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Thailand Extradites Another Reputed Russian Crime Boss

Thailand has extradited a Russian citizen wanted by Kemerovo regional police in Siberia for banditry, kidnapping and extortion.
The Russian Interior Ministry said that Sergei Kovalenko, 25, was deported from Thailand on March 27.
Investigators say Kovalenko organized a criminal group, known as "Junior Sportsmen," in 2001 that was allegedly involved in stealing and extorting money from local businessmen in Kemerovo.
Kovalenko fled Russia after investigators arrested several members of his group in 2012.
In July, Thai authorities extradited another reputed Russian crime boss, Aleksandr Matusov.
Matusov, 52, was wanted in Russia for his alleged involvement in scores of killings and other criminal activities by an infamous criminal network in Moscow -- the Shchyolkovo Group.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax

How Russian, Chinese gangs use a tiny European state to wash 'dirty' cash

By Tim Lister, CNN

 (CNN)A Russian property developer, a Chinese outfit operating shell companies and Venezuelan officials ripping off the state-owned oil companies -- all of them are accused of coming to a bank in the European principality of Andorra to "wash" their money.
Now the U.S. Treasury is casting a spotlight on the alleged misdeeds of senior managers at the Banca Privada d'Andorra (BPA), several of whom have been arrested in the past few days.
The Treasury Department has alleged that "high-level managers [at BPA] accepted payments and other benefits from their criminal clients."
The Andorran authorities took over the running of the bank after the Treasury revelations, and the director general of the Banca Privada, Joan Pau Miquel Prats, was arrested late Friday. Two more bank officials were arrested Sunday.
Next stop for scandal: Spain
Tiny Andorra, nestled in the rugged Pyrenees mountains, has two big neighbors. One is France. And the scandal has spread to its other neighbor, Spain, where corruption among public officials is a hot-button political issue.
Prats had driven BPA's expansion into Spain, through its acquisition of Banco Madrid, in 2011. Banco Madrid caters to wealthy private clients and came under investigation by Spanish financial authorities last year.
Since the BPA scandal broke, the commission that investigates illicit financial activity, Sepblac, has raised questions about accounts held by influential Spanish political and business figures at the Banco Madrid. They have not been named.
The Central Bank has taken control of Banco Madrid and sent in two inspectors to examine accounts there. The bank's board, which included Prats and a former high-ranking official of the Central Bank, resigned on Thursday. Spanish officials say some 20 suspect operations at the bank are being examined.
Spanish authorities are separately investigating substantial assets held at the Banca Privada d'Andorra by members of the Pujol family, who have long been prominent in the politics of Catalonia, a region of Spain that includes Barcelona.
The director of the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Jennifer Shasky Calvery, said that "BPA's corrupt high-level managers and weak antimoney laundering controls have made BPA an easy vehicle for third-party money launderers to funnel proceeds of organized crime, corruption and human trafficking through the U.S. financial system."
BPA has correspondent accounts with four banks -- HSBC, Citigroup, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank -- through which hundreds of millions of dollars passed. Senior managers at BPA tailored services to their clients to disguise the origin of funds, the Treasury said.
Ties to Russian crime organizations
One manager provided "substantial assistance" to a Russian client, Andrei Petrov, described by the Treasury as a "third-party money launderer working for Russian criminal organizations." Petrov had also received a line of credit from Banco Madrid and is alleged to have bribed local officials in the resort where he set up a property development company. He was arrested in Spain two years ago and is accused of helping launder some 56 million euros ($59 million) in proceeds from Russian criminal organizations. Petrov is yet to go on trial.
According to the U.S. Treasury, Petrov has links with one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives, Simeon Mogilevich.
BPA is also alleged to have helped Venezuelan money launderers siphon funds from the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela.
"This money-laundering network worked closely with high-ranking government officials in Venezuela, resident agents in Panama, and an Andorran lawyer to establish Panamanian shell companies," the Treasury said. BPA processed about $2 billion in transactions by shell companies related to the scheme.
Treasury said another senior official at BPA accepted bribes in return for processing bulk cash transfers for a Chinese money launderer, Gao Ping, who was arrested in Spain in September 2012.
"Through his associate, Ping bribed Andorran bank officials to accept cash deposits into less scrutinized accounts and transfer the funds to suspected shell companies in China," it said in a statement.
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has reacted to the growing scandal by downgrading Andorra's rating. Andorra is highly dependent on its banking sector, which makes up some 20% of its GDP.
Russians on the Costa
Spain has long battled the presence of Russian organized crime on its soil. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, wealthy Russians came to Spain for its climate and what were then lax financial controls. Among them were more than a few "vory v zakone," the top echelon of Russian organized crime, according to Spanish officials.
Spanish prosecutor Jose Grinda Gonzalez told U.S. officials five years ago that these individuals had no known jobs and unknown sources of income, yet they lived in large mansions. Grinda's remarks were reported in a diplomatic cable later published by WikiLeaks.
Grinda had prosecuted Zakhar Kalashov, a Georgian-born, Russian citizen widely regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the Russian mafia. Last year, before he completed his nine-year sentence, a Spanish appeals court deported Kalashov to Russia, where he is now a free man.
Another Spanish prosecutor, Fernando Bermejo, told US officials in 2009 that there was large scale money-laundering going on in Catalonia and "many, many" members of the Russian mafia were active there.
Because of growing international cooperation, Spanish prosecutors have stepped up their pursuit of alleged gang leaders, money launderers and embezzlers from Eastern Europe. Among the latest to be detained is a former finance minister from Ukraine, Yuriy Kolobov. He was detained at a luxury development in Alicante earlier this month, after prosecutors in Kiev charged him with embezzlement and is awaiting extradition.
Kolobov was a minister in the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine during street protests a year ago.

Helena Cavendish de Moura contributed to this report

‘Putin Involved in Drug Smuggling Ring’, Says Ex-KGB Officer


Russia's President Vladimir Putin has been implicated in helping run a drug smuggling and money laundering ring in St Petersburg in the 1990s. TONY GENTILE/REUTERS
Russian president Vladimir Putin and his long-time ally Victor Ivanov, who is currently head of Russia’s narcotics agency, have been implicated in helping run a drug smuggling and money laundering ring in St Petersburg in the 1990s. The allegations were made by ex-KGB officer Yuri Shvets who spoke at the inquiry into the death Alexander Litvinenko yesterday.
Shvets testified in front of Ben Emmerson QC, expanding on a report he had compiled with fellow ex-Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, a few months prior to the latter’s death from polonium poisoning.
According to Shvets’ sources, which include the late Litvinenko, an anonymous party “sufficiently close to Ivanov to have been his former assistant”, as well as the Ukrainian security services, “Mr Putin was directly involved in a company that was laundering drugs from Colombia” [sic].
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The ‘due diligence’ report, which Shvets and Litvinenko compiled for Titon International, a security firm based in Mayfair, explains the alleged historical link between Putin, Ivanov and the infamous St Petersburg criminal gang Tambovskaya in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Tambovskaya criminal group, also known as Tambov, is one of the most infamous Russian organised crime groups and have been referred to as “The Russian’s Goodfellas”.
Shvets alleges that as Putin and Ivanov rose from their positions in the security services (KGB/FSB) to more prominent ones in the St Petersburg administration during the 90s, Ivanov “was cooperating with gangsters” such as the now convicted money-launderer Vladimir Kumarin-Barsukov - the leader of the Tambovskaya gang. According to Shvets, Putin “protected” Ivanov while he was engaged in criminal activity, using his position in the St Petersburg mayor’s office to do so.
In the late 1990s Ivanov was reinstated to the security services and became head of internal security, while Putin headed the FSB. Shvets says that by then the agency had “assumed the methods used in the past by the organized crime - racketeering, extortion, protecting ‘friendly’ businesses and cracking down on ‘unfriendly’ ones”.
Meanwhile the inquiry also heard from Shvets that Ivanov’s branch of the FSB in the 1990s “was most closely involved with systemic organised corruption”.
According to Shvets, his and Litvinenko’s report further described possible ties Putin had with Kumarin-Barsukov while Putin was working in St Petersburg government in the 1990s, including that Putin was named as a member of the advisory board of a real-estate company called SPAG in 1992, whose subsidiary company Kumarin-Barsukov was a board member of.
Kumarin-Barsukov denied ties to the Russian president, before being sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2009 for money laundering, having also been charged with organising murder and attempted murder.
The inquiry is currently investigating the possibility that Litvinenko’s murder was orchestrated by the FSB, something that Shvets says could not have been done without the knowledge and consent of “the top authority in Russia, which is Vladimir Putin”.
The inquiry continues.

Alleged Russian mafia arrested in Pattaya

Pattaya, Chon Buri: An alleged Russian mafia was arrested at the Chon Buri Immigration head office Tuesday when he applied for his student visa’s extension.
The arrest of Sergey Kovalenko was announced at a press conference by Chon Buri Immigration chief Pol Col Praphansak Prasarnsuk at 4 pm Wednesday.
Praphansak said the Chon Buri Immigration had been informed by the Russian Embassy in Bangkok that Kovalenko, who carries the passport No 719172304, is wanted by the Russian authorities under the arrest warrant No 2014/36611-1, dated June 18, 2014.
The arrest warrant alleged that Kovalenko was the leader of the so-called Student gang in Yurga, Russia.
The warrant alleged that the Student gang had committed extortions and robberies and had collected protection fees from many victims in Yurga.
Kovalenko was also alleged with involving with murders. Russian police have arrested six members of his gang but Kovalenko managed to flee to Thailand.
Praphansak said Kovalenko turned up at the Chon Buri Immigration on Tuesday to seek to extend his student visa so he was arrested for extradition back to Russia.
Pattaya is known to be a haven of Russian fugitives. Several of arrests of alleged Russian mafias or criminals have been made in Pattaya.
For example in February last year, Pattaya police arrested Dmitry Ishmukhametov, wanted in Russia on extortion charges. He escaped from Russia to live as a real estate developer in Pattaya.
Russian fugitives love Pattaya apparently because the seaside town is popular with tourists from their country. The high number of Russian tourists prompted many of them to start tourism-related businesses to make money from their own fellow citizens.

Russian wanted on explosives charges

Fri, 27 February 2015
Tat Oudom, David Boyle and Charles Rollet
Police are seeking the arrest of a Russian kindergarten owner in Sihanoukville who is wanted by Interpol for serious alleged crimes including “illegal possession of explosives” linked to organised crime.
Oleg Tikhanov, who is the employer of several men involved in a vicious brawl earlier this month that left a man in hospital with stab wounds, is listed on the organisation's website as wanted in Russia for a raft of weapons-related offences.
The Interpol website lists those offences as “Illegal possession and storage of firearms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices or its [sic] spare parts committed by [an] organized criminal group”.
Lim Sokha Raksmey, acting director of the Cambodian Interpol office, confirmed on Friday that he had received a high alert from Interpol International and authorities were poised to take action.
“We accept that this guy is quite a dangerous person that we need to start working on and investigating,” he said, declining to give further details on the operation.
A 45-year-old expatriate who resides in Sihanoukville, Tikhanov is the owner of the company Oceania, which runs a raft of businesses including the Oceania Kindergarten, the Oceania Boutique Hotel and the Garage Bar.
He did not respond to calls and emails from the Post on Friday, and Oceania staff told the Post he had not been seen since Wednesday.
A Garage Bar employee said he knew nothing about Tikhanov's charges in Russia.
Lotus Tours, the official tour operator for the cancelled kaZantip music festival, has alleged that a January 13 brawl erupted after Tikhanov's men attacked their employees at Queenco casino with knives and demanded a $45,000 cut of the profits from the event.
In an exclusive interview last Friday, Tikhanov told the Post all he could say was “lies, lies, and again lies”.
CCTV footage of the incident viewed by the Post showed that several men had jumped on Tikhanov's men and beaten one of them into the ground.
The Post has obtained a letter sent from Nikita Marshunok, “president” of the kaZantip Republic, to Sihanoukville police commissioner Seang Kosal which alleges that on January 24, Tikhanov and at least six associates arrived on Koh Puos demanding money.
“They came and surrounded me, and in emotional and aggressive form tried to explain that they “control all business questions in Sihanoukville, and asked to pay them 45,000 USD – if not, they ‘dig me in the jungle or drown to the sea.’” the letter reads.
Seang Kosal declined to comment on Friday, and Sihanoukville deputy governor Chhin Seng Nguon said he was unaware of the Interpol warrant against Tikhanov.
Interpol’s Lim Sokha Raksmey said Tikhanov was just one of many foreigners causing headaches in the costal tourist hot spot.

"We have quite a few Russians in Sihanoukville with problems," he said. 

US Offers $3 Million Reward to Detain Russian Hacker

By Marcel Evans

The United States is offering a $3million reward for information on a Russian hacker charged with bank conspiracy and fraud. Russian citizen Evgeniy Bogachev is charged with running computer attacks that diverted more than one hundred million dollars. He was indicted in Pittsburgh last year on serious charges of bank fraud and conspiracy. The FBI has released pictures of Evgeniy Bogachev; he is charged in US with running a computer attack network called Game over Zeus which stole more than $100 million from online bank accounts. Unconfirmed reports about whereabouts of Evgeniy Bogachev had surfaced earlier.
Major Threat to Security
The chief of the FBI’s cyber crime division mentioned that they have information about sixty different cyber threat groups. The Russian internal security agency has expressed interest on working with American investigation cell on cyber crime detection. The U.S. finds it difficult to arrest overseas hackers located in countries like Russia, with whom they don’t have clear extradition treaties. The Russian hacker faces conspiracy charges in Omaha for his involvement in Zeus malware known as Jabber Zeus. FBI officials firmly believe that Bogachev is still in his home country. The FBI has not revealed details about the countries from where this hacking crew operates from.
The U.S. has not dealt with cyber crime of such magnitude in recent times. It is believed that Bogachev grabbed sensitive information from victims including bank account numbers, passwords and PINs. FBI investigations indicate that the ‘Game over Zeus’ computer virus is responsible for one million computer infections. The infamous Bogachev is known among investigation officers under the online handles, ‘lucky 12345’ and “slavik”. Other charges of wire fraud, money laundering and computer fraud exist against Bogachev in many US courts.
This $3 million reward is the highest reward ever offered in connection with cyber crime. Bogachev carried out the modus operandi of trapping individuals by collecting their financial information through malicious software (malware). By proclaiming Bogachev as the most wanted cyber criminal, US State Department says, “This reward offer reaffirms the commitment of the US Government to bring those who participate in organized crime to justice, whether they hide online or just overseas”. Bogacheve’s malicious software either logged user’s keystrokes for passwords and bank pins where unsuspected victims entered their bank account information. 30 year old Russian hacker is a leader of cyber criminal group who had developed ‘Game over Zeus Botnet’.
It is also suspected that the same hacker is the master brain behind Crypto Locker Ransom ware. “Although we were able to significantly disrupt the game ZeUS and Crypto locker, we have not yet brought Bogachev himself to justice”, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. A FBI official described Evgeniy Bogachev as “one of the world’s worst” and “brilliant at what he does”. According to the FBI, “We are turning to the world again for assistance in locating Bogachev. With this $3 million reward incentive, someone, somewhere may see him, and let the authorities know about his whereabouts. In appearance Bogachev is 5 meter, 9 inches tall, with brown eyes and brown hair. Last time he was seen in the Russian sea side resort of Anapa. He is believed to be still in Russia, although he may travel”.
It is estimated that between $100 billion and $400 billion is lost every year due to cyber attacks. Earlier variants of Zeus had infected more than 13 million computers worldwide. In 2014, FBI had described Botnet as an extremely sophisticated type of malware designed to steal banking and other credentials from the computer it infects. This virus is mostly spread through spam email or phishing messages. Bogachev infamously hit the headlines as an advanced and prolific computer hacker. Issuing a reward has worked once before in helping Federal Bureau of Investigation catch a wanted hacker. USA is planning campaigns to catch hackers in the upcoming months.

Murder of Russian Politician Boris Nemtsov

Boris Nemtsov’s killing last week was probably not a political assassination, as it was carried out by amateurs, said former professional assassin Alexei Sherstobitov.
Gunmen who killed Russian politician Boris Nemtsov last week in central Moscow were amateurs and the pattern of the murder indicates that it was carried out unprofessionally, former hitman Alexei Sherstobitov, currently serving a prison term for 12 assassinations, told Russian news site Gazeta.
Every hitman, first and foremost, is concerned about one thing – how to carry out an assassination with the least amount of risk of being exposed. The most logical choice for a killer would have been to shoot the victim from as far as possible. In Nemtsov’s case, given where the killing took place, the simplest way to execute the assassination would have been to drive along the street, on which the victim was walking, park the car and wait until he approached.
Once he was at a shooting distance, the shooter should have slightly opened the car’s window, shot the victim and escaped without putting himself at the risk of exposure. Even an average shooter should be able to hit a person’s head at the distance between 15 and 25 meters. The fact that Nemtsov’s killers made six shots, while only hitting him four times, at a close distance shows their unprofessionalism, Sherstobitov told Gazeta.
“A confident shooter, who often uses his weapon, is unlikely to fire this many shots,” said the former assassin.
Sherstobitov said the killing reminded him of incidents that frequently occurred during the 1990s, when gang members accidentally came across someone from a rival gang in a public place. In situations like that, killings were often carried out on short notice, without much preparation.
Those, who spotted a member or members from a rival gang, made a phone call and killers would soon arrive, take positions near the victims’ car or outside of a restaurant, where their victims were. Assassinations like this were often ill-organized, chaotic and took place in public places, Sherstobitov explained.
The former hitman concluded that Nemtsov’s killing was likely a non-political assassination.
“In my opinion, this [Nemtsov] is not a politician who could really influence something. Many people had already forgotten about him,” Sherstobitov said, adding that there are more important and influential politicians out there to assassinate, if one really wanted to cause a real political chaos in the country.
The killing of Nemtsov was not even carried out professionally, the former hitman said, ruling out the political version of the last week assassination.
Sherstobitov was a member of one of Moscow’s organized crime groups during the 1990s, when he became known as one of Russia’s most notorious assassins. In 2008, he was found guilty of assassinating 12 people and currently serving a 23-year prison term.

In Annals Of Russian Crime, North Caucasians Remain Popular Scapegoat

 By Daisy Sindelar
March 09, 2015

At least one of the North Caucasus suspects in Nemtsov's killing, Zaur Dadayev, is said to have confessed to involvement in the February 27 assassination of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow.
The remaining four have denied participation, a claim that strengthens concerns that Moscow is looking to the restive North Caucasus as a credible scapegoat for a crime that many suspect is tied directly to the Kremlin.
Following the killing, Moscow authorities were quick to suggest Nemtsov's killing might have been committed by Muslims angered by his defense of the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo for its publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
But Nemtsov ally Ilya Yashin has dismissed Islamist motives as a "nonsensical theory" by investigators tasked with keeping Russian President Vladimir Putin "out of the firing line."
To be certain, North Caucasus militant groups have claimed responsibility for a vast number of crimes, including the Beslan and Nord-Ost hostage massacres, Moscow subway bombings in 2004 and 2010, and synchronized suicide attacks on two Russian passenger planes in 2004.
In other instances, however, Chechens and other North Caucasians have been used as either convenient scapegoats or low-level, convictable trigger men who are believed to take the fall for the person who ordered the crime. We look at three notable examples:
1. Moscow apartment bombings
In September 1999, nearly 300 civilians were killed in a series of nighttime explosions that destroyed apartment blocks in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk. Within days, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin initiated the second Chechen War, claiming North Caucasus separatists were behind the blasts.
Militant leader Ibn al-Khattab denied the charge, saying separatists were opposed to targeting innocent civilians. Several State Duma lawmakers also doubted the claim, calling for an open parliamentary inquiry into the bombings amid growing evidence the bombings had been organized by the Federal Security Service (FSB).
But by 2002, Kremlin investigators had officially charged North Caucasian militants with the bombing. Seven of the suspects, including Khattab, were eventually killed. Another six were convicted on terrorism-related charges. At least four Russians who continued to assert FSB involvement later died in mysterious circumstances, including journalist Anna Politkovskaya and FSB whistle-blower Aleksandr Litvinenko.
2. Paul Klebnikov
Shortly after being appointed the first editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, Klebnikov was attacked by armed gunmen outside his office building in July 2004. Authorities said the killing was a response to Klebnikov's investigative work, which included books on Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Chechen rebel leader Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev.
Prosecutors later accused Nukhayev of masterminding the crime and arrested three Chechen men for carrying out the hit. All three men were eventually acquitted and authorities said they no longer believed Nukhayev had ordered the killing.
3. Anna Politkovskaya
A journalist and activist, Politkovskaya had spent years documenting human rights abuses in Chechnya , crimes for which she blamed both the Kremlin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Politkovskaya was shot dead in the entryway of her building in a professional-style hit on Putin's birthday, October 7, 2006.
A year later, police arrested 10 suspects, including members of a Chechen organized crime group, whose aim, according to Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika, was to "destabilize" Russia. Investigators later accused Rustam Makhmudov, a 30-year-old Chechen whose two brothers were among the other suspects, of carrying out the hit. Makhmudov, whom opposition journalists accused of enjoying the protection of the FSB, later escaped to Europe.

After a 2008 trial, three Chechen defendants were acquitted of murder. Their verdict was overturned and in 2014, five Chechens -- including the original three defendants, Rustam Makhmudov, and an uncle, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev -- were convicted. A former policeman, Russian Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was convicted separately as the organizer of the hit. The mastermind has never been named; Politkovskaya's family says the case remains "unsolved."