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Eastern Europe/Former USSR: FBI To Increase Fight Against Crime

  • Lindsay Percival-Straunik

Washington, 21 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Louis Freeh, has pledged to step up the fight against international crime.

Freeh, a former lawyer and director of the FBI since 1993, was testifying Thursday before the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee.

Freeh said, among other measures, the FBI plans to expand its existing network of offices throughout Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The FBI currently has offices in Russia, Estonia, Ukraine and Poland. This year, it plans to open offices in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic.

In addition, Freeh said, the number of training courses for foreign police officials in, for example, combating terrorism and handling hostage-taking incidents, run by the FBI and other U.S. government agencies, would be increased.

Freeh said that by stationing FBI agents abroad and establishing links with foreign police the agency enhanced its ability to detect, deter, and investigate international crimes in which the United States or its citizens are victims.

Giving examples of successful cooperation efforts, Freeh turned first to Russia where the FBI began its first operations in 1994 and later in other countries of the former USSR and Eastern Europe.

Freeh cited the capture and prosecution in January of Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, considered to be a major figure in Russian organized crime. He said this was "a shining example of cooperation between the FBI and the Russian police."

Ivankov was arrested in 1995 and subsequently sentenced in New York City to more than nine years in prison for conspiracy to commit extortion.

Turning to another high profile case -- the murder of U.S. businessman Paul Tatum in Moscow last year -- Freeh said U.S. investigators are working closely with Russian authorities to solve the case.

Tatum, who was involved in a hotel ownership dispute at the time of his shooting last year, was the first U.S. businessman to be murdered on Russian soil.

On the problem of drug trafficking, Freeh said it is having "a devastating impact on the entire global community." And, he said, it is one of the biggest problems facing the former Soviet Union and Eastern and Central Europe.

He said that major drug trafficking organizations, such as the Colombian cartels, are taking advantage of relaxed border controls and improved telecommunications systems to establish new and lucrative markets in the region.

Freeh cited the example of Ludwig Fainberg, who was arrested in January by the FBI's Miami office on racketeering charges. According to the charges, Fainberg proposed to buy a Russian submarine to smuggle cocaine from South America into the United States.

Turning to training, Freeh praised the work of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest, Hungary, which he said was one of the United States' "finest law enforcement achievements."

Opened in 1995, the academy brings together U.S. investigators and police officials from across Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union to study ways of combating organized crime and terrorism.

More than 300 students from 19 countries have graduated from the eight-week course so far. ILEA has also held seminars on counterfeiting run by U.S. Secret Service for students from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Estonia.

Among other FBI initiatives outlined by Freeh is one known as Practical Case Training (PCT). A current example of how this works is in the Czech Republic where an FBI agent is helping the government in investigations into financial fraud and irregularities in the Czech banking system.

Freeh said the Czechs are currently setting up a financial crime task force modeled on the U.S. example.