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INDIA: ORGANISED CRIME IS HURTING ECONOMY

Organised crime such as money laundering, terrorism and drug-peddling is hurting the economy more than petty thefts, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Thursday, and warned of dire results if it were left unchecked.

CALL FOR PAPERS: THE POLITICS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

In the year of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, the global trade in human beings is back on the policy agenda. This illegal trade is no longer restricted to a singular westward flow across the Atlantic, but now occurs in such diverse regions as South Asia and the Middle East.
International crime control, migration agencies and the media show great concern over the upward trend in human trafficking based on the new opportunities created by increasing global mobility. But, despite this growing alarm, there remains insufficient serious scholarship addressing human trafficking. There is no consensus as to the precise meaning of the term, as elements of victimhood and agency remain obscure, whilst economic analysis of human trafficking, and its relationship to the international labour market remains hazy at best. Similarly, despite the existence of research on the international abolitionist movement and drug policies, little comparative analysis exists between forms of trafficking.
For these reasons, the St Antony’s International Review (STAIR) invites academics, young researchers, and policy experts to submit abstracts of papers that explore one or more of the following lines of enquiry for the forthcoming issue on ‘The Politics of Human Trafficking.’
Abstracts due August 30, 2007 and the papers are due December 30, 2007.

BIBLIOGRAPHY ON POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Dear All,
I would like to invite those of you who are interested in case studies on political corruption to read my working paper on corruption in Albania, published within the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Working Papers Series.
You can easily download it in a PDF format here.
I would be glad to have your comments as well as your general suggestions on this issue.

SOCA ANNUAL REPORT 2006/7

This document reports on the exercise of SOCA’s functions during 2006/07, against the plans published in SOCA’s Annual Plan 2006/07. It does not include audited annual accounts, which are subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General and will be published later in the year. All financial information contained in this report is un-audited. It also does not report on the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), which is affiliated to SOCA, but which is publishing its own Annual Report.

COCAINE AND MR BIGS – CRIME AGENCY LISTS FIRST YEAR SUCCESSES

Britain’s equivalent of the FBI has identified 160 underworld “Mr Bigs”, seized 73 tonnes of cocaine, and intercepted a shipment of rocket-propelled grenade launchers thought to be destined for Islamist terrorists since its establishment a year ago, the agency said yesterday.

ORGANIZED CRIME MAY FUEL TERROR (DAILYNEWS)

Operating from a Glendale office, Global Human Services shipped everything from milk and salad dressing to medicine and clothing in a humanitarian effort designed to help the needy in Eastern Europe.

But the organization was also a front, authorities say, for an international fraud and car-theft ring that stashed at least $5million in stolen luxury vehicles into the same shipping containers with the relief supplies.

The organization was broken up a year ago, with 17 people arrested on suspicion of grand theft and insurance fraud. Authorities said at the time they thought the group had ties to organized crime.

Now, police say the group also was funneling money to Chechen terrorists – the same group that raided a school in Russia three years ago and killed 331 innocent men, women and children.

“The concern was they were using some of the proceeds to support terrorist activities elsewhere,” Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said in a recent interview. “We had an organized gang creating crime and havoc here, but some of the proceeds were stirring up revolution elsewhere.”

Growing ties

Officials interviewed by the Daily News during an 18-month investigation of Eurasian crime syndicates say the case highlights a growing global convergence of organized crime and terrorist groups. And in recent months, concern has grown that crime syndicates are defrauding billions of dollars from U.S. government programs and funneling the money to terrorist groups overseas.
“We are very concerned where the money goes when it leaves the country,” said Robert A. Schoch, special-agent-in-charge of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement in Southern California. “That’s why we look at this as a national security vulnerability.

“What is the money used for? Could it wind up in the hands of some radical terrorist organization looking to try to find some type of weapon of mass destruction?

“That’s very much a concern of ICE, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.”

Sally Thomas, head deputy in the District Attorney’s Organized Crime Division, has prosecuted these types of cases since the 1980s.

“I think everybody has concerns about money that is derived from criminal activities being used to support terrorism,” Thomas said. “Our concern is that money would be sent to a terrorist group who would use it to harm people in the United States or elsewhere in the world.”

Recent reports by the state Attorney General’s Office said al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah are among the groups seeking to raise money in California.

“When you find these fraudulent activities that generate a significant amount of money – and they are connected to people who are allegedly involved in terrorist activities – it’s kind of like connect the dots,” said Marcia Daniel, the deputy district attorney in the Organized Crime Division who is prosecuting the Global Human Services case.

Two years ago, members of a suspected Russian and Armenian organized crime ring – including six from the San Fernando Valley – were charged with plotting to smuggle $2.5million in black-market weapons into the United States.

They were nabbed when they tried to sell rocket-propelled grenade launchers and shoulder- fired missiles to an FBI informant posing as an arms trafficker selling weapons to al-Qaida, authorities said. The trial is set to begin June4 in New York City.

Chechen links

“The concern in the law enforcement and intelligence community worldwide is that organized crime groups have the ability to operate in a wide range of countries, across borders and conduct transnational operations providing terrorist groups with the reach and ability to penetrate areas they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” sheriff’s Lt. John Sullivan said at the National Terrorism Early Warning Resource Center.

“Organized crime provides links to traffic weapons, personnel and materials across borders and could facilitate terrorist operations.”

The case of Global Human Services is typical of the growing links between the two groups, LAPD Detective Mark Severino said.

After Chechen terrorists raided a Russian school in 2004, former LAPD Deputy Chief John Miller asked detectives to investigate whether any Chechen organized crime members were operating in Los Angeles.

“An informer had told us the Chechen `godfather’ was still here,” Severino said. “We started to look at him, and the investigation quickly revealed that there was some possible Medi-Cal fraud. And while looking at that, Global Human Services came to our attention.”

Severino said Ali Karabachev was known as the Chechen “godfather” and had worked for the group.

“Given the information we had that these Chechens were sending stolen cars overseas and the links of GHS with the Chechen godfather – and on the other end was an associate with Chechen organized crime – the FBI told us there is a fine line between Chechen organized crime and terrorism,” Severino said.

Chechen authorities have since arrested Karabachev on unrelated charges, and the Los Angeles Police Department is seeking to interview him, Severino said.

Eleven people have pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in the case, and some have been sentenced to probation and ordered to perform community service, Daniel said. Six others pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Earlier this year, Yakoob Habib, a 58-year-old tax preparer from Buena Park, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in an international money-laundering operation that involved $28million in unreported income.

The source of the money included money stolen from Medi-Cal using fraudulent labs that billed for blood work that wasn’t done or authorized, officials said.

The Attorney General’s Office identified more than $12million that Habib illegally transferred to the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Russia and Latvia.

During a search of Habib’s business, investigators discovered pictures of anti-aircraft weaponry, the World Trade Center, Los Angeles International Airport and Department of Motor Vehicles logos, Deputy Attorney General Hardy Gold said.

“He had also downloaded a Web site with offensive anti-American banter on it,” Gold said.

“Did we trace any funds to the hands of terrorists? No. … On the other hand, he was a very effective money launderer who was able to erase the money trail. And the money transfer network he operated was for the benefit of organized crime.”

Terrorism experts say such connections are particularly worrisome because of some countries’ lax security for highly enriched uranium and other potentially dangerous materials.

Melinda Redman, senior director of intelligence and analysis at the Virginia-based Terrorism Research Center, said government officials are concerned about organized crime groups selling highly enriched uranium, plutonium or even nuclear devices to terrorists.

Former Russian Security Council Secretary Alexander Lebed claimed a decade ago that as many as 100 small nuclear devices had disappeared from Russian stockpiles. Officials have denied the claims, but experts still are worried.

“We have no idea what happened to (the nuclear devices),” said Michael Intriligator, a terrorism expert and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “And it’s something that could be smuggled as easily as a bail of marijuana across the Mexican border. And Los Angeles is a prime target.”

Nuclear concerns

In a recent report, the International Atomic Energy Agency noted 540 confirmed cases of illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials from the early 1990s to 2004.

“It’s very real and a very great concern,” said Graham Allison, founding dean of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. “The U.S. and Russia have a cooperative program to recover highly enriched uranium.

“That’s good. But the pace at which it’s happening is still way too slow. And the notion that any material which people could use to make a nuclear bomb is not locked up to the highest level of security is nuts.”

Cristina-Astrid Hansell Cheun, a senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, said organized crime groups in Russia have been involved in the theft of highly enriched uranium and other nuclear materials in the past.

“It’s frightening if the terrorist groups get connected with the organized crime groups that have these materials,” she said.

In a recent report on nuclear smuggling by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, authors wrote of an increasing threat that terrorist groups aided by organized crime in Russia and Central Asia will steal nuclear materials.

“Clearly, the capacity for criminal groups and terrorists to work together is growing,” wrote American University professors Robert Orttung and Louise Shelley.

“As the threat of nuclear smuggling increases and Russia’s ability to deal with the problem decreases, Russia and the United States need to work together to develop a serious analysis.”

Next month, officials from around the world are scheduled to meet in Florida to develop strategies to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Schoch said ICE has investigated numerous reports in recent years regarding terrorists, gangs and others attempting to smuggle nuclear weapons and other dangerous materials into the United States.

“We take it very seriously, but typically when we look into them we are not able to corroborate any type of real connection,” Schoch said.

“But regardless, if you look at some of these gangs and some of the things they are venturing into, like human trafficking and narcotics, all of those are vulnerabilities.”

SOUTH KOREA: ORGANIZED CRIME MUSHROOMS

The number of organized gangs has grown 18 percent from five years ago, according to data obtained by a lawmaker Wednesday. There are now 222 criminal gangs with 5,269 members.

POLITICAL CORRUPTION: A GENERAL OUTLINE

ECPR Standing Group on Organised Crime Blog
Research line on Political Corruption

Only in the last few years has corruption been analysed as a political phenomenon. Mostly newspapers and the media deal with scandals and bribery stories. The common definition of corruption deals with the use of public resources to gain private benefits; it is, however, a more complex issue which originates from several contexts and frameworks, implies numerous tools and indices, causes multidimensional consequences. Placed on a vertical line, it could start from a basic acceptance of bribery by a civil servant for obtaining a better and more rapid service (petty corruption), going through the subtraction of State money and the transformation of the institutions into personal feuds, by involving key State sectors (medium scale corruption), escalating into a larger connections which engage directly the most important State representatives (grand corruption). It is true that the diversity of actors and interests, which are involved, necessarily produce a wide range of consequences and effects; nevertheless, the main outcome remains the withdrawal of the public authority in front of illegal behaviour. This phenomenon seems to affect every country in the international system, even the more developed and efficient democracies. It reaches, however, its highest level/form in countries undergoing transition and/or in those countries in which weak institutions and immature political elites are not able to plan adequate policies. This leads to the development of what Ethan Nadelmann defines as “institutionalized corruption” (Nadelmann, 1993) and which affects such contexts like the Balkans. The Corruption Index, made every year by Transparency International, aims to measure the level of corrupt practices and behaviours, following some rigid indices, like the amount of bribes as well as the number of prosecutions.
At the same time, the increasing interest in corruption is also due to the rising use organised crime groups are making of it. In 1996, UN Commission on Crime Prevention stated:
Organized criminal groups have demonstrated their preference towards ‘systemic’ corruption designed to ensure the preservation of a congenial and low-risk home base or a comfortable environment in the host countries. Such a method of operation may be characterized by widespread use of bribery and favours to ensure the malleability of key positions and agencies; political funding to ensure that politicians elected to office will be indebted to the criminal organizations; carefully targeted ‘payoffs’ to law enforcement personnel to provide intelligence; and the provision of financial incentives to members of the judiciary to ensure that the penalties for criminal activities are either not imposed or are modest. These links between the underworld and the ‘upper world’ have a corrosive effect on governance [1].
Corruption – mostly on a political and institutional level – is the required condition to successfully manage illegal traffics and to avoid official controls. Thus, it is becoming a broader dimension which any organised crime group should take into account.
This research line had been launched with the hope of increasing academic interest in this issue and, at the same time, to push scholars and practitioners to reflect more on its global effects.
It aims to collect as much bibliographical resources as possible, as well as short articles and papers dealing theoretical framework and/or case studies.
Our suggestion is to continue to implement research on well-known areas, like the Balkans but also to focus on some “unexplored” ones, like Central Asia or Caucasus.
It is clear that no restriction is scheduled and that every comment and intervention will be considered useful to the general discussion and to help develop an innovative analysis on the issue.
[1] Report no. E/CN.15/1996/2 april 4th, 1996, Commission on crime prevention and criminal justice in Review of priority themes, Implementation of the Naples political declaration and global action plan against organized transnational crime, par. F, ‘Linkages between the licit and the illicit and the problem of corruption’, p. 8.

AUSTRALIAN BIKER GANGS WAGE VIOLENT TURF WAR

Biker gang violence is escalating in Australia with groups such as the Nomads, Rebels, Commancheros and Bandidos waging violent turf wars involving drive-by shootings and firebombings, say police.

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