industry has to come right here to provide high paying jobs. And it's in the hands of the people more than the politicians. It will require a mass movement. Are Goans ready for it? Time will tell.


'Mafia Boss,' 7 Others Butchered in Stavropol

Stavropol police securing the house of a reputed mafia boss Friday.
A second mass slaughter in less than three months in southern Russia left eight people in the household of a reputed mafia don dead, although the killers missed an 8-year-old boy and a newborn, news reports said.
Vladimir Slizayev, 60, nicknamed “Khan,” was killed in his house in the city of Stavropol on Friday along with a daughter, three other relatives, a driver, a babysitter and a dog breeder, Interfax reported, citing the police. Gun-shot and stab wounds were found on the bodies of the victims, who other than Slizayev were not identified.
Two of Slizayev's grandchildren, the boy and the newborn, survived the slaughter, an Investigative Committee spokesman said, without elaborating or providing their names, RIA-Novosti reported.
Several news reports said the attackers missed the children because they were on the second floor of the house, while the other victims were on the first floor. But Lifenews.ru said  the older child escaped and hid in the bushes in the yard, while the infant was to be killed by a blast that the killers hoped to carry out by leaving the gas vents in the house open.
A funeral has been scheduled for Monday, Interfax said, citing an unidentified family friend.
Jewelry and antiques were stolen from the house, and the attackers tried to open a safe but failed, Gazeta.ru said.
The Investigative Committee, which has opened a criminal case into the killings, said Slizayev was suspected of trafficking illegal drugs and had served prison time.
“Slizayev was a so-called 'criminal authority' involved in drug trafficking, according to police data. He had numerous criminal convictions,” the committee said in a statement on its web site Saturday.
Police believe the attack was prompted by a conflict between criminal gangs but have not ruled out the possibility that it might be simple robbery, a law enforcement source told RIA-Novosti.
Another source said composite pictures of suspects have been provided to local police, Interfax reported Saturday. He did not elaborate.
Slizayev survived an attempt on his life in 2003 that killed his wife. The attack was blamed on a rival gang, and most of its members were imprisoned last year, news reports said.
Twelve people were killed in the neighboring Krasnodar regional village of Kushchyovskaya in an attack on a local farmer's family in November that shook the country. Eleven people have been detained, all of them suspected members of a criminal gang that has terrorized the village for years.
A Stavropol government official denied any link between the mass murder in Kushchyovskaya and Friday's killings, saying these are “fundamentally different events,” RIA-Novosti reported.

Report: Kosovo leader head of "mafia-like" network

Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci has been identified in secret NATO reports as one of the 'biggest fish' in organized crime in his country, Britain's Guardian newspaper said Tuesday.
Secret NATO documents based on intelligence reports, which were leaked to the Guardian, indicated that the US and other western powers backing Kosovo's government have had extensive knowledge of its criminal connections for several years.
Marked 'USA KFOR', the papers provided detailed information about organized criminal networks in Kosovo, based on reports by western intelligence agencies and informants.
The geographical spread of Kosovo's criminal gangs is outlined, alongside details of alleged familial and business links.
The Council of Europe is this week debating claims that Thaci was the head of a 'mafia-like' network responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.
The organ trafficking allegations were contained in an official inquiry published last month by the human rights rapporteur Dick Marty.
His report accused Thaci and several other senior figures who operated in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of links to organized crime.
The report also named Thaci as having exerted 'violent control' over the heroin trade, and appeared to confirm concerns that after the conflict with Serbia ended, his inner circle oversaw a gang that murdered Serb captives to sell their kidneys on the black market.
Kosovo functioned as a UN protectorate from the end of the Kosovo war until 2008, when it formally declared independence from Serbia.
Thaci, who was re-elected prime minister last month, has been strongly backed by NATO powers. His government has dismissed the Marty report as part of a Serbian and Russian conspiracy to destabilize Kosovo.

Who was Sergei Magnitsky?

Sergei Magnitsky was a humble Moscow lawyer who stumbled across possibly the greatest corporate tax fraud Russia has ever known. It was a discovery that would ultimately cost him his life.
His investigations uncovered a web of alleged corruption involving senior members of the police, judges, officials, lawyers and the Russian mafia. Despite death threats, he refused to leave Russia, instead deciding to probe deeper into the apparent fraud – uncovering two other suspected cases.
One of the policemen he had testified was at the heart of the crime was appointed to investigate him. Magnitsky was subsequently arrested on suspicion of tax avoidance and jailed.
He was detained while awaiting trial for a whole year. In that time, it is claimed he was denied visits from his family, and was forced into increasingly squalid cells. He apparently contracted pancreatitis and despite being in pain was allegedly repeatedly refused medical help.
On November 16, 2009, Magnitsky is said to have made one final plea to see a doctor. He was taken to a medical unit, where he was put in a straitjacket and died. Just 37, he left a wife and two children behind.
The tragic series of events can be traced back to 2007. In June that year, Hermitage Capital Management, the London-based hedge fund that was once Russia’s largest foreign investor, was raided by police on tax avoidance charges. Concerned, Hermitage’s boss, Bill Browder, called his Moscow lawyers Firestone Duncan to check. Magnitsky was one of Firestone’s top lawyers.
It took little time for Magnitsky to establish the allegations were baseless. But he didn’t stop there. After some probing, Magnitsky discovered evidence which suggested that the police had stolen the seals and documents to Hermitage’s Russian subsidiaries. He then claimed to have discovered that, through a complex series of phantom legal claims, the fake owners had recovered the $230m of tax Hermitage had paid in Russia in 2006.
The only way such a complex fraud could have been conducted, though, was with the co-operation of police, lawyers, judges, tax officials and even senior state officials.
Magnitsky’s allegations were initially dismissed. But his investigations were to prove so compelling the Russian authorities ultimately acknowledged a fraud had been committed. A sawmill foreman quietly pleaded guitly to “fraud by prior collusion by a group of persons and in an especially large amount” in relation to the case, just a month before Magnitsky’s death. The sawmill foreman subsequently testified that the police were not involved.
Magnitsky and his Hermitage colleagues believed the foreman was being made a scapegoat to protect the bigger beasts. No official inquiry has been launched into Magnitsky’s allegations. Magnitsky’s death has turned him into a martyr for truth, justice and the fight against corporate corruption in Russia. A play based on the endless notes recording his treatment in prison has been performed in Moscow. Opposition politicians in Russia have campaigned for justice. Numerous international complaints have been made against his treatment.
The US and European Union have introduced bills banning 60 Russian officials linked to the crime from entering the country. A documentary on Magnitsky’s struggle has been produced and was screened in the Houses of Parliament on the anniversary of his death. Last year, he was posthumously awarded 2010 Integrity Award by Transparency International. His friends, led by hermitage and Firestone Duncan, are continuing his fight.

Russian mafia boss Vladimir Slizayev killed in massacre

by Karen Rockett, Sunday Mirror 23/01/2011

A RUSSIAN mafia boss and seven members of his family and staff have been ¬murdered.
The body of Vladimir Slizayev, known as “Khan”, was found with the bodies of seven other people, including his driver, relatives and a babysitter. The killings – fuelling concerns that southern Russia is increasingly in the grip of criminal gangs – were the second near the Black Sea coast since November when 12 members of a family were killed by a criminal gang.