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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Russian Mafia Moving into Australasia

From yesterday's Herald

"NZ police are working with Australian authorities, the FBI, and Interpol to root out Russian gangsters -- including former KGB agents -- which have infiltrated Australasia, Australian Federal Police say.

Sydney's Sunday Telegraph reports the Russian gangsters have been establishing extortion, gun-running and prostitution rackets, and are also involved in fraud, drugs and blackmail, according to Australia's national police force and the Australian Crime Commission.

Russian criminals renowned for their audacity and efficiency, have already established a foothold in Australia, according to a report from the two agencies. The report said some of the criminals were former members of the KGB, where they learned skills such as debugging, computer hacking and strategic recruitment.

Their activities in Australia have so far centred on Sydney, especially Bondi, and the Gold Coast, and extortion victims have mainly involved members of the emigre Russian community. Australia's Customs Minister Chris Ellison said AFP, in conjunction with NZ police and other partner agencies domestically and internationally, was conducting "pro-active initiatives" to monitor the Russian criminals and garner a greater understanding of their threat.

Two years ago, Russian gangsters kidnapped a wealthy New Zealand company director, Nikolai Valentinovitch, 59, while he was visiting Vladivostok.

Mr Valentinovitch was living in a $1.6 million home at Remuera, in Auckland when he disappeared on July 20, 2003. Moscow newspaper Moskovski Komsolets reported Mr Valentinovitch was former co-owner of the Rassi group of companies in Russia, with interests in oil, and at least two of his business partners were former KGB officers.

"About six months ago, Mr Valentinovitch was visited in New Zealand by a former assistant manager of the KGB who met with him and other former business partners," the newspaper reported at the time."

Comment The point that needs to be made, is that the lines between the KGB's successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the so called "Russian Mafia" are very blurred.

Given the resurgenge of FSB activity under Putin, Russian Mafia activity in this region is not just a criminal problem, it is a real security issue.


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