Investigating the Russian Mafia
Moscow of Crime groups work with municipal bureaucrats, but at a low level. For example, the Armenians and Georgians were formerly heavily involved in the gambling business before city officials closed the gambling facilities. These ethnic groups needed protection from law enforcement crackdowns, so they sought cooperation with the municipal bureaucrats. In such scenarios, crime groups paid the Moscow police for protection. Luzhkov's Links to Criminal Figures 7. S xxxxx, told us that Luzhkov's wife, Yelena Baturina, definitely has links to the criminal world, and particularly to the Solntsevo criminal group widely regarded by Russian law enforcement as one of the most powerful organized crime groups in Russia.
Sistema was created with Moscow city government-owned shares, and Sistema initially focused on privatizing the capital's real estate and gas. Sistema's president, Yevgeny Novitsky, controlled the Solntsevo criminal gang. Today, Sistema has spun off into various companies, which implement projects that typically include 50 percent funding from the Moscow city government. S xxxxx, Luzhkov used criminal money to support his rise to power and has been involved with bribes and deals regarding lucrative construction contracts throughout Moscow. The people under Luzhkov maintain these criminal connections.
Recently, ultranationalist LDPR opposition party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskiy strongly criticized Luzhkov and called for him to step down, claiming that Luzhkov's government was the "most criminal" in Russian history. This remarkable denunciation, carried on state TV flagship Channel One, was widely seen as an indirect Kremlin rebuke of Luzhkov.
S xxxxx told us everyone knows that Russia's laws do not work. The Moscow system is based on officials making money. The governors collect money based on bribes, almost resembling a tax system, throughout their regions. Further, xxxxx deputies generally have to buy their seats in the government.
They need money to get to the top, but once they are there, their positions become quite lucrative money making opportunities. Bureaucrats in Moscow are notorious for doing all kinds of illegal business to get extra money. S According xxxxx, Luzhkov is following orders from the Kremlin to not go after Moscow's criminal groups.
For example, xxxxx argued that it was only a public relations stunt from Putin to close gambling. In contrast to xxxxx said he did not see the sense in suitcases of money going into the Kremlin since it would be easier to open a secret account in Cyprus. He speculated that the Moscow police heads have a secret war chest of money.
It can be accessed as a resource for when orders come from above, for example, for bribes or to pay off people when necessary. C Notwithstanding Luzhkov's solid position, some of our contacts believe that cracks have appeared in his armor, due Moscow of to his corrupt activities. Issues such as corruption and traffic congestion have, to a certain degree, eroded Luzhkov's popularity. Putin, xxxxx, will likely pick the quietest and least expected person to replace Luzhkov.
In Moscow, Everyone Needs a "Krysha" C According to many observers, the lawless criminal climate in Russia makes it difficult for businesses to survive without being defended by some type of protection. He needs to pay a certain negotiated amount over a certain profit.
The high prices of goods in Moscow cover these hidden costs. Sometimes people receive "bad protection" in the sense that the "krysha" extorts an excessive amount of money. As a result, they cannot make enough of a profit to maintain their businesses. If people attempt to forego protection, they will instantly be shut down. For example, officials from the fire or sanitation service will appear at the business and invent a violation. According to xxxxx everyone has bought into the idea of protection in Moscow, so it has become a norm.
In general, Muscovites have little freedom to speak out against corrupt activities and are afraid of their leaders. C xxxxx explained that Moscow business owners understand that it is best to get protection from the MVD and FSB rather than organized crime groups since they not only have more guns, resources, and power than criminal groups, but they are also protected by the law. For this reason, protection from criminal gangs is no longer so high in demand. According to xxxxx the FSB "krysha" is allegedly the best protection.
This system is not an incentive for smaller businesses and nobody is immune; even rich people who think they are protected get arrested. According to Transparency International's survey, bribery costs Russia USD billion a year, or about 18 percent of its gross domestic product. For instance, young police officers spend their money buying luxury vehicles that a normal worker could never afford. Comment S Despite Medvedev's stated anti-corruption campaign, the extent of corruption in Moscow remains pervasive with Mayor Luzhkov at the top of the pyramid.
Luzhkov oversees a system in which it appears that almost everyone at every level is involved in some form of corruption or criminal behavior. Putin and Medvedev's dilemma is deciding when Luzhkov becomes a bigger liability than asset. While public sentiment against Luzhkov has grown since the "tainted" elections in October , United Russia's leadership knows that he has been a loyal supporter who can deliver voter support. Ousting Luzhkov before he is ready to go could create major difficulties because he could link others in the government to the corruption. While reforming Luzhkov's questionable activities might seem like the right thing to do, for now keeping him in place, efficiently running the city, is United Russia's best option.
Ultimately, the tandem will put Luzhkov out to pasture, like it has done with fellow long-term regional leaders like Sverdlovsk oblast governor Edward Rossel and Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaymiyev. Summary 1. In seeking a competitive advantage in such lucrative trades as narcotics and prostitution, Israeli crime groups have demonstrated their ability and willingness to engage in violent attacks on each other with little regard for innocent bystanders. The Israeli National Police INP and the courts have engaged in a vigorous campaign against organized crime leaders, including the creation of a new specialized anti-OC unit, but they remain unable to cope with the full scope of the problem.
Organized crime in Israel now has global reach, with direct impact inside the United States. Post is currently utilizing all available tools to deny Israeli OC figures access to the United States in order to prevent them from furthering their criminal activities on U. Crime War Hits the Streets of Israel 2. According to several media accounts, a motor scooter pulled up alongside Alperon's car and the rider attached a sophisticated explosive device with a remote detonator to the car door.
The bomb killed Alperon and his driver, and injured two innocent pedestrians. The hit was the latest in a series of violent attacks and reprisals, and indicated a widening crime war in Israel. In July , a year-old Israeli woman was killed by a stray bullet on the beach in Bat Yam in front of her husband and two children during a failed assassination attempt on noted crime figure Rami Amira. In a feud between the Abutbul and Shirazi clans, crime boss Shalom "Charlie" Abutbul was shot by two gunmen in September , an attack that also wounded three bystanders.
Before the fatal bombing of his car, Alperon himself had survived at least three previous attempts on his life before his assassination, and was engaged in an ongoing feud with the rival Abergil clan although there are numerous suspects in Alperon's murder. The day after Alperon's death, two members of the Abergil syndicate were sentenced for conspiring to kill Alperon's brother, Nissim, in May SBU In response to rising concerns for public safety, former Prime Minister Olmert convened an emergency meeting of top law enforcement officials, cabinet members, and prosecutors in December In general, the rise in OC-related violence has led some public figures to call for emergency state powers to attack criminal organizations, and OC became a minor but important issue in the February Knesset elections.
Former Labor Party MK Ephraim Sneh publicly decried criminal extortion in his campaign ads, only to have his car torched in apparent retaliation outside his home in Herzliya. Background 5. SBU Organized criminal activity is not a new phenomenon in Israel, and major crime families are well known to the Israeli public the Alperons even featured in a recent reality television program. Five or six crime families have traditionally dominated OC in Israel, although the names and makeup of these syndicates have fluctuated in recent years. The Abergil, Abutbul, Alperon, and Rosenstein organizations are among the most well known, but recent arrests and assassinations have created a power vacuum at the top.
New names such as Mulner, Shirazi, Cohen and Domrani have moved quickly to fill the gap. Other up-and-coming groups include the Harari, Ohana, and Kdoshim families. There are also a number of rival families active in the underworld of Israel's Arab sector. SBU Traditional OC activities in Israel include illegal neighborhood casinos, prostitution rings, extortion, and loan sharking, with each family controlling a different geographic region.
The Alperon family, for instance, dominates the Sharon region, while the Abutbul operation is based in the coastal city of Netanya. The focus is largely on easy money guaranteed by the limited use of violence. Criminal involvement in the recycling business, for example, has been well covered in the press. OC families collect bottles illegally from municipal recycling bins and restaurants, return them at the collection centers claiming twice the actual numbers, and pocket the change for millions in profits.
Not Your Grandfather's Mob 7. SBU Despite their notoriety, OC figures have generally been viewed as a nuisance to be handled by local police. Law enforcement resources were directed to more existential security threats from terrorists and enemy states. In recent years, however, the rules of the game have changed.
According to xxxxx, the old school of Israel OC is giving way to a new, more violent, breed of crime. New OC business also includes technology-related crimes, such as stock market and credit card fraud, and operates on a global scale. Crime families are working further from home and exporting violence abroad. Older gambling schemes have grown to include sprawling casino franchises in Eastern Europe. The Abutbul family began its gambling business in Romania over a decade ago, and now owns the Europe-wide Casino Royale network.
Abutbul was gunned down in front of his casino in Prague in a show of force by the Abergils as they attempted to capture a portion of the European gambling market.
Investigating the Russian Mafia
SBU Israeli OC now plays a significant role in the global drug trade, providing both a local consumer market and an important transit point to Europe and the United States. In , Zeev Rosenstein was arrested in Israel for possession of , ecstasy tablets in his New York apartment, destined for distribution in the U. He was ultimately extradited to the United States in , where he is currently serving a year prison sentence.
SBU The prostitution business has also grown beyond the neighborhood brothel. In March , the INP arrested twelve suspects in what is believed to be the largest Israeli-led human trafficking network unearthed to date. Ring leader Rami Saban and his associates were charged with smuggling thousands of women from the former Soviet Union and forcing them to work as prostitutes in Israel, Cyprus, Belgium, and Great Britain.
Some women were flown to Egypt and smuggled across the Sinai border by Bedouins. Law Enforcement Steps up the Pressure The elite unit operates under the direct command of the police commissioner, and is charged specifically with infiltrating and eliminating Israel's major crime syndicates. Lahav also cooperates closely with district investigative units to combat smaller criminal organizations, many of which are aligned with the larger crime families.
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SBU Following Alperon's assassination, the INP initiated a series of raids that led to the arrests of a number of leading crime figures. Among their targets were Aviv and Adam Abutbul, sons of crime-family head Charlie Abutbul, both charged with possession of illegal weapons. A third brother, Francois, is already facing murder charges for a nightclub killing in Police also arrested gangland figure Amir Mulner for weapons possession and conspiracy to commit a crime. Mulner is known to be an explosives expert by army training, and is a suspect in Yaakov Alperon's murder.
He is also believed to be managing affairs for Rosenstein while the latter serves his sentence in the United States. According to the Jerusalem Post, the group may have been planning a revenge attack for his brother's recent assassination. Alperon's son Dror, recently dismissed from his army service for disorderly behavior, also faces several counts of assault and was convicted on extortion charges.
Also in December, police in Netanya launched several raids on illegal gambling houses and the homes of suspected money launderers with ties to the crime families. In Ashdod, brothers Roni and David Harari were arrested on charges of extortion. SBU xxxxx told conoffs that "thousands of foot soldiers" remain active on the streets despite these aggressive anti-OC operations.
He noted that approximately 2, people attended Alperon's very public funeral. He noted that many of the crime leaders remain active while in prison and their operations are not hampered significantly even when they are convicted and jailed. SBU In December , former Prime Minister Olmert himself admitted that efforts to combat OC have long been diluted among different agencies, and that INP technology lags far behind that allocated to security services for counterterrorism.
Given the recent change in government and the current economic crisis, there is public skepticism as to whether GOI promises to remedy the situation will be fulfilled. In , following a failed assassination attempt on Rosenstein, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made similar promises to commit manpower and resources to combating the problem. SBU It is not entirely clear to what extent OC elements have penetrated the Israeli establishment and corrupted public officials.
The INP insists that such instances are rare, despite the occasional revelation of crooked police officers in the press. Nevertheless, there have been several dramatic revelations in recent years that indicate a growing problem. In , former government minister Gonen Segev was arrested for trying to smuggle thousands of ecstasy pills into Israel, a case that produced considerable circumstantial evidence of his involvement in OC. Gavrieli is the daughter of a suspected crime boss, and she attempted to use her parliamentary immunity to block investigations into her father's business.
Gavrieli is no longer a member of the Knesset. Just last month, Israeli politicos and OC figures came together for the funeral of Likud party activist Shlomi Oz, who served time in prison in the s for extortion on behalf of the Alperon family. Among those in attendance was Omri Sharon, son of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was himself convicted in on illegal fundraising charges unrelated to OC. Courts Testing New Powers SBU In , the GOI passed anti-OC legislation that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for heading a criminal organization and three years for working in such an organization.
The law defines such a body as a group of people working in an "organized, methodical and ongoing pattern to commit offenses that are defined by the laws of Israel as crimes. In , just three years after he attended the closing with Trump, Bogatin pleaded guilty to taking part in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters.
A growing chorus in Congress is also asking pointed questions about how the president built his business empire. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine. To date, no one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements in his far-flung businesses, let alone that he was directly compromised by the Russian mafia or the corrupt oligarchs who are closely allied with the Kremlin. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia.
Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump.
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Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians—including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.
Trump made his first trip to Russia in , only a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Invited by Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin, Trump was flown to Moscow and Leningrad—all expenses paid—to talk business with high-ups in the Soviet command. Over the years, Trump and his sons would try and fail five times to build a new Trump Tower in Moscow. But for Trump, what mattered most were the lucrative connections he had begun to make with the Kremlin—and with the wealthy Russians who would buy so many of his properties in the years to come.
The money, illicit and otherwise, began to rain in earnest after the Soviet Union fell in At the top of the sprawling criminal enterprise was Semion Mogilevich. Beginning in the early s, according to the FBI, the short, squat Ukrainian was the key money-laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, or Brotherhood, one of the richest criminal syndicates in the world. Before long, he was running a multibillion-dollar worldwide racket of his own.
He ran drug trafficking and prostitution rings on an international scale; in one characteristic deal, he bought a bankrupt airline to ship heroin from Southeast Asia into Europe. He used a jewelry business in Moscow and Budapest as a front for art that Russian gangsters stole from museums, churches, and synagogues all over Europe. According to the FBI, he has laundered money through more than front companies around the world, and held bank accounts in at least 27 countries.
And in , he made a move that led directly to Trump Tower. Sprung by Mogilevich, Ivankov made the most of his freedom. In , a year after he was released from prison, he headed to New York on an illegal business visa and proceeded to set up shop in Brighton Beach.
Friedman documented how Ivankov organized a lurid and violent underworld of tattooed gangsters. Like Mogilevich, Ivankov had a lot of dirty money he needed to clean up. Komarov, who was not charged in the case, called the allegations baseless. He acknowledged that he had frequent phone conversations with Ivankov, but insisted the exchanges were innocent.
The feds wanted to arrest Ivankov, but he kept vanishing. They also found he made frequent visits to Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which mobsters routinely used to launder huge sums of money. The FBI also struggled to figure out where Ivankov lived. And then we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower. There is no evidence that Trump knew Ivankov personally, even if they were neighbors. In , after being extradited to Russia to face murder charges, Ivankov was gunned down in a sniper attack on the streets of Moscow.
He spent much of the decade mired in litigation, filing for multiple bankruptcies and scrambling to survive. For most developers, the situation would have spelled financial ruin. But fortunately for Trump, his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.
That October, just two months after the Russian economy went into a tailspin, Trump broke ground on his biggest project yet. Rising to 72 stories in midtown Manhattan, Trump World Tower would be the tallest residential building on the planet. Construction got underway in —just as Trump was preparing his first run for the presidency on the Reform Party ticket— and concluded in Among the new tenants was Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan.
The following year, after rumors circulated that Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators, he was shot down on Sixth Avenue. Trump had found his market. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in.
To capitalize on his new business model, Trump struck a deal with a Florida developer to attach his name to six high-rises in Sunny Isles, just outside Miami. Without having to put up a dime of his own money, Trump would receive a cut of the profits. Many of the units were sold by a native of Uzbekistan who had immigrated from the Soviet Union in the s; her business was so brisk that she soon began bringing Russian tour groups to Sunny Isles to view the properties.
Trump promoted and celebrated the properties. His organization continues to advertise the units; in , when they first turned a profit, he attended a ceremonial mortgage-burning in Sunny Isles to toast their success. The ring, according to the FBI, was operating under the protection of the Russian mafia. By , to the outside world, it appeared that Trump was back on top after his failures in Atlantic City. That January, flush with the appearance of success, Trump launched his newly burnished brand into another medium. I own buildings all over the place.
Model agencies. The Miss Universe pageant. Jetliners, golf courses, casinos, and private resorts like Mar-a-Lago, one of the most spectacular estates anywhere in the world. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won. Big league. I used my brain. I used my negotiating skills.
And I worked it all out. The analogy to politics was palpable. But the story of Donald Trump, self-made business genius, left out any mention of the shady Russian investors who had done so much to make his comeback narrative possible. To further enhance his brand, Trump used his prime-time perch to unveil another big project. On the season finale of The Apprentice , as 11 million viewers waited to learn which of the two finalists was going to be fired, Trump prolonged the suspense by cutting to a promotional video for his latest venture.
In return for lending his name to the project, Trump would get 18 percent of the profits—without putting up any of his own money.