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Russian Organized Crime: The Foundation for Trafficking

May 01, 2000  |  by Walter Zalisko

A number of law enforcement sources report a dramatic increase the past two years in the number of Ukrainian and Russian immigrant women recruited into slavery and sexually exploited in the New Jersey and New York area.

White slavery rings have thrived on the exploitation of women and children from developing countries for years.

Young Asian women have been a commodity for decades. However, rising unemployment, poverty and a weakened social structure have caused newly independent countries-Ukraine and Russian in particular-to become the latest targets for recruitment of women and children into sexual slavery and as indentured servants. Trafficking in women and children is a form of modern-day slavery and a phenomenon that is growing and constantly changing either in form or in its level of complexity.

More often than not, these women are forced into prostitution. Many are beaten or murdered if they refuse to cooperate.

The full scale of the problem remains unknown because few women are able or prepared to report what has happened to them to the police.

And trafficking in women continues to be a considerably under-reported offense throughout Europe and the United States.

When a woman or child is trafficked or sexually exploited, they are denied the most basic human rights, and in the worst case, they are denied their right to life.

Law enforcement sources report a dramatic increase in this problem over the last two years in the New Jersey and New York areas. These women are recruited, managed and transported by Russian Organized Crime (ROC) syndicates into the United States, and other countries, and used primarily as sex slaves, go-go dancers and indentured household workers.

$6 Billion a Year Industry

Why are Russian Organized Crime (ROC) syndicates involved in the trafficking of women and children? Because prostitution and the trafficking in human beings has become a $6-billion-dollar-a-year business of choice for Russian organized crime. Why that business flourishes in the United States deserves closer scrutiny.

The tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania has long been one of the top areas in the United States for the relocation of Russian émigrés.

Along with bringing hard working and upright émigrés, this relocation brought the ROC syndicate and other small time criminals to the area as well.  In the former Soviet Union, personal wealth, privilege, dachas, and diamonds rested on control of goods and services illegally diverted from the State and changed for other illegally diverted goods ad services in vast and complex patterns of bribery, corruption and blackmail. The ROC came here well schooled in bureaucratic circumvention and with the ability to adapt governmental services for private gain.

Common criminal activities committed by ROC include burglary, credit card forgery, theft, auto theft, insurance and medical fraud, fuel tax fraud, arson, prostitution and narcotics trafficking. The ROC syndicates conduct the most sophisticated operations ever seen in the United States, based on their access to expertise in computer technology, encryption techniques and money-laundering facilities that process hundreds of millions of dollars. It obtains money and power through criminal conduct, then infiltrates our legitimate society.

Skills, Education and Training

Law enforcement finds that ROC members tend to be highly educated, and therefore, are very resourceful and sophisticated in their methods of operation.

It is reported that organized crime syndicates from Russia, Asia and Africa are forming alliances with traditional Italian and Latin American organizations, creating a formidable threat to international peace and stability. A great number of ROC gang members are former KGB agents or operatives who are skillfully trained in assassination techniques. To make use of this "talent," other crime syndicates now hire ROC gang members to conduct their contact killings.

While ROC continues to grow in Russia, their operations outside Russia could be categorized into three main classes:

Hard penetration: In some countries, such as Poland, Austria, Israel, United States and Canada, it has moved in with a clear goal of establishing itself as a dominant criminal force. In these cases, it has joined forces with local organized crime.

Soft penetration: Here they have adopted  a more delicate technique.  Mostly, because of the threat posed by local law enforcement agencies, or because there is some reason or opportunity to mount a major push.

Service penetration: Here they provide key criminal services to other gangs, whether money-laundering or assassination.

A Global Problem

Organized crime is not just a serious problem for the United States, but for every country. Since the fall of communism, Russia now plays an important role in organized crime all over the world. For instance, Israel is currently one of the top locations for ROC and Russian émigré relocation.

Israeli police are worried about serious crime among such immigrants, who how represent about one in every four residents in the city of Neatly. Israeli police reports that 90 percent of the prostitutes in Israel are there from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus-many of them brought over by organized prostitution rings. Moreover, violent felonies have doubled since Russians started coming en masse in 1989.

In Russia, a country already suffering from political and economic disaster, it is reported that an estimated 80 percent of the private enterprises and commercial banks are forced to pay a tribute of 10 to 25 percent of their profits to organized crime. They use the banks to launder money and avoid paying taxes desperately needed by government and military personnel in Russia not being paid for months.

To further cripple the economy, these crime group dominate economic sectors, such as petroleum distribution, pharmaceuticals and customer products distribution. According to Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, ROC controls 40 percent of Russia's gross national product. As long as money is not being paid into the government, money will not be paid out to workers in the form of salary and pension entitlements.

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