By Patrick Donahue
Russian authorities have shown “significant” restraint in cooperation with investigations into organized crime in Germany since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, Germany’s top law enforcement officer said.
Joerg Ziercke, head of the Federal Crime Bureau, said Russian counterparts had backed off joint probes into mafia networks in Germany since relations between the two countries became overshadowed by the conflict in Ukraine.
“It’s taking a relatively long period of time before we get answers,” Ziercke said today in Berlin at a joint press conference with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere to present an annual report on organized crime. “One does notice that the atmosphere isn’t as it was before.”
The German officials outlined the increasingly international dimension of organized crime and the necessity of cooperation across Europe, such as a joint German-Italian task force to uncover syndicates tied to groups such as ’Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia. Most such crime involved the drug trade, theft, real-estate fraud or tax and customs violations.
German-Russian relations have plummeted since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted and Russia seized Crimea this year. Chancellor Angela Merkel has coordinated the European Union’s sanctions against Russia, which Germany accuses of masterminding unrest in eastern Ukraine. Russia has said repeatedly that it’s not behind the conflict.
Without specifying how much organized crime or mafia activity originates in Russia, the report said that German authorities opened 580 investigations related to organized crime last year, up from 568 in 2012.
A 20 percent increase last year in the number of mafia-related crime suspects to 9,555 was attributed to a jump in groups stemming from Lithuania, Poland and Albania. Domestic activity centered on “rocker” motorcycle gangs involved in drug smuggling and other activity, the report said.
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