By Jim Kouri Wednesday, July 8, 2009http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/12709
One of the issues sure to be avoided by President Barack Hussein Obama during his heralded visit to Russia is the role of the Russian mob and its global impact on crime, especially in the United States. Itâ€™s a sure bet that Obama will never broach the subject of Russiaâ€™s international crime enterprises with Prime Minister Vladmir Putin since no one is paying attention to it in the US, especially the news media.
From Himalayan villages to Eastern European cities, peopleâ€”especially women and girlsâ€”are attracted by the prospect of a well-paid job as a domestic servant, waitress or factory worker. Human traffickers recruit victims through fake advertisements, mail-order bride catalogues and casual acquaintances. Upon arrival at their destination, victims are placed in conditions controlled by traffickers while they are exploited to earn illicit revenues. Many are physically confined, their travel or identity documents are taken away and they or their families are threatened if they do not cooperate.
Women and girls forced to work as prostitutes are blackmailed by the threat that traffickers will tell their families. Trafficked children are dependent on their traffickers for food, shelter and other basic necessities. Traffickers also play on victimsâ€™ fears that authorities in a strange country will prosecute or deport them if they ask for help. A major purveyor of these de facto slaves is the Russian organized crime syndicate. Brutal, cunning and ruthless, these 21st Century mobsters present a new threat to US national security.
Over the past decade, trafficking in human beings has reached epidemic proportions. No country is immune. The search for work abroad has been fueled by economic disparity, high unemployment and the disruption of traditional livelihoods. Traffickers face few risks and can earn huge profits by taking advantage of large numbers of potential immigrants. Trafficking in human beings is a crime in which victims are moved from poor environments to more affluent ones, with the profits flowing in the opposite direction, a pattern often repeated at the domestic, regional and global levels. It is believed to be growing fastest in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
In Asia, girls from villages in Nepal and Bangladeshâ€”the majority of whom are under 18â€”are sold to brothels in India for $1000. Trafficked women from Thailand and the Philippines are increasingly being joined by women from other countries in Southeast Asia. European InterPol estimates that the industry is now worth several billion dollars a year. Trafficking in human beings is not confined to the sex industry. Children are trafficked to work in sweatshops as bonded labor and men work illegally in the â€œthree D-jobsâ€ - dirty, difficult and dangerous.
A recent CIA report estimated that between 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are brought to the United States every year under false pretenses and are forced to work as prostitutes, abused laborers or servants. UNICEF estimates that more than 200,000 children are enslaved by cross-border smuggling in West and Central Africa. The children are often â€œsoldâ€ by unsuspecting parents who believe their children are going to be looked after, learn a trade or be educated.
In the decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become the target of a new global crime threat from criminal organizations and criminal activities that have poured forth over the borders of Russia and other former Soviet republics such as Ukraine. The nature and variety of the crimes being committed seem unlimitedâ€”trafficking in women and children, drugs, arms trafficking, stolen automobiles, and money laundering are among the most prevalent. The spillover is particularly troubling to Europe because of its geographical proximity to Russia, and to Israel, because of its large numbers of Russian immigrants.
Russian law enforcement agencies are widely corrupt and split between supporters of different interests and often organized crime groups. On the other hand, given the rampant corruption and unprecedented expansion of organized crime in Russia, it is impossible not to cooperate with the Russian law enforcement agencies, and there are honest people there, even though they do not have upper hand now, according to Russian criminologist Yuri Shvets.
â€œInstitutionalized crime ruins Russia. It represents a serious threat to the whole world given Russiaâ€™s vast territory and huge arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear power plants. In the present situation, to continue financial assistance to Russia means to further enrich and pervert corrupt elite,â€ wrote Shvets of the The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies No region of the world seems immune to this menace, especially not the United States. America is the land of opportunity for unloading criminal goods and laundering dirty money. For that reason--and because, unfortunately, much of the examination of Russian organized crime (the so-called â€œRussian Mafia") to date has been rather hyperbolic and sketchyâ€”many in law enforcement believe it is important to step back and take an objective look at this growing phenomenon.
Russian organized crime has come to plague many areas of the globe since the demise of the Soviet Union just more than a decade ago. The transnational character of Russian organized crime, when coupled with its high degree of sophistication and ruthlessness, has attracted the worldâ€™s attention and concern to what has become known as a global Russian Mafia. Along with this concern, however, has come a fair amount of misunderstanding and stereotyping with respect to Russian organized crime.
Trafficking is almost always a form of organized crime and should be dealt with using criminal powers to investigate and prosecute offenders for trafficking and any other criminal activities in which they engage. Trafficked persons should also be seen as victims of crime. Support and protection of victims is a humanitarian objective and an important means of ensuring that victims are willing and able to assist in criminal cases. As with other forms of organized crime, trafficking is globalized.
Groups formerly active in specific routes or regions have expanded the geographical scope of their activities to explore new markets. Some have merged or formed cooperative relationships, expanding their geographical reach and range of criminal activities. Illegal immigrants and trafficking victims have become another commodity in a larger realm of criminal commerce involving other commoditiesâ€”such as narcotics and drugs, weapons and money launderingâ€”that generate illicit revenues or seek to reduce risks for traffickers.
With respect to organized crime, certain geographical or infrastructure characteristics, such as the presence of seaports, international airports, strategic border locations, rich natural resources, and so on, provide special criminal opportunities that can best be exploited by criminals who are organized. More so than common crime, organized crime is fed by the presence of ethnic minorities who furnish a ready supply of both victims and the offenders to victimize them. Organized crime also thrives in environments characterized by a relatively high tolerance of deviance and a romanticization of crime figures, especially where government and law enforcement are weak or corrupt (the history of the Sicilian Mafia illustrates this).
Sources: US Department of Justice United Nations Protocols National Criminal Justice Reference Service National Association of Chiefs of Police Department of Homeland Security