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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.