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Corruption Watch: September 12, 2002

12 September 2002, Volume 2, Number 32
Afghan opium farmers have threatened to double the opium harvest if they are not paid the compensation promised them by the government, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency reported on 3 September. In the Spring, the interim government of Hamid Karzai announced that it would pay farmers $500 for each acre of destroyed poppy. However, according to a report by the UN World Food Program and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that was issued in August, a farmer in Afghanistan can make $6,400 per acre by planting poppy.

Farmers in Nangarhar, a key opium-producing province, complain that they have not received the promised compensation for last year's destroyed opium. Compensation has been paid in some areas but it has not been paid completely in many regions of the country, the Afghan Islamic Press Agency reported. RK

On 27 August, Czech police arrested a 28-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman on charges of arms trafficking, Czech Radio 1 reported on 29 August. Authorities in Germany and Switzerland have also been involved in breaking up the operation. German police have arrested a Canadian citizen of Russian origin thought to be the leader of the trafficking ring. According to the radio report, the arms were exported to "Arab countries on which an arms embargo is imposed." During home searches in Prague, the police found a catalogue of weapons made and sold in Russia which were being offered to customers from Arab countries. Besides firearms, the catalogue also offered other military equipment, including tanks, missile carriers, planes, and naval vessels.

Libor Gregor of the Czech police told the CTK news agency on 29 August that a wealthy buyer could even obtain medium-range as well as long-range missiles. "[The group trafficking in arms] had very good contacts to manufacturers in Russia. It was no problem for them to organize illicit trade," he said. The trafficking had been going on for three years and was finally discovered by Czech, German, and Swiss detectives. An unidentified police source told Czech radio that all activities linked to this trade were carried out from Czech territory.

The Czech Republic has been implicated in numerous arms smuggling cases over the past few years. "The Prague Post" on 2 February 2000 wrote that: "A leaked Czech secret service report labeled Agroplast (A prominent Czech company in processing mining and glass waste) as among the world's leading arms smugglers. Still, state investigators have stopped short of issuing international arrest warrants for any[one].... Authorities believe Russia, still loaded with Cold War-era weapons, harbors the firm's trafficking activities."

The Czech journal "Respekt" (issue 21, 2002) reported, citing the "Guardian," that "On February 23 of this year (2002), we witnessed a delivery of missiles and guidance systems to Iraq. According to our estimates, it involved weapons worth $800,000. The freight was unloaded in (the) Syrian harbor of Latakia and then transported to Iraq," three Iraqi army deserters told the British daily in August. Their report was supported by General Nawaf al-Malki, an Iraq foreign opposition representative, who had left Iraq in 1989. "We know that this involved the weapons originally exported from the Czech Republic," he claimed.

In the Czech Republic, weapons trading licenses are held by 133 companies, said Anna Starkova, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry quoted by "Respekt." "Eighty companies actively participated in the weapons trade last year and almost 1,000 transactions were realized. What companies were concerned and what trades were realized, we shall never know. It is classified information," she said. RK

Afrim Bushi, a 43-year-old man from Lushnja, Albania, was arrested by the Kosovar police on charges of trafficking in children and for pedophilia. He is suspected of being a key member of an international network of child trafficking. Bushi was arrested at Prishtina airport where the group operated from. According to the Kosovar Albanian newspaper "Koha Ditore" on 30 August: "Investigations led to the conclusion that the trafficking Bushi was involved in with orphan children was done for trade in human organs or pedophilia purposes. The investigations have also shown that Bushi was part of a big gang." RK

Aircraft owned by Viktor Bout, the Russian subject wanted by Britain and Belgium on charges of smuggling arms to Africa, and presently living in Russia, have been accused of smuggling Al-Qaeda- and Taliban-owned gold to Sudan, "The Washington Post" reported on 3 September. The gold was reportedly delivered by boat from Karachi, Pakistan, to either Iran or the United Arab Emirates and flown from there on chartered planes belonging to Bout to Sudan. Earlier, Bout had been accused of smuggling arms to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, charges that he vigorously denied. He is wanted by Interpol on a "Red Notice" -- a particularly urgent warrant -- and prominent Americans have asked that Russia extradite him to Belgium to stand trial along with others linked to his operations.

Officials in Sudan, Iran, and Pakistan all denied on 4 September the allegations in the report, according to Reuters. Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Chul Deng said the report is absolutely baseless, and stressed that Al-Qaeda does not have a presence in Sudan.

Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramazanzadeh also rejected the report. The director of Pakistan's Coast guard, Pervez Akhter, said that the incident could not have taken place under Pakistan's antiterrorism efforts. RK

Russian organized crime groups are working to establish themselves in the Thai resort town of Pattaya, "The Bangkok Post" reported on 4 September. Known for its sex industry and lovely beaches, Pattaya became a popular resort for American soldiers during the Vietnam War. After the war, in the late 1970s Pattaya established itself as an international resort. By the mid-90s, Russians joined Western and Japanese tourists in the resort and, in 2002, some 84,300 Russians visited Pattaya, a 40 percent increase over 2001.

According to "The Bangkok Post," Russian businesses sprung up in the town, including restaurants, go-go bars, and tour agencies. Some Russians even set up brothels with Russian women.

Russian tour agencies are mostly located near the popular Jom Thian beach, restaurants along the Walking Street in South Pattaya, while the bars with go-go dancers are mushrooming all over Pattaya.

In 1998, Estonian Hardo Kerz, 29, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the gangland killing of a Russian bar owner in Pattaya. Police said a business conflict was the likely motive.

This incident prompted police and agencies to set up a center to crack down on Russian crime syndicates and other foreign criminals.

Most recently, on 30 August, a group of armed Russians robbed the Bank of Ayudhya's South Pattaya branch. RK

Members of the Bavarian office for the Protection of the Constitution recently told the German newspaper "Die Welt" that Russian crime syndicates operating in Germany had close links to the Russian intelligence services and to "high-ranking officials from politics and industry in Russia," as well as to German industrialists. According to the story published on the "Die Welt" website on 29 August (http//, in the past, German law enforcement officials suspected that only former intelligence agents were involved with Russian organized crime groups. Today they have evidence that active duty officers are involved.

According to unnamed officials from Bavaria, "Often extremely flexible, interlinking businesses serving primarily money-laundering purposes have been established, commissioned by Russian intelligence services and criminal organizations." The money earned flowed mostly into real estate, restaurants, and hotels. Trying to reconstruct the sophisticated financial transactions, the investigators groaned: "Through the purposeful establishment of global links of firms and accounts, the flow of funds frequently can hardly be reconstructed."

According to German security services, Russian organized crime is cooperating with intelligence agents in the areas of human trafficking, money laundering and illegal immigration. RK

In 2001, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov ordered Russian police to register all crimes reported by citizens. By the first half of 2002, the number of such reported crimes rose by 5.7 percent to 1.54 million complaints filed. According to "The Moscow Times" of 5 September: "Of all Russia's regions, Moscow led in the increase of registered crimes in the first half of 2002, according to the Interior Ministry. The number surged from 52,000 over the same period last year to 89,000 this year." Moscow police said that the number of serious crimes went from 37,000 to 47,000 and burglaries from 3,000 to 7,400. RK

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was accused of involvement in the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze by the parliamentary commission investigating the murder of Gongadze and other journalists on 3 September. According to "The Financial Times" of 4 September, the commission called for law enforcement agencies to bring criminal charges against the president. While Kuchma has been accused of involvement in Gongadze's murder for some two years on the basis of secret recordings made in his office by a member of his security detail, Mykola Melnychenko, this is the first time that parliament has pursued such action. RK

-- More than three tons of hashish were seized in eastern Khorasan, Iran, on the Afghan border, Iranian radio reported on 27 August. The drugs were found in a transit cargo vehicle.

-- Russian border guards seized over 55 kilos of raw opium on 4 September on the Tajik-Afghan border, the press service of the Russian border guard group in Tajikistan reported.

-- A Russian border guard was killed on 5 September and two others wounded in a clash with gunmen who crossed the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the AP reported. The clash involved a group of infiltrators who were trying to smuggle heroin and opium from Afghanistan. The gunmen fled, leaving behind about two kilos of heroin and other drugs.

-- Russian guards seized 39 kilos of heroin on the Tajik-Afghan border on 5 September, ITAR-TASS reported. Since the beginning of the year, over 2,200 kilos of narcotics, mostly heroin, have been seized on the Tajik-Afghan border. RK

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was added to the United States' list of terrorist organizations at the end of August, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage announced in Beijing, China. ETIM thus became the first Uighur group to be added to the list.

U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing said that the Xinjiang-based group had been planning attacks against U.S. interests abroad, including the U.S. embassy in Kyrgyzstan. "The Washington Post" on 29 August reported the allegations against ETIM by citing Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov as saying there was reason to believe the U.S. embassy in Bishkek had been targeted. He provided no details.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Bishkek told the AP on 30 August, on condition of anonymity, that Kyrgyzstan deported two ETIM members to China in May. They were accused of "planning to target embassies in Bishkek, as well as trade centers and public gathering places." According to this information, one suspect was Mamet Yasyn, allegedly traveling on a false passport and who had surveillance information about embassy sites, said a U.S. embassy official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

On 27 May, the AP reported that Chinese officials said that Pakistan has caught and sent home a Chinese Muslim accused by Beijing of helping lead a violent separatist group in China's Xinjiang province.

Officials said Ismail Kadir was handed over to China in March and is the third-highest leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Beijing claims the group is connected to Osama bin Laden. Foreign experts on China's Xinjiang territory, also known as East Turkestan, say they have no knowledge of the group. The AP also stated that Chinese officials also are asking the United States to return 300 members of China's Muslim Uighur ethnic minority they said were captured fighting for Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan.

"Since the formation of the 'East Turkestan Islamic Movement,'" China's "People's Daily" wrote on 30 August, "bin Laden has schemed with the heads of the Central and West Asian terrorist organizations many times to help the 'East Turkestan' terrorist forces in Xinjiang to launch a 'holy war,'" an official Chinese report on the group said.

RFE/RL reported on 30 August that: "Enver Can, president of the Munich-based East Turkestan National Congress, said Uighurs have never been religious extremists." He questioned whether ETIM is even large enough to warrant classification as an independent Uighur group. RK

Kazakh officials are warning of possible terrorist attacks against U.S., Israeli, Russian, and Uzbek citizens and embassies in the Central Asian country, the AP reported on 5 September.

Kazakh National Security Committee Deputy Director Baurzhan Elubaev told members of the lower house of parliament in the capital Astana on 5 September that authorities were conducting searches to prevent possible terrorist acts in Kazakhstan against citizens and embassies of the United States, Israel, Russia, and Uzbekistan.

Elubaev also told lawmakers that security officials have seen a growth in the activity of the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir. The group was banned after being accused of attempting to set up an Islamic state across Central Asia. RK