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Corruption Watch: October 10, 2002

10 October 2002, Volume 2, Number 36
A Renault moving in traffic blew up on 9 October, killing the woman driver, in the downtown area of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, BTA news agency reported the same day. The car exploded at 8:00 a.m. near the entrance to a high school. Police said an explosive device had been planted in the driver's side of the vehicle. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. RK

Czech Police President Jiri Kolar preempted criticism of Czech police by the European Commission (EC) in the run-up to its annual assessment report on the Czech Republic. In an interview with BBC radio on 7 October, Kolar stated that corruption continues to be a serious problem in the Czech Republic. However, in fighting economic crime, he said, the police are very efficient. Kolar also dismissed expected criticism concerning the protection of the Czech border. "As for border protection, the EC seems not to have adequate information," Kolar said. In the report, which was made public on 9 October, the EC voices serious concern over corruption and economic crime in the Czech Republic. It also says it is necessary to improve the protection of the state border. Kolar pointed out that the Czech Republic has successfully lowered illegal migration by 30 percent in the past three years. The problem of corruption cannot be reduced to mere bribery, Kolar said. The Czech Criminal Code has seven articles covering corruption in the broader sense. He mentioned bank crime, breach of trust, and abuse of public office as forms of corruption that Czech police have been successful in combating. RK

A Czech court has extradited a woman Polish authorities suspect is a Polish mafia boss's accountant, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 3 October. Olga Smuraga, a 31-year-old Belarusian in her seventh month of pregnancy, was ordered sent to Poland by a regional court in Hradec Kralove to stand trial for criminal conspiracy. She is believed by Polish detectives to be the accountant for a gang consisting of Poles, Belarusians, Latvians, and a Chechen. "She is suspected of distributing money from robberies to members of the group and keeping part of that money for the group's overhead costs -- which included, for instance, purchasing weapons, false passports, and rent. For the time being, Polish police are pursuing 16 members of the gang," Czech State Prosecutor Vladimir Prokop told "Mlada fronta Dnes." The gang, which operates in Poland, is suspected of armed bank robberies and "at least" seven murders. RK

Details are slowly emerging related to the arrest of three people, two Czech citizens and a Russian with Canadian citizenship, on charges they illegally sold arms to "a country under an arms embargo," which some in the Czech and German media claim to have been Iraq. On 27 August, Czech police arrested a 28-year-old man (who was subsequently released) and a 65-year-old woman whom Czech press reports at the time did not identify. She is Marie Marvanova, a former senior director at Czech IPB bank and a member of the executive board of the Czech Women's Forum. German authorities also arrested a suspected member of the group and identified him as a Russian with Canadian citizenship (see "RFE/RL Crime and Corruption Watch," 12 September 2002).

Canada's "The Globe and Mail" on 27 September published a report by correspondent Alan Freeman providing details of the 41-year-old Canadian man arrested in the south of Germany. His present name is Arthur Andersen, according to "The Globe and Mail," although his given name was Arthur Dudarev; he immigrated to Canada from Kaliningrad, the tiny Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea. Most recently, Andersen was living in Pforzheim in southern Germany, where he kept a collection of fast automobiles, including a Mercedes Benz, Ferraris, and Maseratis -- some of which had Swiss license plates. He was allegedly the middleman in the operation, according to the report, and as such was responsible for obtaining the weapons from former Soviet republics. (Media reports have suggested that the weapons came from Russia and Ukraine.) According to "U.S. News and World Report" of 14 October, Andersen was engaged in illegal trading of "at least $66 million worth of East European arms, ranging from bazookas and hand grenades to antitank guided missiles. These weapons, too, were headed to Jordan and from there, officials suspect, on to Iraq."

"U.S. News and World Report" then quotes a former CIA official on the arms trade in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, home to a complex of military and aerospace factories, which he describes as a watering hole for arms traffickers from across the globe. "It's the barroom scene from [the film] 'Star Wars,'" he is quoted as saying. "Every animal in the galaxy was there." RK

Recent U.S. intelligence reports claim that remnants of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network have been actively seeking to purchase small nuclear weapons and nuclear material for bombs from criminal gangs in Russia, according to a report in "The Washington Times" on 8 October. A senior U.S. defense official told the paper, "I can't tell you here that I have evidence they've made use of them. I know that they are working on them; the documentation is there." Earlier this year, the CIA reported to the U.S. Congress on the security of Russia's nuclear arsenal and concluded that Moscow's nuclear weapons are protected from external threats but have become vulnerable to insider theft. In recent years, a number of employees at such facilities have been arrested attempting to smuggle out fissionable materials, which could be used in constructing a nuclear device. RK

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked Russia as having the third-highest rate of death by murder or suicide. The WHO report is based on figures through 1998. The leaders in that category are Colombia and El Salvador. A 400-page WHO report released in early October 2002 found that 85,511 Russians died by violent means in 1998, representing 53.7 people for every 100,000 citizens. That compares to just three to five people per 100,000 in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, and a figure of more than 40 in the Baltic states. According to Russian police, the most common weapons are kitchen knives and broken bottles used in alcohol-related brawls resulting in a homicide. Business-related murders account for about 40 percent of all homicides, Lieutenant General Alexander Gurov, the head of the State Duma's security committee, told "The Moscow Times" on 9 October. "People who plot murders no longer fear the police," he is quoted as saying. "They believe they can avoid punishment by either outwitting or bribing the police." The WHO report also noted a dramatic increase in the homicide rate among young people. Such deaths among Russians aged 10-24 grew 150 percent between 1985 and 1994, to 18 per 100,000 people. That increase was the world's largest, followed by the rise in Latvia. RK

Russia's budget has been deprived of more than 890 million rubles in 2002 due to seafood smuggling, the Interior Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 8 October. Some 6,000 crimes of this nature have been committed thus far in 2002. Police have seized 400 firearms from smugglers, 10 tons of caviar, 179 tons of sturgeon, and over 60 tons of crab has been confiscated. RK

A group calling itself "Initiative Group," headed by Russian singer Josef Kobson and including former Prime Ministers Nikolai Ryzhkov and Yevgenii Primakov, sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking that allegations that Kobson has ties to the Russian mafia be investigated. "He has contributed greatly to [Russia's] culture and art. Now the United States is accusing Kobson of having ties to the mafia," the appeal reads, according to "Kommersant" of 7 October. "We ask that an investigation take place to decide his fate within the law. The results of this investigation should then be made available to the foreign ministries of other countries and especially to the president of the United States, George Bush." Kobson has been suspected of having strong links to the Russian mafia for a number of years. In Robert I. Friedman's study, "Red Mafia," Kobson is characterized by James Moody, an FBI agent, as "one of the most influential criminals in Russia. He is very, very high ranking and very dangerous." Friedman quotes an FBI document that states that Kobson is "highly respected...because of his intelligence, contacts, shrewdness and ability to help when [organized crime] groups get into trouble." It continues: "He settles disputes between groups and belongs to no particular organization." RK

The Center for Public Opinion Research of the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences conducted a poll that included 914 respondents on the level of corruption in Slovenia, state radio reported on 7 October. The conclusions indicate that more than half of all Slovenes acknowledge the probability of corruption, above all with regard to doctors, lawyers, and notaries public. The results also suggest perceived large gaps in the ability of law-enforcement agencies in fighting corruption. RK

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma denied ever having given permission to the head of the Ukrainian state arms sales company, UkrSpetzExport, to sell the Kolchuga radar system covertly to Iraq. Speaking at the opening of a new press center in the presidential administration on 8 October as reported by Ukrainian television, Kuchma vehemently rejected hints of such a sale by the U.S. State Department. The State Department has said it believes a tape recording in which Kuchma seems to be telling UkrSpetzExport head Valeriy Malev to "go ahead" and sell Iraq four Kolchuga radar systems is authentic. Kuchma described the tape recording as "dubious" but did not deny speaking to Malev. At the same time, Kuchma said the Kolchuga might have been sold by Ukraine to other Soviet republics or to East Germany during the Soviet era. Earlier Kolchuga systems presumably would not have been upgraded to meet Iraqi needs in 2000, however, when the disputed sale allegedly took place. RK

Russian police confiscated 5 kilograms of heroin from a drug courier in the Republic of Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, on 7 October, according to RIA-Novosti on 7 October. The 33-year-old man was apprehended during a routine police operation. The source of the drugs is being investigated. RK

Bosnian police seized 19 kilograms of marijuana hidden in several packets in a VW Golf automobile on 2 October in Capljina (Herzegovina), according to the 10 October issue of the Bosnian Serb newspaper "Nezavisne novine." Authorities claim a large influx of drugs in Bosnia from Serbia, saying the contraband is destined for Croatia. RK

Kazakh law-enforcement authorities discovered a 2.5-hectare plantation of Indian hemp and seized 908 kilograms of the drug on 7 October, according to Khabar Television the same day. The plantation was located in the region of Zhambyl. RK


By Roman Kupchinsky

"Then you, who now represent Revolutionary Russia, seized the reins. I turned against you for four reasons.... [The] most important reason, I believed that you did not represent the Russian masses.... I thought they were against you and so I, who have given my life to their service, set myself against you also."
-- From Boris Savinkov's confession at his trial in Moscow, August 1924.

By 1921, the Bolshevik assumption of power in the former Russian empire had taken place and, after a bloody civil war, the White forces of Deniken and Wrangel had been defeated and their leaders were in Western European exile. Those exiles took with them hundreds of thousands of their followers, many of whom were trained soldiers and officers. Numerous others who could not escape remained in Russia, where they proceeded to form underground organizations with the aim of continuing the struggle. Often isolated from one another, these underground White Russian cells went about assassinating local Bolshevik officials in the countryside and engaging in sabotage.

The emigre White Russian groups meanwhile were organizing themselves into combat forces such as General Baron Petr Wrangel's Russian Armed Services Unit (ROVS). Their goal was similar to that of those who remained behind -- to conduct a violent struggle against Bolshevism. Enjoying some measure of financial support from anticommunist governments in the West, these White Russian organizations brought together such characters as the veteran terrorist Boris Savinkov, who was responsible for planning and overseeing the assassination of at least 19 senior tsarist officials and Russian tsarist generals, including Pavel Kutyepov and Yevgenii Miller. The Soviet security force, the Cheka, which became the OGPU in 1922, knew immediately that such experienced and dedicated men constituted one of the main threats against the regime.

Thus in 1921 a visitor from Moscow to the Latvian capital of Revel, now known as Riga, met with the representative of one of the White Russian emigre groups. He told this representative of a new underground group active in Russia, the Monarchist Union of Central Russia (MUCR), a group with high-placed connections and access to important information about the intentions of the Soviet government. Soon afterward, a different visitor in the West confirmed this story and added that the MUCR was seeking contacts with the emigres in the West; the visitor added that a liaison system between the MUCR and the emigres had been developed: It would be through the Moscow Municipal Credit Association, a legally functioning institution that was helping to fund the underground activities of the MUCR. From then on, this credit association became known as the "Trust."

The Trust seemed to have excellent contacts and sources of information. Its agents were able to cross borders into the West without great difficulty, and Western intelligence services in touch with the ROVS found the information provided by members of the Trust to be accurate and timely. Much of the White Russian emigre leadership believed assurances from Trust couriers that the Trust would conduct the struggle inside the country while the emigres were to gather political support in the West for the coming revival of the monarchy. Among the believers in the Trust was Savinkov, who returned to Russia to take part personally in terrorist acts but who was arrested and eventually shot.

The Trust was, in fact, an organization established and controlled by the OGPU in order to delude, infiltrate, and disarm the emigre White Russian organizations. It also had another goal: the recruitment of anti-Soviet elements in Russia into the Trust in order to control their activities.

Its founders, the OGPU, finally disbanded the Trust in 1927 after its mission was accomplished. To this day, the story of the Trust remains a classic case study of how to run a successful "sting" operation against a terrorist organization.

Historians have pointed out that the Trust was successful because most often, large terrorist organizations do not have the means to carefully verify the bona fides of their own membership or that of members of other alleged terrorist organizations. This leaves them open to infiltration by law enforcement. Such a weakness is even more apparent within multinational terrorist groups.

The Trust operated more than 80 years ago, but the basic concept upon which it was founded remains valid. A terrorist (or "revolutionary") organization always has a genesis. This can be either genuine -- as in the case of the ROVS, which was founded by real enemies of the Soviet state -- or it can be a "legend" founded by the police -- as was the Trust. The purpose of the organization -- whether the overthrow of Bolshevism, world revolution, or animal rights -- is always tied to a cause that enjoys some measure of popularity among a social group. This group often serves as a base from which members are recruited to do the organization's bidding. If the organization carries out real or perceived activities to further this cause, it attains legitimacy in the eyes of its followers or those who share its stated goals.

The Trust did this carefully and masterfully. Two important White Russian emigre generals were kidnapped by OGPU agents, and one famous terrorist was executed by the OGPU due to the activities of the Trust. A British agent, Sidney Reilly, was captured and shot by the OGPU after being lured to Russia by the Trust. The emigre White Russian threat to the Soviet Union was immobilized, and numerous domestic monarchist supporters were lured into the Trust and neutralized.

The Trust ceased to exist in 1927. It was closed by the OGPU, which followed the classic rule of any police provocation (as a sting operation was then known): They shut it down before the emigre Whites were able to denounce the Trust for what it really was. Following another rule, the Trust -- or the formula used in the legend of the Trust -- was not used again for the same purpose. Other sting operations were used by the NKVD and the KGB in later years, but each was geared to a specific task and a particular enemy. Some were successful, others less so.