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Siberian Crime Gang Leader Caught in Austria

Austrian police have detained a Russian national believed to have been a key figure in an organized crime gang

MOSCOW, February 27 (RIA Novosti) – Austrian police have detained a Russian national believed to have been a key figure in an organized crime gang in Siberia for nearly 20 years, investigators in Moscow said Thursday.
Anatoly Radchenko is accused of leading a gang behind a spate of criminal activity between 1991 and 2009, including at least three murders and two attempted murders, arms trafficking, extortion and fraud.
The suspect, who was dubbed Celentano by Russian media, was arrested in Vienna on Tuesday, four years after being made subject of a manhunt by Russian police. During the detention, police found a fake Czech passport.
Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday that investigators believe Radchenko has links to Alexander Solodkin, a former deputy mayor of Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city.
Solodkin and his father are currently on trial over alleged membership in a criminal organization.
Radchenko now faces extradition procedures to Russia as investigations continue. That process could take several months, Kommersant said.
Radchenko was placed on an international wanted list after fleeing Russia in 2009. He reportedly first took refuge in Thailand, where he posted a video accusing Russian police of falsifying the case. He later moved to Europe.

Behind the 2014 Winter Olympics Was a Major Russian Mafia Turf War

Alexander Georgieff 

While the world watched 1,000 years of idealized Russian history play out at the Winter Olympics, a cast of major players was conveniently missing from the spectacle: organized crime bosses, the ruthless lords of the Russian underworld that have shaped post-Soviet Russia and Sochi.
It's past time the spotlight lands on them. Government apathy towards this "mafia" class has allowed organized crime lords to profit from the Olympic Games and wage underground turf wars that ripple throughout Russian society.
Organized crime bosses have plagued Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union — cementing corruption, extortion and bribery into Russian society. Sochi, a hotel-studded seaside resort, once a playground for the Soviet elite, was a battleground for crime, even before Russia won the Olympic bid in 2007.
Many of Sochi's businesses are, in fact, under the thumb of criminal lords — forced to pay protection money and bribes. The Sochi Olympics were a prize to be won for crime lords, leading to hegemonic competition and a violent crime war for control of the city and the games themselves.
Ded Khasan (Aslan Usoyan), the proclaimed godfather of Sochi, gained control of the city's criminal underground following the fall the Soviet Union in 1991. According to Russian crime expert Mark Galeotti, increased attempts by other criminal groups (including fellow Georgian Tariel Oniani) to break the godfather's control of the city's underground economy escalated markedly following Sochi's Olympic bid victory in 2007.
Crime wars are excruciatingly violent, and the battle for Sochi was no exception. In 2009, Oniani's men gun downed Khasan's main Olympic operative, Alik Minalyan, plunging the city and country into a series of targeted assassinations. (Minalyan was responsible for ensuring the Khasan network's control over the racketeering and development projects that bubbled up as the games approached.) A little over a year later, Oniani's men assasinated Minalyan's replacement in a café in downtown Sochi. Then in January 2013, Khasan was assassinated as he left his favorite Moscow restaurant.
His murder created an open season for control of Sochi as Oniani and other regional organized crime lords made their way into Khasan's foundering empire.
Despite previous efforts for a peace deal between the rival factions in 2008, the high financial stakes of Russian organized crime and interference from the Russian state prevented a settlement. In reality, the Sochi battle was a part of a larger organized crime war that has continued to plague Moscow and other major cities.
Despite the pomp and veneer of the Olympic Games, Sochi has long been captive to organized crime and criminal wars. This is a microcosm of a larger Russian problem: Crime riddles Russia's past and present, and despite Putin's attempts to root out the main organized crime groups, he is rumored to have forged pseudo-alliances that have allowed crime lords to thrive.
Government action against organized crime has been weak and has been aimed at those organized crime bosses who do not follow orders from the Kremlin. Their presence only feeds continued corruption — further amplifying extortion, money laundering and bribery.
As the Winter Olympics fade from the spotlight, the spotlight on organized crime cannot.
Alexander Georgieff
Research Associate at the Stimson Center, Washington D.C. (all views are my own)

Colombia: Operation With US Finds FARC, ELN Link To Russian Mafia

By Charles Parkinson, 

A newspaper in Colombia has reported a drugs-for-guns arrangement involving the country's two main guerrilla organizations and the Russian Mafia, in a case which highlights both the close relationship between the rebels and increasing influence of European organized crime.
According to El Tiempo, the arrangement was uncovered after a joint investigation by the FBI and Colombia's police intelligence unit (Dijin) in which 17 kilos of cocaine were intercepted at sea en route to New York. The operation also saw the arrest of alleged representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena.
According to an unnamed Dijin officer cited by El Tiempo, the FARC representative, alias "Frank," and ELN counterpart, alias "Mellizo," engaged in months-long negotiations with a Russian Mafia envoy, which established an agreement to swap guns for drugs at a rate of one rifle per kilo of cocaine.
El Tiempo stated the originally agreed first shipment of 50 kilos had to be reduced to 17 because of logistical problems. After the shipment was intercepted at sea, both Frank and Mellizo were captured in Cartagena, where they expected to receive the guns.
The close working relationship between the FARC and ELN is well documented, with the two groups now supporting each other in combat, politics and colluding in the likes of kidnapping operations. However, this is as true an indication as any that the rebels' drug trafficking activities are deeply intertwined. While for a long time the ELN resisted participation in the drugs trade on ideological grounds, it is now active and engaged in the trade in many of Colombia's key drug production zones.
While the Russian Mafia is known to be present throughout the region -- with notable reports of activity in the likes of Ecuador, Peru and Honduras -- Italian organized crime is more commonly associated with Colombia. This latest bust could point to a concerted effort by the group sometimes referred to as the “most powerful mafia in the world” to make greater inroads into the country.
Yet, with neither the FBI nor the Dijin reporting on the operation so far, details remain scant. If the El Tiempo report is accurate and the guerrilla representatives were captured while awaiting the arrival of the arms, it opens up the possibility that the operation was a sting like that seen off the coast of Guinea-Bissau in 2013. In that operation, US agents posed as FARC guerrillas selling cocaine to capture corrupt members of the Bissau-Guinean military.

Defendants in Taiwanchik US organized-crime case prepare for sentencing

MOSCOW, February 11 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) – Nicholas Hirsch, a defendant who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a high-profile US criminal case targeting Russian-American organized crime, filed documents Tuesday appealing for leniency in his upcoming sentencing.
In an indictment unsealed by US prosecutors in April, Hirsch was charged alongside 33 co-defendants in connection with two alleged Russian-American criminal enterprises accused of having laundered tens of millions of dollars through such means as the operation of at least two international bookmaking operations.
According to the statement accompanying the indictment, the bookmaking organizations catered to extremely wealthy clients in the US, Russia, and Ukraine.
Describing the two organizations, the prosecution statement claimed: “One enterprise, the Taiwanchik-Trincher Organization, run by VADIM TRINCHER, is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars from Russia and the Ukraine through Cyprus and into the U.S. The other enterprise, the Nahmad-Trincher Organization, run by ILLYA TRINCHER, the son of VADIM TRINCHER, is alleged to have been financed by, among other entities, a prestigious art gallery in New York City.”
The statement noted that Hirsch faced 20 years in prison along with three years of supervised release, as well as a fine of either $500,000 or twice the amount of money gained from the alleged crimes, or twice of that lost by the victims on a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Hirsch pleaded guilty to the single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October.
Hirsch’s sentencing memo pleaded with the court to consider him as a whole, not merely for the conduct that led to the present charges.
His defense team pleads: “Nicholas Hirsch accepts full responsibility for his conduct and now comes before this Court to accept the consequences of his actions. He understands that the path that brings him before Your Honor was forged of his own free will and poor decision. He is truly sorry for his actions.”
The memo went on to emphasize the upstanding life he left behind: “He has compromised a promising career in the financial services industry, built through a decade of hard work, and tarnished an otherwise impeccable reputation. He has disappointed family and friends. For this, he blames no one but himself.”
According to the memo, the plea agreement stipulated a $25,000 forfeiture and a sentencing guideline ranging from four to ten months of custodial service, further providing that the defense team could argue for a below-the-range sentence.
Hirsch’s memo urges the court: “Nicholas respectfully submits that a below-the-range sentence and $25,000 forfeiture is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the [relevant] statutory directives.”
Hirsch’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 25.
Another defendant in the case, Dmitry Druzhinsky, had been scheduled for sentencing Tuesday, but his sentencing hearing has been adjourned until March 31. Druzhinsky was charged with money laundering conspiracy, operating an illegal gambling business, and unlawful internet gambling. The statement accompanying the indictment’s unveiling stipulated that he faced 30 years in prison, nine years of supervised release, and a fine of one million dollars or either twice the profit gained from the alleged crimes, or twice the amount lost by victims.
The statement boasted that among the defendants was Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, aka Taiwanchik, who gained international fame after having been separately indicted on allegations of having engaged in official bribery during the 2002 Winter Olympics, which were hosted by Salt Lake City in the American state of Utah.
The statement claims that Tokhtakhounov "used his status... to resolve disputes with clients of the high-stakes illegal gambling operation with implicit and sometimes explicit threats of violence and economic harm," adding that he received $10 million for his service during a single two-month period.
Tokhtakhounov faces up to 90 years in prison if convicted of the charges presently pending against him as part of this indictment, which include substantive and conspiracy charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), conspiracy charges relating to money laundering and extortion, and charges of operating an illegal gambling business and of unlawful internet gambling.

Alleged Heroin Kingpin Helped Russia Win Olympics for Sochi


Russia won the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, beating out Austria and South Korea, with the help of a mysterious Russian businessman, Gafur Rakhimov, who U.S. authorities describe as a top organized crime boss and heroin kingpin currently under criminal indictment in Uzbekistan.
"He is one of the four or five most important people in the heroin trade in the world," Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, told ABC News for a report to be broadcast tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer".
"He's absolutely a very major and dangerous gangster," Murray said.
Yet, after the International Olympic Committee voted in 2007 to award the games to Sochi, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee publicly thanked Rakhimov for his "singled minded work" in getting the votes of some Asian countries, "without which… it would have been hard for Sochi to count on the victory."
Rakhimov confirmed to ABC News, through a translator, that he played a role in helping Russia win votes through his contacts in Central Asian Olympic circles.
"He convinced them because of his good relations with these people. He has great influence," the translator, who was also a spokesman for Rakhimov, said during a phone interview from Dubai where Rakhimov moved after being indicted in Uzbekistan.
Rakhimov has long been connected by law enforcement authorities to heroin trafficking.
He was banned from attending the Olympic games in Australia in 2000 because of his alleged criminal ties.
In 2012, U.S. Treasury officials sought to freeze Rakhimov's bank accounts around the world, describing him in public documents as a "key member" of a huge Russian-Asian criminal syndicate called the Brothers' Circle.
"He has operated major international drug syndicates involving the trafficking of heroin," the Treasury statement said.
Former ambassador Murray said the heroin from Rakhimov's network moves through Central Asia to St. Petersburg, Russia and then on to Europe and the United Kingdom.
Despite the criminal allegations and indictment, Rakhimov continues to serve as a vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia, a group of nations that are members of the International Olympic Committee.
Repeated requests for comment to the council were not answered.
Russian investigative journalist Sergei Kanev said Rakhimov has close ties with the mafia family in Sochi and with top officials in the Kremlin.
"There was obviously some sort of agreement between the Kremlin and the 'thieves-in-law," referring the common name use to describe Russian mobsters.
Kanev said members of Rakhimov's inner circle have boasted that "bags of cash" were used to secure the Olympic votes.
Rakhimov, through his translator, denied paying bribes. "It was not necessary," said the translator.
A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn't comment on Rakhimov, instead referring to Putin's comments in a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.
"If anyone has concrete data on instances of corruption in implementing the Sochi Olympics Project, we ask to furnish us with objective data," he said.
A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee did not directly answer questions about Rakhimov, but said in a statement, "The IOC has a strong, transparent, tried-and-tested bidding process."
The statement said the IOC "never compromised on quality, as the athletes expect the IOC to deliver games of the highest standard for them every four years."
Rakhimov told ABC News he does not plan to attend the Olympic games in Sochi next week.
A law enforcement official said Rakhimov was likely concerned that he could be arrested under the indictment issued by Uzbekistan.

Patrick Reevell is a freelance journalist based in Moscow, Russia.