The Russian mafia has reportedly gained a major foothold in Germany. The head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) says that the crime gangs have "potential to cause enormous damage."
"We are experiencing Russian-Eurasian organized crime as very dynamic," BKA President Holger Münch told the Sunday edition of the daily "Die Welt" newspaper.
"It is currently expanding into the West," Münch added.
Organized gangs originating from Soviet era
Münch said the Russian mafia was also active in fields of crimes where it is normally not suspected to be involved - such as mass burglary and shop thefts.
"They have therefore enormous potential to create losses," Muench said, explaining that many of the crime gangs had originated in prisons and gulags in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Russia, and had extended the use of penitentiaries as recruitment centers to their network in Germany.
Münch said that up to 10 percent of inmates in German prisons were Russian speakers, marking a "great potential for recruitment" there.
The BKA approximates that at least 20,000 to 40,000 individuals living in Germany may likely have ties with the Russian mafia, adding that the number may be higher as some of the crimes committed are never reported.
With a high proportion of the Russian criminals coming to Germany as asylum seekers, there has also been an increased level of cooperation between the BKA and Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Münch had warned earlier, however, that refugees and asylum seekers were also more likely to suffer violence and attacks.