8 August 2002, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Crime and Corruption Watch" will appear on 22 August.
PRAGUE POLICE LAUNCH SWEEPS TO ROOT OUT ILLEGAL ALIENS...
Police on 5 August began a major dragnet to round up illegal aliens in the capital in the wake of a police officer's murder by a Russian-speaking man in the city's metro system. The controls have included random document checks and questioning at hundreds of night clubs and other public venues, and resulted in more than 80 detentions of foreigners in the first two days, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 8 August. The inspections, along with a highly visible police presence in the tourist center, will continue, the paper quoted a police spokeswoman saying. (Andy Heil)
...IN RESPONSE TO BLOODY RAMPAGE THAT LEAVES POLICEMAN DEAD, ANOTHER MAN SERIOUSLY INJURED...
The immigration sweeps have come in response to the murder of a police officer and the stabbing of an elderly man on 2 August by a suspect they believe to be a down-and-out, 53-year-old Russian construction worker. The suspect, whose identity remained a mystery for several days but who police now believe to be Aleksandr Kruchinin, has confessed to the crime, according to local media reports that cite police sources. The fatal incident erupted on a crowded platform after the suspect detonated a small explosive on the metro's rails. He then stabbed a 74-year-old man twice in the chest before fatally stabbing a 39-year-old police officer, according to CTK. The attacker was subdued by another passenger and found to be heavily armed with homemade weapons. The Russian branch of Interpol has officially been asked to confirm the identity and background of the suspect, CTK reported on 7 August. The suspect faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of murder, attempted murder, and endangering the public. "The Czech counterparts from the national Interpol branch in Prague have asked us to check his criminal record. Similar requests have also been sent to Interpol branches in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Chechnya," a Russian Interpol spokesman said, according to CTK. (Andy Heil)
...AND HIGHLIGHTS PRESENCE, PLIGHT OF FOREIGNERS.
Czech Police President Jiri Kolar told Frekvence 1 radio on 7 August that Kruchinin had a Czech residency permit until March, when authorities rejected his request for a renewal. Kolar also said the suspect's world "crumbled" and he was psychologically exhausted after that rejection. Media have reported that the man's actions were aimed at drawing attention to the difficulty of obtaining Czech residency. Kolar also told the station that Kruchinin's wife was apparently murdered in Moscow one year ago, adding that he resided in Prague with his son. City police chief Radislav Charvat said the crime will be probed by a special commission that could explore whether there is a need to amend the law on foreigners' stays in the country, CTK reported. On 29 July, about a dozen Belarusian asylum seekers demonstrated in front of the Czech Interior Ministry to protest the practices of immigration officers, whom they called arrogant and incompetent. (Andy Heil)
REPUTED RUSSIAN MOBSTER ARRESTED IN OLYMPIC FIGURE-SKATING SCANDAL...
U.S. federal prosecutors announced on 31 July the arrest in Italy earlier that day of reputed crime boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov for allegedly fixing the ice-dance and pairs figure-skating competitions at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in February, Russian and Western news agencies reported. According to investigators, Tokhtakhunov used his influence with the French and Russian skating federations to pressure a French judge to vote for Russia's Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze in the pairs event in exchange for a Russian vote for France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the ice-dance competition. Both teams won gold medals in their respective competitions, although the scandal that erupted over the pairs decision led the International Olympic Committee to award a second gold medal in the event to Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February 2002 and "End Note," "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March 2002). (Mike Scollon)
...IMPLICATING RUSSIAN, FRENCH SKATING ASSOCIATIONS.
U.S. Attorney James Comey described the scheme as a "classic quid pro quo: 'You'll line up support for the Russian pair, we'll line up support for the French pair and everybody will go away with the gold, and perhaps there'll be a little gold for me,'" AP reported on 31 July. Tokhtakhunov, a 49-year-old Russian citizen who was born in Uzbekistan, reportedly sought to gain a visa to return to France, where he had been living until he was forced to relocate to Italy, while the beleaguered French national ice-hockey program would get $1 million, according to AP. Evidence listed in the complaint filed in the Manhattan federal court on 31 July includes transcripts of wire-tapped conversations between Tokhtakhunov and an unidentified Russian ice-skating official; between Tokhtakhunov and a "female ice dancer," presumably Anissina; and between the ice dancer's mother and Tokhtakhunov, who is also known by the nickname "the Taiwanese." The transcripts also implicate French Ice Skating Federation President Didier Gailhaguet. "The Canadians were 10 times better and, in spite of that, the French with their vote gave us first place," the unidentified Russian official was quoted as telling Tokhtakhunov after the pairs event, AFP reported. (Mike Scollon)
TOKHTAKHUNOV, RUSSIAN OFFICIALS DENY WRONGDOING IN OLYMPICS SCANDAL.
According to AP, after meeting with his client at an Italian prison on 2 August, Tokhtakhunov lawyer Luca Saldarelli said: "He's absolutely surprised. He doesn't know anything about the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. He's not even a fan of figure skating." On 1 August, Italian police released transcripts of wiretapped telephone conversations "in which the suspect indicates that six judges might have been involved," according to police Colonel Giovanni Mainolfi. ITAR-TASS reported on 2 August that the Italian police had been tracking Tokhtakhunov for allegedly transferring $50 million from the Bank of New York to offshore accounts from 1996-2001. Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) spokesman Gennadii Shvets told AP on 2 August that the charges against Tokhtakhunov are "absolutely stupid" and as "funny as a cartoon." On 2 August, French Skating Federation President Didier Gailhaguet denied having any "contact direct or indirect, either before, during, or after the Olympic Games with Mr. Tokhtakhunov concerning the events in question" but did say he met with Tokhtakhunov in the spring of 2000 to discuss the Russian's proposal to sponsor a Paris hockey club. (Mike Scollon)
TOKHTAKHUNOV TO CHALLENGE EXTRADITION...
Tokhtakhunov has refused his consent to be extradited to the United States, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 6 August. "I want to have the complete extradition procedure under Italian law," Tokhtakhunov's defense lawyer, Luca Saldarelli, quoted him as saying, AP reported. Tokhtakhunov's decision to refuse voluntary extradition means the case will likely be held up in the Italian judicial system for weeks. Meanwhile, Tokhtakhunov received moral support from his friend and fellow businessman Mikhail Chernoi, who told "Moskovskiye novosti" on 6 August, "I am confident that Tokhtakhunov could not have done and did not try to do anything of this kind." Saldarelli has requested that Tokhtakhunov be allowed to leave the Italian prison and placed under house arrest. As of 6 August, the United States had not filed a formal extradition request for Tokhtakhunov to face conspiracy charges in a U.S. federal court. The request must be filed within 40 days of his 31 July arrest. (Mike Scollon)
...AS FRENCH GOLD MEDALLIST DENIES COLLUSION...
In a press conference in Arles on 5 August, Olympic ice-dance champion Anissina admitted that she knows Tokhtakhunov but denied any wrongdoing, AFP reported. "We spoke on the telephone now and then, but never about anything related to our Olympic victory," the news agency quoted her as saying. "I'm sure this has all been cooked up," she added. Anissina competes for France but is a native of Russia. Meanwhile, French figure skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who was suspended for three years by the International Skating Union for her role in the controversial decision to award the gold medal to Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, has been contacted by the FBI for an interview in the case. According to AFP on 6 August, her lawyer said no decision has yet been made regarding the request. (Mike Scollon)
...AND RUSSIAN SPORTS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION.
Vyacheslav Fetisov said at a Moscow press conference on 6 August that "experts have to look into this case and provide their assessment on whether unfair judging actually took place at these competitions," Interfax reported. However, Fetisov said that the investigation should only center on the pairs competition because the ice-dance event is more subjective. "[In ice dancing,] a judge chooses whether he likes a performance or not," Fetisov said. Meanwhile, AP reported on 6 August that Russian Figure Skating Federation President Valentin Piseev told Ekho Moskvy radio, "I have never seen [Tokhtakhunov], have never spoken to him, and I do not know anything about him except for the information that appeared in the Russian press." (Mike Scollon)
U.S. ASKS RUSSIA TO CRACK DOWN ON CD PIRACY.
Alexander Vershbow, the United States ambassador to Russia, sent a letter in July to Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin protesting at what he described as massive CD pirating in Russia. According to "The Moscow Times" on 2 August, Vershbow charged in his letter that some of the suspected culprits are factories within the military-industrial complex. Those allegations were strongly rejected by Russian military officers. At one of the military factories named in Vershbow's letter, the Zelenograd defense complex, officials responded by claiming that, "This in no way corresponds to reality." That complex includes the Zelenograd Factory of Musical Technology, whose head, Vadim Rybakov, also dismissed the charges. Russia, after China, is the world's top CD pirate with an annual production of 200 million disks, most of which are made for export. The list of culprits in Vershbow's letter names most of the major Russian producers of compact disks: the Urals Electronics Factory, the Zelenograd Factory of Musical Technology, and Astiko Center. "The Moscow Times" went on to say: "One of the most surprising entries was Russobit-Soft, part of the Russobit group, whose board chairman is Oleg Gordiiko. Gordiiko also chairs the Russian Chamber of Commerce's committee on intellectual property. He was responsible for developing the chamber's antipiracy program, which was presented to the government by Yevgenii Primakov, the chamber's president, on 1 July. "This is nothing more than the harsh lobbying of the interests of American audio- and video-product manufacturers," Gordiiko said. RK
U.S. URGED TO SEEK DEPORTATION OF RUSSIAN ARMS TRAFFICKER.
Writing in the "Los Angeles Times" of 23 July, two former directors for transnational threats on the U.S. National Security Council, William Wechsler and Lee Wolosky, urged the Bush administration to demand that Russia extradite to Belgium Viktor Bout, a wanted arms trafficker. According to the two specialists: "Bush should press Putin to hand Bout over to international law enforcement authorities. Bush should explain to Putin that Bout's organization -- and groups like it -- threaten common Russian and U.S. security interests. It is clear that Russian law enforcement agencies will not act without Putin's direct intervention." Bout is wanted on an Interpol warrant issued by Belgium for alleged arms trafficking into Africa. According to reports by the United Nations, Bout and his organization ran the largest arms-smuggling operation to embargoed regimes and movements in Africa. Since early 2002, Bout has lived freely in Moscow. "Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, and his connection to a regime that gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Bout is not running for his life. On the contrary, he is living quite comfortably in Russia. To date, Putin has not touched him. And why should he? Neither President Bush nor any senior administration official has asked him to," according to the "Los Angeles Times" piece. RK
INTERNATIONAL CREDIT-CARD GANG ARRESTED.
Russian police and the Russian bureau of Interpol arrested an international gang that used forged credit cards, according to Russian Center TV on 22 July. Several forged credit cards and two passports, one of which turned out to be fake, were seized from one of those arrested, Aslan Muradov. The suspect allegedly managed to steal about $300,000 from individuals' bank accounts over several months. All the data shown on the cards corresponded to wealthy U.S. citizens. According to Tsentr-TV: "Soon after Muradov's arrest, police detained two of his accomplices, who supplied him with forged cards. The production of forged credit cards is very difficult from a technical point of view. The investigators have established that the printing shop was located somewhere in western Europe." RK
RUSSIAN COUNTERFEITING ON THE RISE.
The Russian Interior Ministry told ITAR-TASS on 23 July that there has been a 50 percent increase in the counterfeiting of Russian and US currencies in 2002. The agency cited a ministry official saying that a total of 11,000 such offenses have been exposed, and 20,000 forged notes have been withdrawn from circulation this year. The favored banknotes for Russian counterfeiters are Russian 100- and 500-rouble notes and $100 bills, which constitute 96 percent of all fake bills confiscated. No counterfeit euros have been identified. The official charged that the main distributors of forged U.S. banknotes are "Chechen militants," ITAR-TASS reported. "The militants use forged notes to pay for acts of sabotage." Under Russian law, it is difficult to indict counterfeiters on criminal charges if there is no evidence that some of the bogus currency was not in circulation prior to the arrest. RK
SON OF AFRICAN DIPLOMAT BEATEN BY MOSCOW YOUTHS.
Moscow police arrested six apparently drunken youths on 5 August after they severely beat the son of the first secretary of Cameroon's embassy in Moscow, ntvru.com and other news agencies reported on 6 August. Sixteen-year-old Defe Jon Nzale was hospitalized after the attack. Police said that none of the youths are skinheads and, for that reason, they are treating the incident as "hooliganism." A spokesman for the Cameroon Embassy told NTV that the attack was racially motivated. According to dni.ru, the embassy intends to send a formal note of protest to the Foreign Ministry. (Rob Coalson)
ANOTHER ETHNICALLY MOTIVATED 'BRAWL' IN MOSCOW MARKET.
What TV-6 described as a "mass brawl" and other sources called a "pogrom" took place on 2 August in a market in Moscow's Zelenograd Raion. According to TV-6, more than 200 people were involved -- most of whom were former paratroopers who celebrated their professional holiday by smashing market stalls and beating up ethnic Azeri traders. However, later in the day, RIA-Novosti reported that Zelenograd's police department revised downward the number of people estimated to have been involved in the "pogrom" from 40 people to seven. According to the agency, seven former servicemen provoked the confrontation. Two people were hospitalized with knife wounds. (Julie Corwin)
TWO ATTEMPTS TO SMUGGLE RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS OUT OF TAJIKISTAN THWARTED.
The deputy chairman of the Tajik Interior Ministry's department for combating organized crime, Lieutenant Colonel Uktam Juraboev, told Varorud Press Agency on 22 July that his organization has foiled two attempts to smuggle radioactive metals this year. In the first, 15 kilograms of the radioactive substance cesium-137 was seized from criminals; in the second case, criminals tried to sell 2 kilograms of crude uranium. RK
NEO-NAZI COMMERCE AND CRIME
By Roman Kupchinsky
[Editor's note: Pursuant to RFE/RL's desire to avoid any real or perceived promotion of the purveyors of hate materials cited in this report, we have intentionally not included the URLs for their websites.]
The Czech-German border continues to be home to many merchants selling neo-Nazi memorabilia to the public, and to German visitors in particular. The selection includes such items as CDs featuring skinhead bands, elements of Wehrmacht uniforms, and medals and military artifacts emblazoned with swastikas, this illicit trade continues to provide neo-Nazi movements in Germany and elsewhere with items that are banned under both German and Czech law. According to an 11 July report on this trade by Czech press agency CTK: "Saxony investigators consider the street markets in the Czech border area to be only a part of a big distribution network. CDs with banned recordings are also being sold at concerts, via the Internet, and illegally in some German shops."
German laws adopted to ban Nazi-era symbols such as swastikas and hate materials published and distributed during the Third Reich came into effect decades before the Internet boom. But today, even a casual surf of the Web shows just how widespread neo-Nazi websites have become and how easy it is to obtain the same Nazi memorabilia found on the Czech-German border without having to make the trip. The following are some examples of the articles for sale on the Web on 11-12 July.
The Nazi-lauck-nsdapao website, available in several languages besides English and German (Bulgarian, Czech, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, Slovak, and Serb, among others), offers a wide variety of merchandise from music to computer games and Nazi propaganda films. Prices appear aimed at postcommunist states in particular, where incomes are low. A buyer can order Gebhardt Schrott singing "Das Horst Wessel Lied" or Wolf Scheissel's rendition of "Das Reich, das Reich."
A neo-Nazi in any country can purchase online for $25 each a Swastika flag, a Third Reich Battle Flag, or an SS Totenkopf flag. The site informs the customer that, "Our offer includes many flags, pins, books, CDs, and much more."
In addition to peddling hate materials, the site is interspersed with anti-Semitic cartoons that the webmaster urges readers to "Copy and Distribute." Viewers can purchase a "Museum Quality Replica of Zyklon B Can -- Marked Konzentrationslager Auschwitz," and the site instructs people in "How YOU can use the Internet as a Propaganda Weapon!" This includes instructions "Internet Propaganda -- #701 Propaganda CD, Links, Mirror Websites and even NS (National Socialist) phone logos and ring-tones!" In case the neo-Nazi website is blocked in your country, "nazi-lauck" lets viewers in on: "How to Reach a 'Blocked' Website. Anonymous Web-Sites are offered ('Even our firm does not need to know your identity.' Payment can be sent with an anonymous letter with reference to your web-site."
The website of the British Nazi Party, the so-called November 9th Society, offers video CD-ROMs featuring the latest "National Socialist News.... Hear what is going on, not just in the British Nazi Party, but many other NS organizations around the world." An abridged version of "Mein Kampf" is for sale, as are stickers, party badges, flags, and videos (Nazi favorites like "Eternal Jew," "Hitler at Home," and "Genocide by Propaganda," a Holocaust denial book). Books and even Celtic jewelry are all on sale, as well.
The rise of neo-Nazism, along with outbreaks of anti-Semitism in Western Europe and the states of the former Soviet bloc, has not only caused property damage but has also resulted in deaths -- most recently of two people in Russia who tried to remove anti-Semitic signs that were booby-trapped. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Bnai B'rth claims that neo-Nazi skinheads have been responsible for as many as 45 murders during the last two decades in the United States.
According to the CATO Institute, there are over 800 neo-Nazi websites outside of Germany peddling hate materials. They are freely accessible in Germany, thus breaking German anti-hate laws.
The legality of using the Internet to promote hatred has been a contentious issue in the past few years. On 3 January 2001, the BBC reported that the European arm of Yahoo!, which operates the Internet portal, pledged to ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia from its auction sites. On 4 September, Reuters reported that a French judge launched hearings on whether Internet service providers (ISPs) should censor portals accessible on their networks to stop French citizens from viewing links to neo-Nazi websites. French law prohibits the exhibit or sale of objects that incite racial hatred. ISPs that carry neo-Nazi or other racist websites are meanwhile being threatened with legal action by Germany's Central Council for Jews. That group says it has been forced to turn to local courts because of the German government's failure to enforce laws banning the dissemination of Nazi propaganda.
There are indications that neo-Nazi violence is on the rise. On 14 July, Maxime Brunerie, 25, an accounting student, part-time chauffeur, and member of a French neo-Nazi group, was wrestled to the ground by spectators and the police after firing one shot from a .22-caliber hunting rifle at French President Jacque Chirac in Paris.
According to the "International Herald Tribune" of 16 July: "More disturbing to many French, however, is the light thrown on the shadowy extreme rightist groups with which Brunerie was associated. The stocky short-haired man, described by neighbors as quiet and discreet, is a member of a thuggish student band called Union Defense Group as well as of Radical Unity, a group known for its negationist, anti-Semitic and anti-American views. This group is, in turn, associated with the French European Nationalist Party, an openly neo-Nazi group with connections to similar groups elsewhere in Europe. Such type of violence by neo-Nazis is rapidly spreading to the former Soviet Union and East European countries."
At a recent trial in Moscow of five young men accused in the slaying of three people during a xenophobic rampage in a Moscow market on 30 October of last year, one of the far-right leaders who was later present at the trial had been quoted in "The Moscow Times" of 17 July 2001 as saying: "They are good Russian boys thinking the right way, but their methods put all politically organized Russian patriots in danger." One of the leaders of the ultranationalist Russian National Unity movement who refused to give his name, he was flanked by a small army of teenage boys clad in black quasimilitary uniforms.
Leopold Kaimovskii, a prominent Jewish leader in Moscow, was hospitalized in serious condition after having been stabbed several times on 14 July 1999 by a neo-Nazi activist in Moscow's Choral Synagogue. After being detained by a security guard, the attacker, who had a reverse swastika painted on his chest, told Russia's chief rabbi, Adolf Shaevich, "We will strangle you anyway. We are 50,000-strong."
According to the United States-based Anti-Defamation League, "Russian ultranationalists of various shades increased their presence on the Internet in 2000. As of December, there were at least 64 Russian websites and three large Web portals regularly engaged in distributing anti-Semitic, racist, and hate propaganda online."
How popular are neo-Nazi movements in Russia? According to "Yezhenedelnii zhurnal" of 30 April: "It is very revealing that 16 percent of respondents, who represent approximately 17 million adult Russian citizens, support the skinheads' neo-Nazi slogan: 'Russia for Russians.' If we add about 1.5 million 13-18-year-olds who are also infected with this ideology (given that the number of radicals in this age category is the same as among adults), we can understand what the numbers of the extremists in Russia are. By the way, according to February opinion polls, about 14 percent of respondents -- almost as many as support the 'Russia for Russians' slogan -- were very satisfied when they heard of the pogroms at Moscow markets, and 11 percent of them believe it is the 'only way of fighting the influx of people from the Caucasus into Russian cities.'"