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OLYMPICS chiefs face a new hurdle in the run-up to the 2012 Games as the Russian Mafia is set to swoop on London.

Gangsters from one of the world’s most feared mobs have set up business around the site in Stratford, East London.
Ruthless Russians, who have links to several vice dens in London, plan to cash in when hundreds of thousands of tourists hit the capital.
Hookers will whore themselves to punters, cocaine will flood the streets and extortion rackets will hit small businesses, police fear.
Gamblers could also be targeted in illegal betting rings. Sources at Scotland Yard’s organised crime unit say Russian families are working in bars close to the Olympic site.
The Daily Star Sunday has been told the names of the bars suspected of laundering millions in illegal cash but cannot reveal them for legal reasons.
One Yard insider said: “Several of these people are active members of the Russian Mafia. “They are suspected major players in drug trafficking, prostitution and protection.
“The Russians are highly skilled in averting the attentions of the police so it is very difficult to detect their criminal activities. They are also adept at integrating into communities and putting on a legitimate front for their business.
“But we are certainly keeping an eye on them.” The source said Russian mobs would most likely use low-level dealers from Eastern Europe to lure foreigners into buying drugs on the back streets of London’s vice blackspots like Soho.
He also revealed that young women would be paid pennies as sex slaves working in seedy strip joints, brothels and casinos.
And some would even pose as “birthday girls” inviting ogling fellas to splash their cash on drinks – only to hit them with whopping credit card bills in extortion scams.
He added: “Drugs and prostitution bring in most of the money.
“Obviously there’s going to be a hell of a lot of people flooding into London from all over the world so it’s prime time for sophisticated criminal gangs – and the Russians are certainly that.
“They pose a different kind of threat than terrorist fanatics and suicide bombers but they will still target innocent people.
“There’ll be a lot of tourists and even Brits visiting clubs and lap- dancing bars – and, while they may not know it, it’s likely in some places they’ll be funding Mafia activity with every shot of vodka they buy.”
The mob menace comes as Olympics bosses worldwide warn of a 2012 Mafia betting scandal.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said: “We should not be naive. Sooner or later this might occur in the Olympic Games.”
At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, suspected Russian Mafia kingpin Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was nicked for allegedly bribing ice skating judges but later cleared.
He is now one of the world’s most wanted men.

Russian mob influence growing in South Florida, FBI says

When the feds busted a syndicate of Russian-speaking nightclub owners and their so-called Bar Girls, it seemed like just another titillating tale from South Beach.
But the April bust showed that the FBI is taking the Eastern European mob a lot more seriously these days than the Italian Mafia. La Cosa Nostra is no longer the bureau's Public Enemy No. 1 when it comes to organized crime in South Florida.
"Eurasian organized crime is our No. 1 priority," said FBI supervisory special agent Rick Brodsky of the Miami office.
In April, six reputed members of an Eastern European network — along with a Sunny Isles investor and 10 Bar Girls imported mostly from Latvia and Estonia — were charged with conspiring to seduce and fleece unsuspecting South Beach tourists by running up their credit card bills for booze at private clubs on Washington Avenue. The prosecution's case has moved so quickly that two of the "B-Girls'' girls pleaded guilty Thursday in Miami federal court.
Sunny Isles Beach, where some of the reputed mobsters live, has so many immigrants from the former Soviet Union that it has earned the nickname "Little Moscow." The high-rise coastal cities of Hollywood and Hallandale Beach also are home to many Russian-speaking nationals.
The alleged B-Girl scam was hardly the first time the Eastern European mob struck South Florida. In February, 13 South Florida members and associates of an alleged Armenian crime organization were charged with extortion and other offenses as part of a series of indictments against more than 100 suspects from Miami to Los Angeles.
The main extortion charge accused ringleader Aram Khranyan, 41, of Sunny Isles Beach, and others of threatening "physical violence" against a man if he did not pay a $12,000 debt to a member of Khranyan's organization.
Despite the nationwide publicity, it didn't quite measure up to the B-Girl scam for sheer amusement.
Consider this tale:
Brett Daniels, a professional magician, had just finished his February show at the Gulfstream Casino when he and a few colleagues headed down to South Beach.
At Mango's, a lively tourist spot on Ocean Drive, he met an attractive woman clad in a short leopard-skin dress and her sidekick, who wasn't as pretty. After showing them a few magic tricks, one of the girls told Daniels it was her birthday and proposed taking him to a private club a few blocks away to drink Russian vodka.
Four or five shots later -- he can't remember exactly -- Daniels found himself fighting over an incomprehensible $1,368 credit card tab with the owner of the Tangia club on Washington Avenue. "Pay your bill or you're going to jail," the bouncer told him.
What Daniels didn't know at the time was that he had been scammed by the Eastern European mob, according to the FBI.
At the helm of the alleged South Beach club racket: Alec Simchuk, 44, of Hallandale, who is now a fugitive.

Man killed in mafia-type attack in Slovakia

Feb 13, 2011, 13:04 GMT
Bratislava - A 43-year-old man was shot dead in his car in Slovakia in what police said Sunday was a mafia-style slaying.
Police suspected a number of assailants in the shooting of the man in the town of Galanta, some 50 kilometres east of the capital Bratislava overnight Sunday, the state TASR agency reported.
They said that the victim was driving in his BMW-brand car but forced to stop when a dark vehicle with a blue flashing light such as police cars have, blocked its way. The driver was then gunned to death.
The killing was reminiscent of numerous such killings in the 1990s in Slovakia, some of them claiming the lives of innocent bystanders, but over the past 10 years the country had been largely quiet.
Lately however, there have been some cases of spectacular murders, suggesting a mafia background.

Russian Mafia Aided by British Lawyers Spreading Across Police State Britain

Whilst the Egyptians celebrate ridding themselves of the mafia dictatorship and its oligarchy that has stolen Egypt's wealth and kept over 90% of the population both poor and enslaved, the people of Britain need to take a close look at what is taking place on their own Island which has increasingly constructed the infrastructure that is supportive of a near perfect police state that has become home to a literal flood of hundreds of Russian Mafia Oligarchs over the past 10 years that seek to join the bankster elite in the seditious corruption and control of British civil society the price of which will be paid for by ordinary British Citizens in loss of freedom and wealth.
There is little doubt that Russia is a defacto mafia state headed by Oligarch in Chief Vladimir Putin where the general populous lives in fear of doing anything that will bring the state in all its might down onto their backs. Ordinary Business men competing against the oligarchy can find themselves instantly robbed of wealth, liberty and even their lives. Russian lawyers live in fear of defending the innocent for they, themselves can be and are targeted by the Mafia state to silence or disappear into oblivion should they seek to pursue the truth.
After the threat that the bankster elite poses to Britain, Putin's Mafia Oligarchy is next on the list that represents the greatest threat to the British Economy, and Freedoms that are continuously being eroded as Britain trends firmly towards becoming a police state, where the masses will live in perpetual fear to serve the interests of the elite, all of which is near completely silent in the mainstream broadcast press.
Whilst Putin and his Oligarchs have turned Russia into a living hell for anyone that seeks to stand out form the crowd to better themselves in business when all the Oligarchs demand soviet style obedience and silence from the general populous. However the Oligarchs have been on the march for the past decades both those still in the kremlins good books, and those that have crossed swords with Czar Putin and escaped with much of the Russian peoples stolen wealth intact to London where they have set up home and brought their seditious and criminal behaviour with them with the aim of utilising their wealth that collectively runs to more than $1trillion to buy infrastructure and influence aided by whoring British lawyers that use Britains lax laws on privacy and libel to silence critics of this cancerous spread through British civil society.
The Wikileaks U.S. Embassy cables references to Russia being a defacto Mafia State that has ceased to be a democracy and is run by the secret services on behalf of an Oligarchy is nothing new to either the Russian people, business men or foreign investors.
The Russian Mafia State in Action in London
Britain got a taste of the Russian Mafia state in action in October 2006, when the Russian state perpetuated what amounted to a nuclear terrorist dirty bomb attack on London that spread the highly radioactive polonium-210 across central London so as to kill a former KGB agent turned critic of the regime, Alexander Litvinenko, unfortunately for the Russian regime, Litvinenko managed to cling on to life long enough to point the finger at Putin's Kremlin in a statement delivered in hospital two days before he died.

Bulgaria's High-Profile Mobsters Trial Nears Close

A Bulgarian appeals court resumes on Monday the trial against the alleged mobsters Krasimir and Nikolay Marinovi aka The Marguin Brothers with the testimonies of the last witnesses, which are expected to bring the case to a near close.
Two of the witnesses - alleged criminal Dimitar Vuchev aka Dembi and Ivo Ilchev - are expected to be brought by force during the court session on February 14 after failing to appear the previous time.
On June 14, 2010, the Sofia City Court issued a non-guilty verdict for the Marguins, who were charged with plotting murders.
The Court also changed Krasimir Marinov's bail to recognizance and lifted the European search warrant for Nikolay Marinov, who disappeared right after the January murder of controversial radio host, Bobi Tsankov.
The rule came in the aftermath of the prosecutor asking for a record-high verdict – 22 years behind bars for all 6 defendants, who are charged with plotting 3 murders.
Krasimir Marinov aka the Big Marguin pleaded not guilty while Nikolay Marinov, the Little Marguin, was tried in his absence.
The Marguin brothers are reputed to be some of the biggest mafia bosses in Bulgaria. They are also publicly known as being among the leaders of the SIC corporation - allegedly one of Bulgaria's two powerful mafia structures in the 1990s.
The SIC group appeared in the mid-90s as the rival of the first large-scale mafia structure in Bulgaria after 1989, called VIS. In the late-90s and the first years after 2000, VIS and SIC were oftentimes at war, and many of the gangland killings in Bulgaria are attributed to this conflict. After 2000, the two major mafia groups in Bulgaria are believed to have been transformed into other smaller-scale entities and legal businesses.
The Marguin Brothers were charged with organizing a criminal group and plotting the murders of Nikola Damyanov, and Ivan Todorov aka The Doctor (a large-scale mafia boss specialized at international cigarettes contraband), and of General Lyuben Gotsev (who survived the attempt on his life).
The case has been dragging on for nearly five years already and has been postponed on several occasions over the ailing health of one of the defendants.
Over the course of the trial, the magistrates heard numerous testimonies, including of two of the three alleged victims, but of the entire line of witnesses only one talked about some possible connection between the brothers and the murder plots.
After the verdict, the Sofia City Prosecutor, Nikolay Kokinov, and his Deputy, Roman Vassilev, announced their decision to appeal.
Bulgaria's Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, blamed, once again, the judicial system for the acquittal of alleged crime bosses.
At the end of July, the Court released its motives for the June 2010 acquittal of the two notorious brothers. They all revolved over the lack of solid evidence.
On December 17, the Sofia Court of Appeals launched the appeal trial against the notorious brothers.

Moscow reg prosecutors, gambling mafia proved to have close links

Russian Crime Gangs Discussed During Asia-Pacific Summit

A delegation from the Russian government are taking part in a conference of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, which opened this week in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. It brings together parliamentarians from 27 countries of that region. The session will discuss issues of politics and security in the region, as well as economic cooperation and integration.
The Russian delegation intends to prepare and propose a resolution relating to combating terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.
In the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become the target of a growing global crime threat from criminal organizations and criminal activities that have poured over the borders of Russia and other former Soviet republics such as Ukraine. 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 number 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.

As in the United States, there is no universally accepted definition of organized crime in Russia, in major part because Russian law provides no legal definition of organized crime. Analysis of criminological sources, however, enables one to identify some of its basic characteristics. These include organizational features that make Russian organized crime unique in the degree to which it is embedded in the post-Soviet political system.

At the same time, however, it has certain features in common with such other well-known varieties of organized crime as the Italian Mafia. The latter has a complicated history that includes both cooperation and conflict with the Italian state. Much more than was ever the case with the Italian Mafia, however, Russian organized crime is uniquely a descendant of the Soviet state.

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).
Russia is one of those unfortunate countries that has the receptive environment in which organized crime thrives. Organized crime is deeply rooted in the 400-year history of Russia's peculiar administrative bureaucracy, but it was especially shaped into its current form during the seven decades of Soviet hegemony that ended in 1991. This ancestry helps to explain the pervasiveness of organized crime in today's Russia and its close merger with the political system. Organized crime in Russia is an institutionalized part of the political and economic environment. It cannot, therefore, be fully understood without first understanding its place in the context of the Russian political and economic system.
Unlike Colombian, Italian, Mexican, or other well-known forms of organized crime, Soviet organized crime was not primarily based on ethnic or family structures. To help understand the difference, we can look to the history of organized crime in the United States for a contrasting portrait. As a number of scholars have pointed out, organized crime provided a "crooked ladder of upward mobility" for some immigrants to the United States. Certain immigrants  -  sharing a common ethnicity, culture, and language, and, being on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, either having legitimate opportunities for advancement closed to them or rejecting the opportunities that were available  -  have turned to crime, and specifically organized crime, to get ahead.
Because organized crime is made up of criminals who conspire to carry out illegal acts, a degree of trust is necessary among those criminals. Co-conspirators must be able to trust that their collaborators will not talk to the police or to anyone who might talk to the police, and that they will not cheat them out of their money. A shared ethnicity, with its common language, background, and culture, has historically been a foundation for trust among organized crime figures.
Yet ethnicity did not play the significant role in Soviet organized crime that it played in the United States. Instead, the Soviet prison system, in many ways, fulfilled functions that were satisfied by shared ethnicity in the United States. In the Soviet Union, a professional criminal class developed in Soviet prisons during the Stalinist period that began in 1924  -  the era of the gulag. These criminals adopted behaviors, rules, values, and sanctions that bound them together in what was called the thieves' world, led by the elite criminals who lived according to the "thieves' law." This thieves' world created and maintained the bonds and climate of trust necessary for carrying out organized crime.
Organized crime in the Soviet era consists of illegal enterprises with both legal and black-market connections that were based on the misuse of state property and funds. It is most important to recognize that the blurring of the distinction between the licit and the illicit is also a trademark of post-Soviet organized crime that shows its ancestry with the old Soviet state and its command-economy system. This, in turn, has direct political implications. The historical symbiosis with the state makes Russian organized crime virtually an inalienable part of the state. As this has continued into the present, some would say it has become an engine of the state that works at all levels of the Russian government.
Contemporary Russian organized crime grew out of the Soviet "nomenklatura" system (the government's organizational structure and high-level officials) in which some individual "apparatchiks" (government bureaucrats) developed mutually beneficial personal relationships with the thieves' world. The top of the pyramid of organized crime during the Soviet period was made up of the Communist Party and state officials who abused their positions of power and authority. Economic activities ranged across a spectrum of markets  -  white, gray, black, and criminal. These markets were roughly defined by whether the goods and services being provided were legal, legal but regulated, or illegal, and by whether the system for providing them was likewise legal, legal but regulated, or illegal. The criminals operated on the illegal end of this spectrum. Tribute gained from black markets and criminal activities was passed up a three-tiered pyramid to the nomenklatura, and the nomenklatura itself (some 1.5 million people) had a vast internal system of rewards and punishments. The giant state apparatus thus not only allowed criminal activity, but encouraged, facilitated, and protected it, because the apparatus itself benefited from crime.
These sorts of relationships provided the original nexus between organized crime and the government. From these beginnings, organized crime in Russia evolved to its present ambiguous position of being both in direct collaboration with the state and, at the same time, in conflict with it.

Andrei Lukanov, red baron of Bulgaria

Andrei Lukanov, red baron of Bulgaria

As his body lay in a morgue in Sofia – and he was not spared the final indignity of a photograph of it, nude, being published on the front page of a tabloid – word already was spreading that Andrei Lukanov had been destroyed by what he had created.

The murder of Lukanov, erstwhile communist cabinet minister, prime minister for less than a year (during which his party relabelled itself from communist to socialist) and alleged organised crime kingmaker, remains officially unsolved. Those convicted of it, not long after his October 1996 murder, were acquitted on appeal 10 years later, the court finding shortcomings in evidence, procedural irregularities and accepting the claims of the accused that they had been seriously assaulted during interrogation.

Unofficially, theories endure as to the motives for his murder; principal among these, that he was eliminated on the orders of someone from within the business empires that he had helped create; that he was killed because former political associates feared that he was about to make public evidence that they were corrupt; and, perhaps an inevitable theory, that it was a hit by the Russian mafia to remove an obstacle to its interests in Bulgaria.

Had communism not fallen, Lukanov might have had a much more conventional career. He had the pedigree. A third-generation communist, he boasted among his ancestors a founder of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Lukanov’s father Karlo was foreign minister of Bulgaria from the late 1950s to the beginning of the 60s.

Andrei Lukanov rose rapidly, studying in Russia – where he had been born – at the Institute for International Relations in Moscow, moving on to posts representing Bulgaria at the United Nations and in the communist bloc’s trade and economic structure Comecon, achieving cabinet rank as minister of foreign economic affairs in 1987.

A significant mark of Lukanov’s weight at the time is that he managed to remain in place and grow in influence in spite of the fact that his boss, long-standing dictator Todor Zhivkov, did not like him. Various memoirs describe Zhivkov as seeing Lukanov as everything from a dangerous reformist to (and this could explain Lukanov’s durability) an agent of the KGB, possibly even the GRU, the Soviet foreign military intelligence directorate.

Lukanov, who as even his rivals and enemies later would acknowledge, had the intellect and the wit to read the signs of history, interpret and act on them, was thus at the core of the party coup that saw Zhivkov ousted on November 10 1989.

This was by no means merely pragmatism in the political sense. Lukanov, it seemed, was among those who wanted to combine reforms of the variety that would guarantee a continuing monopoly of power while turning the state’s resources to the building of capitalism, or at least, individual capitalists.

‘Red briefcases’
Within less than two weeks of Zhivkov being toppled, Lukanov was at the United States embassy in Sofia, saying – as recorded in a cable – that he, along with Petar Mladenov and others who led the coup, was "deadly serious" about the democratisation of society.

Lukanov said that the new leadership would, over the coming weeks and months, "concentrate on doing a thorough review/analysis of the state of the economy".

The ambassador, Sol Polansky, in a comment closing the cable, said that "by its actions to date, the new leadership does intend to move toward a more open society, with pluralism of opinion if not, at this stage, multiple parties (excluding the Agrarian Party)".

Around the same time, Lukanov and members of the cabinet held two days of discussions with economic advisers from Western countries including the US on proposals for economic reform.

But there is also a darker side, because it was around now that, so the story goes, vast sums of money were passing from state coffers into private hands; or at least, a new corps of well-resourced entrepreneurs was born, with the origins of their funding unclear. It was the time of the "red briefcases" of cash.

Ivo Nedyalkov, the collapse of whose East – West International Group in 1994 left thousands of small depositors empty-handed (he was prosecuted and convicted, in turn winning an appeal with damages against Bulgaria in the European court), has alleged in a television interview that there is some truth to the story.

According to Nedyalkov, in November 1989 Lukanov convened a meeting of people from the then-establishment to tell them "I am appointing you millionaires". What this meant, Nedyalkov said, was that more than 150 people from the ruling circle were given easy loans of millions of leva. He himself borrowed on this basis during the first years of the transition, but repaid it all, he said.

But Nedyalkov declined to identify any of those who had benefitted from Lukanov’s largesse, saying only that among those involved were people who had been in the insurance industry and who had been "bosses" but were now dead.

In power
Lukanov’s term as prime minister, from February to December 1990, was less than illustrious. Taking office, he announced in Parliament a programme to get Bulgaria out of its "political, economic and moral crisis". Nine months later, faced with a continuing economic crisis, dire shortages of goods, a general strike and street protests, and a collapse of confidence following his moratorium on foreign debt repayments, he vowed that he would not allow the opposition to drive him out of office, and when asked by a reporter whether he would be stepping down, he snapped "not now!" A few weeks later, he resigned.

He was out of office, but not out of power. Since his days as minister of foreign economic affairs, Lukanov had built up extensive contacts in international business circles. Robert Maxwell, who died in November 1991, had been among these since the communist era, when the controversial tycoon did deals with the Zhivkov regime.

However, matters were interrupted in 1992 when, during the term of office of the Philip Dimitrov government, Lukanov was held in custody for some time pending charges of large-scale financial irregularities while in office. Lukanov was released without these going to trial.

The list of people to whom Lukanov gave some form of assistance in their political, private sector or other form of public careers is a long one (and this is not to imply wrongdoing in their relations). It includes Roumen Petkov, who later was interior minister for part of the term of office of the Sergei Stanishev socialist-led government; Andrei Raichev, a well-known political commentator; it is said that Lukanov performed some introductions for business person Petar Mandjukov, currently a media owner with a background including the weapons and oil industry.

Lukanov was also widely reported to have been in at the communist-era founding of the Neva project, which is said to have been initiated by the KGB, figures from Bulgaria’s communist-era State Security and Maxwell, to make the most of large sums - including in foreign currency - moving it about as best suited those involved, which allegedly included the acquisition of Western IT for copy-catting in the Soviet bloc. In 1996, prosecutors moved against a number of senior figures, including former ministers, deputy ministers and a former ambassador to the US, all for alleged serious fraud through their involvement in Neva.

The early 1990s were also the time of the rise of various powerful business enterprises – Multigroup, Tron, the Orion circle as the big players, with other groups in time also becoming household names, such as VIS, SIC and TIM. Lukanov is believed to have been in at the founding of Multigroup, although in turn his relations with another powerful figure there, Iliya Pavlov, soured. Roumen Ovcharov, a minister in the Zhan Videnov government and later economy and energy minister in the Stanishev government, gave evidence during the Lukanov murder trial of hearing, some weeks before Lukanov’s death, a vitriolic shouting match between Lukanov and Pavlov.

The Orion circle, which was perceived as close to Videnov, whose own socialist government would collapse in uproar as a result of the 1996/97 financial meltdown, was the subject of public criticism by Lukanov, who called Orion a "marauding gang".

Tron had its own notable aspects, including media ownership – at least one radio station and a newspaper – while its boss Krassimir Stoitchev was an original owner of Mobiltel.

Further, another significant episode in Lukanov’s career was his place at the head of Topenergy, a Russian-Bulgarian gas enterprise with Gazprom making up Moscow’s component. In turn, Gazprom and Multigroup were said to enjoy cordial relations. The Topenergy episode ends in mystery; Lukanov had the job from May 1995 until July 1996, when he was dismissed abruptly with no public explanation. His replacement was Pavlov.

Lukanov continued to speak out strongly in his criticisms of the socialists in power. He was an arch-critic of Videnov, alleging that the prime minister was a "Stalinist" and that he was rolling back reforms.

In turn, remarkable things were being said from within the socialist upper echelon of power. Nikolai Dobrev, interior minister in the Videnov government and who, with Georgi Purvanov and Georgi Pirinski later would move to oust Videnov from the leadership of the BSP, gave speeches in 1996 bemoaning the grip of organised crime on the country (aficionados of such matters may wish to contemplate Dobrev’s statements and how similar they would prove to those made by a succession of interior ministers in subsequent governments of every political stripe).

The Interior Ministry, Dobrev told a March 1996 BSP supreme council meeting, was "infected with the cancerous tissue" of certain powerful groups that made crimes and political protection of crimes possible. "I have evidence that employees of the ministry are associated with violent gangs," he said. "That violent gangs have better penetration of the Interior Ministry than we have of them is a bad fact."

"I want to smash the criminal gangs," Dobrev said.

Speaking in December, he decried what he described as the "absence of the state" that was obvious from checks in commodity exchanges and in wholesale markets. Books were cooked, goods subject to excise lacked excise labels. He asked, rhetorically, how it could be that criminal groups acquired concessions for beaches and tourist sites, how they acquired sites for garages and car dealerships.

Death at the door
Accounts of events involving Lukanov in the weeks before his death are all, by definition, hearsay.

He is said to have told close associates that he had proof that senior government figures were involved in large-scale misappropriation of public money.

Similarly, Lukanov is said to have been ready to go public with disclosures regarding Topenergy.

He is said to have been preparing for a lengthy stay in the US.

The story goes that on the eve of his death, his bodyguards – a corps of bareti, former security service members – withdrew, apparently at his request; strange behaviour for a man who supposedly had been preparing to take on the role of whistleblower and to then quit the country.

There are reports that a man "dressed as a tramp" had been hanging around the Lukanov house for some days. There are conflicting reports that there was only one eyewitness to his killing, variously his wife and his driver. Either way, Lukanov’s life came to an end at 9.20am on October 2 1996, when a man described of a "tall, slim" build stepped up to him and fired four bullets into him at close range.

Not long after, the Sofia street was swarming with police and senior officials. Even the Russian ambassador, Alexander Avdeev (who went on to a series of senior diplomatic posts and later became Vladimir Putin’s minister of culture) came to the murder scene. Bulgaria made world headlines; it was the country’s first public "political" murder in decades.

The murder was condemned in Parliament by all parties. Videnov said that the killing was an attempt at destabilising Bulgaria and vowed that the killers would be caught. Parties agreed that the presidential elections, of which the first round was due to be held in 25 days, would go ahead as planned. (They did, with Petar Stoyanov as presidential candidate of the centre-right Union of Democratic Forces, with Todor Kavaldjiev as his running mate, beating into second place the socialist party’s Ivan Marazov and Irina Bokova. Stoyanov’s success was to prove decisive in the subsequent downfall of Videnov.)

As noted, there were the arrests and convictions of a group of Bulgarians and Ukrainians, and then the prolonged appeal process. Pavlov was among those who gave evidence during the appeal, in March 2003; the following day he was dead, shot in the heart outside the entrance of the headquarters of MG, the lineal descendant of Multigroup. At the time of his death, he was worth an estimated 1.5 billion euro and was reported to be Europe’s eighth richest man. Multigroup, in turn, had been lavish in its patronage, reportedly helping to pay for the education of several bright young people.

The clothing that the "tramp" had been wearing was found, as was the Makarov pistol, 40 days later, in the grounds of a Sofia school. Among the reasons for the conviction of the group of accused being overturned were shortcomings in the evidentiary trail; another was the assault, in a house in Bozhentsi, of some of the accused (conspiracy theorists like to suggest that this is precisely why they were assaulted, to pre-empt a successful conviction).

Conspiracy theorists, at least some of them, also like to suggest that Lukanov is not dead; that the apparent murder was a ruse, aided and abetted by someone still well-known in Bulgarian politics. Post-plastic surgery, they say, Lukanov lives on.

And his legacy? If indeed it is true that he played a significant part in the distribution of wealth to subsequently well-known controversial groups and individuals, then he should share an epitaph with Christopher Wren, and others: "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice". If you seek his monument, look around you.

But it may also be worth adding the closing words of Richard Crampton’s obituary of Lukanov in The Independent, two days after the murder: "During both his political and financial careers Lukanov had made many enemies, but he had also made friends. A most accomplished linguist and a man of considerable culture, he was clubbable as well as capable".

Title Company Missed Mob Ties, Investors Say

(CN) -  Two investors say North American Title Co., one of the nation's biggest title firms, took $415,000 of their money and invested it in a real estate scheme controlled by members of the Russian mafia. Brian Vodicka and Steven Aubrey claim that North American Title served as title company, escrow agent and an unchartered de facto bank for people known as the "Gunn-Lahr-Barlin Syndicate."
     At the direction of the syndicate, North American Title also served as title company and escrow agent for the plaintiffs, in an investment that was part of a larger, pooled mortgage investment, in properties in Travis County, Texas, according to the complaint in Dallas County Court.
     Vodicka and Aubrey say they learned later that the recipient of their money was an entity "owned and controlled by a confederate of unsavory characters, including Victor Wolf (a fugitive wanted by the FBI for a $100 million mortgage fraud scam in Florida), Vitaly Zaretsky (a person with alleged links to Russian organized crime), Gennady Borokhovich (a person with alleged links to Russian organized crime), and Sam Zelster (who was allegedly sued and found liable for a real estate fraud where borrowed funds were diverted from the project to improve the collateral) (the 'Manor borrower')." (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Vodicka and Aubrey claim that North American Title often did business with the Manor Borrower and its principals, and therefore "knew that the Manor Borrower did not have title to collateral allegedly being pledged to plaintiffs to secure the Manor investment."
     They also claim that North American Title prepared and issued numerous "amended" HUD-1 settlement statements after the closing of the Manor transaction, to conceal the true disposition of the money.
     Vodicka and Aubrey seek actual and exemplary damages, disgorgement, and court costs on claims of breach of fiduciary duty, transferring of funds of a criminal activity, conspiracy to commit fraud, and violations of the Texas Securities act.
     They are represented by Elliott Cappuccio with Pulman, Cappuccio, Pullen & Benson of San Antonio. 

Eye surgeon found guilty of plotting to kill partner

He could spend up to 20 years in jail


VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The co-founder of Clearly Lasik eye surgery has been found guilty of plotting to kill his business partner, who happens to be the official LASIK surgeon of the Vancouver Canucks.

Dr Michael Mackovac was convicted on solicitation to commit murder, attempted murder and theft charges for his plans to have a Russian mafia hit man take out Dr Joseph King.

Prosecutors say he wanted to kill King because of his plans to split the company. Mackovak asked an employee to put him in touch with a Russian mafia hit man to carry out the killings, for which he was willing to pay $100,000.

Juror Stephanie Delaney says they struggled to reach the guilty verdicts because of defense claims that the government entrapped Mackovak. "The thing that was persuasive to all of us was Dr. Mackovac didn't indicate at all that he was reluctant.  He seemed perfectly happy to be pushed."

Mackovak was cleared of charges that he tried to hire someone to kill the company's former President.

He is facing up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced next month.

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.