News

BEIJING POLICE SMASH CAPITAL’S FIRST ORGANIZED CRIME RING

A 34-member organized crime ring, according to police the first mafia-style organization in Beijing since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, has been stopped in its tracks.

The Beijing Municipal Higher People’s Court sentenced ringleader Hu Yadong, who was found guilty on 13 charges including bribery and grievous bodily harm, to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 2.62 million yuan (about 327,500 U.S. dollars).

Hu Yadong’s younger brother, Hu Yafeng, was given a jail term of 19 years and an identical fine.

The court was told that the crime ring started operations in August 1996 when Hu Yadong hired several men to beat up Zhang Guoli, who was in charge of automobile maintenance at a local butchery. Zhang had incurred Hu’s wrath by cutting back on the business he put through Hu’s auto repair service. The gang hacked off half of Zhang’s right ear.

Hu Yadong later bribed policemen and prison guards to get his men out of jail, and collaborated with Chang Yousheng to swindle money from swill cart drivers in the Gaoliying area.

The three police personnel were dealt with in separate cases, while Chang was sentenced to a jail term of six years.

Also convicted was Zhang Qiusheng, 43, a former lawyer with Jingji Law Firm in Beijing. Egged on by Hu Yadong, Zhang took 80,000 yuan from victims by promising them he could help them “buy their way out of prison”. He received a jail sentence of five and a half years.

People’s Daily Online
16-10-2006

B.C. HELLS ANGEL CHALLENGES ORGANIZED-CRIME LABEL

A prominent member of the Hells Angels in B.C. has launched a constitutional challenge of the legislation that makes it illegal to be a member of a criminal organization. Rick Ciarniello, who often speaks on behalf of the Hells Angels in B.C., has applied in B.C. Supreme Court to have all the sections of the Criminal Code relating to the anti-organized-crime legislation quashed because they are vague and overly broad.

The case will be heard Monday in B.C. Supreme Court at the Vancouver Law Courts. Ciarniello, contacted Friday, said: “I’m not at liberty to say anything [about the case].” But he maintained that the motorcycle club is not a criminal organization.

Crown prosecutor Mark Levitz said Friday that Ciarniello is also claiming that his constitutional rights have been violated because of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that found the Hells Angels is a criminal organization. That ruling is under appeal. He said Ciarniello claims that the Ontario ruling unfairly tars him with being a member of a criminal organization just because he is a member of the Hells Angels in B.C.

If Ciarniello is successful in having the law ruled unconstitutional, it will be a major blow to law enforcement efforts to crack down on organized crime across Canada.

The Vancouver hearing, set for three days, will begin with the Crown arguing that the B.C. court should not hear Ciarniello’s application because the proper forum is the Ontario courts, where Ciarniello could apply for intervenor status. “We say his complaint lies in the Ontario Court of Appeal,” Levitz said in an interview. “We’re trying to have his application summarily dismissed.” The decision before the judge will be whether Ciarniello can bring his application before a B.C. court.

Representing Ciarniello in court will be two lawyers from Toronto, Alan Gold and Anil Kapoor, as well as Vancouver criminal defence lawyer Richard Fowler. The case comes at the same time that a number of Vancouver Hells Angels members are facing trial on drugs and weapons charges. One trial being heard at the Vancouver Law Courts involves Vancouver Hells Angels member Ronaldo Lising, who is accused of possession of methamphetamine (crystal meth) for the purposes of trafficking.

Lising was on bail for cocaine trafficking when he was arrested on the latest charges along with six other local Hells Angels members during a police sweep in 2005 that involved a police agent who infiltrated the Hells Angels.

Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, October 14, 2006

OVER 300 ORGANISED CRIME SYNDICATES IN SA: ISS

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says more than 300 organised crime syndicates are working in South Africa and 10% of them specialise in cash-in-transit heists.

Johann Berger from the ISS says it is very optimistic of the police to say that they have dealt the cash-in-transit syndicates a major blow because there are too many gangs working and they have too much room to operate in. Berger says the South African intelligence community should primarily focus on these syndicates because they are a threat to national security. He says they need to expand their informer network, and they need a well co-ordinated effort to prosecute these gangs.

KwaZulu-Natal police are adamant that they have dealt the country’s cash-in-transit syndicates a major blow. Twenty-five suspected gang members, including what police are calling heist kingpins, were arrested in the last few days. Police have been under pressure to deal with the increasing number of heists. Twenty-four of the men appeared in the Durban Magistrates Court today. They were charged with murder, attempted murder, hijacking and armed robbery. The men will appear in court again on November 6 for bail.

Simultaneous attacks near Hluhluwe
On Monday night, the gang carried out simultaneous attacks on two security cash vans near Hluhluwe. In one incident they managed to get away with cash. A police van arrived at the scene by chance and a shooot-out followed. In the other botched heist, the gang hijacked a car and abducted a 22-year-old woman. She was later found unharmed. The gang then drove past a security van. Shots were fired and a security guard died of his wounds later.

Police believe the gang regrouped in Richard’s Bay where they changed cars. They were caught at the Umvoti toll plaza near Kwadukuza on Tuesday morning. Police recovered weapons and R700 000 of the R1 million believed stolen. Meanwhile, police are still searching for another gang who failed to rob a cash van in Hammarsdale between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Police are carrying out forensic tests on some of the vehicles the gang used.

October 05, 2006 SABC News

SA’S CRIME STATS SHOW A DECLINE

South Africans are winning the fight against crime, with fewer incidents of violence occurring than before, and perceptions of a crime-infested society are stronger than the reality, says Trevor Bloem, the spokesperson for Charles Nqakula, the minister of safety and security.

“Studies show that despite crime statistics reflecting a decrease in criminal activity in certain areas, the perception worldwide was that crime was rising when in fact many nations experienced a drop in criminal activity,” Bloem said. One of the reasons for the perception that crime was on the rise might be the extensive media coverage, he said.

“Reporting of high-profile crimes no doubt fuels the perception,” he told The Sunday Independent ahead of this week’s release by Nqakula of national crime data. “For a variety of reasons, over the past three to four years people across the world have been feeling more unsafe, but the statistics tell a different story.” The United States’s global war on terror may also have contributed to heightened security tension around the world, he said.

The South African Advertising Research Foundation’s latest AMPS survey found South African adults were less affected by crime than at the time of its previous study. Respondents were asked whether in the foregoing 12 months they had personally fallen victim to violent crime. They were asked the same question about non-violent crime. “The percentage of people claiming to have been personally involved in violent crime declined by 12 percent to 5,9 percent of total adults. The proportion of adults claiming to be victims of non-violent crime… dropped by 6 percent to 11,7 percent,” the research foundation said.

Jean Redpath, a criminology expert with Hlakanphila Analytics, said reported crimes often reflected factors other than the crime itself. For example, she said, theft rates were a reflection also of the extent to which people were insured; and rape and sexual abuse rates reflected victims’ comfort with reporting the incidents.

“That said, reported crime is showing changes in nature. In particular, the rates of reported robbery with aggravating circumstances show a large increase, while other rates of reported crime are decreasing. It is difficult to tease out what relates to changes in actual crime and what relates to changes in these other factors,” Redpath said.

Perhaps fear of crime had led to more people taking out insurance and thus more claims being lodged, she suggested. “Surveys all over the world show that people tend to think crime has got worse, no matter what has actually happened.”

Crime figures, according to the SA Police Service’s 2004/5 annual report, showed a drop in contact crimes (assault) and burglaries, while motor vehicle theft increased and charges relating to drugs rose 23 percent over the previous year. The report said 369 known organised crime groups were operating in South Africa. Most of them specialised in drugs, vehicle theft and hijacking, fraud, corruption and trafficking in non-ferrous metals, precious metals and stones. Of these organised crime groups the activities of 211 had been terminated and 158 were under investigation.

Investigations had led to the arrest of 422 syndicate leaders and 1 195 members. In 2004/05, 1 303 people were arrested for the illegal purchase, theft, possession or picking up of uncut diamonds and un-wrought precious metals. The value of diamonds, unwrought gold and other precious metals recovered was more than R40 million. Over the same period, 23 runners were arrested for trafficking in endangered species, parts or products including plants, rhino horns, elephant ivory, reptiles and insects. Items seized were valued at R16 million.

The serious and violent crimes units had notched up successes in investigating farm attacks, heists, hijackings, robberies at financial institutions, faction fighting, train violence, taxi violence, inter-group violence, gang violence and urban terrorism. In the period reviewed they handled more than 11 040 cases leading to hundreds of convictions.

In July the justice, crime prevention and security cluster outlined successes in several areas identified as crime-busting priorities. Roadblocks, raids and other investigative measures resulted in many criminals being put behind bars and criminal operations being shut down. Nqakula will release the recent crime statistics on Wednesday.

Sunday Independent, September 24, 2006

THREE PROVINCES JOIN FORCES ON ORGANIZED CRIME

MONTREAL — Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba will form a common front in the fight against organized crime, pledging to share information with each other in order to bring more criminals to justice. The attorneys general from the three provinces signed an agreement Friday that aims to stem the growth of increasingly sophisticated criminal networks.

“As criminals become more organized like never before, we need to ensure that our justice system is more organized than ever before,” said Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant. “The answer to reorganized crime is organized justice.”

The idea behind the deal, which was first announced last May, is to expand the large amount of informal collaboration that goes on among provinces. “It’s important to formalize these exchanges because organized crime doesn’t respect borders,” said Quebec Justice Minister Yvon Marcoux. Marcoux said Quebec stands to benefit from Ontario’s expertise in street gangs, while both Manitoba and Ontario could learn from Quebec’s success against biker gangs. “All provinces are in the process of prosecuting gangs, and some have been more effective than others,” said Dave Chomiak, Manitoba’s newly minted justice minister. “Knowledge is power, and the ability to share that power keeps us one step ahead and, on occasion, one step behind criminal gangs.”

The provinces plan to collaborate on a wide range of policing matters such as wiretapping, search warrants and Criminal Code interpretations. Under the agreement, the provinces can even exchange Crown prosecutors to help with certain cases.
Justice officials from the three provinces will also meet in early 2007 to swap crime-fighting techniques at what will become an annual symposium.

The hope is that more dynamic collaboration among the provinces will limit criminals’ ability to take advantage of jurisdictional loopholes. “Given the division of (federal and provincial) responsibilities around criminal justice…there’s obviously the potential that organized crime can exploit that,” Bryant said. “We endeavour with this agreement to get ahead of that.”

The three ministers stressed their interprovincial agreement is just a starting point, and that they will now look at the possibility of expanding the deal to include other provinces as well as the federal government. “It was important to go ahead immediately because we felt (the agreement) doesn’t exclude the collaboration of other provinces, and eventually other provinces from joining,” Marcoux said. “At least there will be a start, it was the best way to get concrete results rapidly.”

Friday’s deal coincided with Premier Jean Charest’s announcement that the Quebec government will spend an additional $7.25 million over the next three years on anti-street gang initiatives.

Fri. Sep. 22 2006 Canadian Press

CENTRAL AMERICA: SOARING VIOLENT CRIME THREATENS DEMOCRACY

TEGUCIGALPA, Sep 15 (IPS) – Soaring violent crime rates could jeopardise democracy in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras over the next few years if only strong-arm (‘mano dura’) tactics are used to fight crime and the deeper underlying causes of the violence are not addressed, experts warn. The number of serious crimes has climbed since the 1990s in the area known as the “northern triangle” of Central America, especially due to the strong presence of organised crime, according to local authorities as well as human rights groups.
In these three impoverished countries, a get-tough approach appears to be the only policy adopted to fight crime, particularly in the case of the “maras”, as youth gangs are known in the region, said experts interviewed by IPS.

Unlike in the 1980s, when the region was in the grip of civil wars “with an ideological-political component,” it is now suffering a wave of common crime that is spiraling out of control, said Enrique Gomáriz of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), based in Costa Rica.

In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, “the surge in urban violence is frightening, while a slight increase in homicides has also been seen in the countries in the southern part of Central America — Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama — although they have lower crime rates and better overall security,” he said.

In Gomáriz’s view, unless they are checked, the high levels of violence and crime will soon threaten the democratic system in the northern triangle countries, which have murder rates of over 40 per 100,000 population, compared to an average of 10 per 100,000 in the rest of Central America.

The Observatory of Violence and Crime in Honduras, set up by the United Nations and the National Autonomous University of Honduras, reported that in this country of 7.4 million, 710 murders were reported in the first quarter of the year, 100 more than in the same period in 2005.

“If these rates remain steady or increase in the next five years, the stability of the democracies in the northern triangle will collapse, and it will be next to impossible to implement social development policies,” Gomáriz, the author of several books researching crime, security and domestic violence, said categorically.

Santiago Escobar, a Chilean adviser on Latin American security issues in Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation, said the case of Central America, and of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador in particular, is alarming, “especially given the fact that the area is considered a peace zone, since the signing of the Esquipulas Accords in the 1980s.” The last of these agreements, known as Esquipulas II, was signed on Aug. 7, 1987 with the subtitle “Procedure for the Establishment of a Firm and Lasting Peace in Central America”. The agreement was signed by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and marked the beginning of the end of armed conflicts in several of the countries. “Citizen security is more than the absence of crime,” said Escobar, who added that more than a police crackdown on crime is needed in Central America, a region of 38 million people.

Along with high overall violence rates, Guatemala is facing a wave of murders of women, with 563 cases registered last year. And in Honduras, 198 women were murdered in the same period, and 79 so far this year, according to the non-governmental Visitación Padilla Movement of Women for Peace. The women murdered in Honduras were generally between the ages of 20 and 30, and most were killed by firearms. Their bodies were often dumped in remote, mountainous areas. Gomáriz said the murders of women in the countries of the northern triangle are mainly the work of organised crime, primarily drug traffickers. “Most of these women in the northern triangle have been killed in a particularly brutal manner, as a symbolic retaliation by drug traffickers aimed at sending a message,” he said.

Costa Rican Vice President Laura Chinchilla concurs. Chinchilla, who is also minister of justice, told IPS that the high rates of violent crime in the region are due to the “strong presence of organised crime, drug trafficking and transnational crime.”
“But these countries, instead of opting for public security policies focusing on prevention and rehabilitation and based on broad citizen participation, decided instead to take a ‘mano dura’ or ‘every man for himself’ approach: hire private security, buy guns, etc.,” said Chinchilla.

The ‘mano dura’ policies have mainly focused on those suspected of having ties with youth gangs. The Observatory of Violence report stated that in 2005, 204 members of maras were arrested in Honduras in 2005, and 321 in the first quarter of this year alone, under a special law that allows people to be arrested merely on suspicion of belonging to gangs (under the charge of “illicit association”), whether or not they are suspected of committing a crime.

A new book titled “Maras and Gangs in Central America”, presented this month by the El Salvador-based José Simeón Cañas Central American University, says some 50,000 young people belong to gangs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Other estimates go as high as 300,000 gang members in all of Central America and Mexico. The main gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18, originated in California in the 1980s, after nearly one million Salvadorans fled to the United States during El Salvador’s civil war and settled in impoverished neighbourhoods in Los Angeles where gang violence was rife.

As El Salvador began to recover from the 12-year civil war that ended with a peace accord in 1992, U.S. authorities began to deport thousands of gang members to the country, where the explosion of gang violence during the late 1990s lifted El Salvador’s homicide rates above those seen during the armed conflict. The maras also spread to Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and more recently to Mexico. However, according to “Maras and Gangs in Central America”, youth gangs were already a problem in Guatemala in the mid-1980s.

In 2002, Salvadoran President Antonio Saca launched an all-out war on gangs, which included sting operations, the use of indiscriminate firepower, and lengthier prison terms. The policy came in response to public alarm, as reflected by surveys which showed that 75 out of every 100 respondents mentioned public insecurity as a pressing concern.

In Honduras there is a similar perception of insecurity, with one out of 10 respondents saying they had been robbed or attacked by gang members. Honduras also launched special anti-mara operations in 2002, under a zero-tolerance strategy that included the passage of stiffer laws. But activists argue that these strong-arm policies, in Honduras as well as El Salvador, have led to persecution of young people merely because they bear tattoos (often an identifying feature for gang members) or wear baggy hip hop style clothing.

The Honduran government has even been accused before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights for massacres in prisons full of young gang members, which were allegedly planned as “purges.” One of the cases in question occurred in April 2003 in the El Porvenir prison in the Atlantic city of La Ceiba, where 69 prisoners, including 61 young mara members, were killed.

President Saca and his Honduran counterpart Manuel Zelaya announced that a summit meeting would be held to discuss the issue of violent crime, which has worsened in the first half of the year. The Catholic Church in El Salvador has publicly called on Saca to “immediately curb” the country’s violent crime rates, while criticising his ‘super mano dura’ policy, in which suspects are only offered three alternatives: prison, the hospital — or the cemetery. No rehabilitation.

In Honduras, the government carried out a broad police and military crackdown dubbed Operation Thunder — the first in seven months since Zelaya took office on Jan. 27, after the number of kidnappings surged, and the nephew of the speaker of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, was killed.

According to the World Health Organisation “World Report on Violence and Health”, the average global homicide rate in 2000 was 8.8 per 100,000 population a year, and 19 per 100,000 in the Americas. By comparison, Honduras already registered a rate of 10.9 per 100,000 in the first quarter of 2006, reported the Observatory on Violence.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, reported last year that Guatemala had the highest murder rate in all of Latin America, with 70 homicides per 100,000 population. However, other sources say El Salvador continues to outrank other countries in the region, with respect to homicides.

MURDERED RUSSIAN BANKER BATTLED ORGANIZED CRIME

Andrei Kozlov, the top Russian central bank official shot on Wednesday night, was a frontline fighter in the battle against financial crime, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said. “He was a very brave and honest man and through his activity he repeatedly encroached on the interests of unprincipled financiers,” Kudrin was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement on Thursday.

The central bank also paid tribute to Kozlov, whose title was first deputy chairman in charge of banking supervision. It called him “highly determined, dedicated, modest and charming”. “He made a huge contribution to reforming the banking system, increasing its effectiveness, transparency and stability,” the bank said in a statement confirming Kozlov’s death early on Thursday from his wounds. “It was these characteristics that enabled Andrei Kozlov to enjoy the unimpeachable authority and sympathy of the banking community and all those who worked with him,” it added.

Vladislav Reznik, chairman of the State Duma (lower parliament) financial committee, told Reuters the attack smacked of the contract killings which bedevilled Russia during the 1990s. “I thought this kind of murder was now part of the past. But this attack shows it isn’t,” Reznik told Reuters. Reznik said Kozlov was a close colleague and a friend. “They assassinated Kozlov because he withdrew bank licenses. It is horrible that these attacks still happen in Russia. The government must find the killers.” He declined to speculate as to who was behind the murder, carried out by gunmen outside a soccer stadium.

Other bankers, businessmen and politicians were also shocked. “This is horrible news,” Anatoly Aksov, a member of Russia’s National Banking Council, told Reuters on learning of the death. “There can be only one motive — I believe Kozlov was murdered because of his work against organizations involved in crime.” “Thanks to Kozlov, our banking system is stronger. Kozlov was our most dynamic central banker. His killers must be found.”

Like Aksov, the head of Russia’s business lobby Alexander Shokhin also said he believed Kozlov’s work led directly to his death. “This is shocking news —- I had only seen him a few days ago at the Sochi banking conference,” Shokhin, the head of Russia’s business lobby, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, told Reuters.

“This is just like the beginning of the 1990s when business problems in Russia were routinely settled with murder. This is the first case of that kind in many, many years. That is the other big shock,” said Shokhin, a former Russian chief debt negotiator and deputy prime minister. “The financial and business community will react. Kozlov was a very important person for the government. I believe it is not difficult to find his killers,” said Shokhin.

14.09.2006 MosNews

HELP URGED OVER ORGANISED CRIME

The government has urged businesses and financial institutions to help combat organised criminal gangs in Northern Ireland.
The government estimates that organised crime costs the Northern Ireland economy up to £700m each year. The Organised Crime Task Force appealed for help in catching those responsible at a seminar in Belfast. Bank officials, accountants, estate agents, lawyers and members of the business community attended the event. They heard details of measures aimed at making life more difficult for criminals.

Businesses are being urged to file suspicious activity reports if they believe any of their clients or customers are involved in crime. These will then be investigated by the police and other agencies. More than 6,000 of these reports were filed in Northern Ireland last year and there was praise for those who had helped.

However, Security Minister Paul Goggins also warned of action against those who fail to report suspicious activity or who actively help criminals. “I’m encouraged that the vast majority of lawyers and accountants in Northern Ireland play their proper role and act responsibly,” Mr Goggins said. “For the very small minority who don’t, those who are actually themselves involved in illegal activity, the message is loud and clear that we’ll deal with them as well.”

BBC.co.uk 7.09.2006

POLICE IDENTIFY KEY NAMES BEHIND SWEDISH ORGANISED CRIME

Swedish police have pinpointed 100 ‘particularly interesting’ people in the fight against organised crime. A number of authorities are working with the police to identify these key players in Sweden’s crime networks. As well as the prosecution office, the Tax Board, Customs and the Economic Crimes Bureau have contributed to the intelligence gathering, according to Göteborgs-Posten.

The police have set aside up to 120 million kronor for coordinating national operations against organised crime and several suspects have already been arrested as part of an increased effort. Suspects have been seized across the whole of Sweden but most are from Stockholm, Skåne and Västra Götaland.

All of those on the list are thought to have played crucial roles in crimes which will earn them a minimum of two years in prison. Around half of them are linked to established motorcycle gangs and the rest are part of other known groups. “These are serious criminals,” said the temporary head of the National Criminal Investigation Department, Peter Tjäder.

The list of criminals has already changed as a result of arrests and police hope that the number of people on it will decline as organised crime declines. Tjäder said that the networks were large, and that every person on the list has 20-30 criminal contacts.

The general director of Sweden’s Customs, Karin Starrin, said that the various agencies have been coordinating their work for some years. “There’s no major investment or project just now – it’s rather a focus of our whole operation planning,” she said.
“The cooperation with the other organisations is about building up analysis and intelligence – anything to be able to strike at these well-planned groups with arrests and seizures.”

According to Starrin it is hard to say precisely how many people Customs is monitoring. “But during 2005 we managed to get between 15 and 20 gangs who were supplying drugs to Sweden,” she said. Starrin said that the networks had their roots in the Baltic, eastern Europe, South America, Asia and other parts of the world. There are no official statistics available for 2006.
“But we have been at least as successful,” said Starrin.

10.09.2006 The Local.se

ICELAND: POLICE AND CUSTOMS STRUGGLE WITH ORGANIZED CRIME

Police and customs authorities need increased authority, personnel and capital to fight and uproot the sales and distribution of narcotics in Iceland, according to Jóhann R. Benediktsson, District Commissioner for the Keflavík airport. He believes that an organized crime ring from Lithuania has taken root in Iceland and is engaged in the import, distribution and manufacturing of amphetamine. This was reported by Morgunbladid online yesterday.

“We have not been able to uproot the sales and distribution system. We have not managed mass arrests of those who distribute the drugs. What is required for us to uproot this cancer is that we manage to infiltrate all aspects of these operations and I feel that in this there is much work to be done,” says Benediktsson.

When asked what he means by “added authority” Benediktsson says he would like police to be able to obtain warrants for wiretapping more quickly than is currently the case, and to have added technology and personnel to carry out surveillance of groups that are believed to be involved in organized crime.

So far this year, police and customs authorities have on three separate occasions apprehended Lithuanian citizens attempting to smuggle large quantities of amphetamine into the country.

Iceland Review Online 5 September 2006

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