26 August 2006

Organized crime controls gaming rooms: report

A Korean government report has confirmed that most "adult video game rooms" are managed by organized crime syndicates, which also have a monopoly on the distribution network for the "gift certificates" given as prizes in order to avoid laws regarding cash awards.

A National Intelligence Service (NIS) report titled "The Urgent Need to Eradicate the Abuses of Gambling Game Rooms to Clean Up Social Evil," given to the presidential office last month and obtained by The Hankyoreh, also finds that tax evasion in the adult game room and "adult PC (personal computer) room" industries totals 8.8 trillion won (9.14 billion USD) yearly. The game rooms, which prohibit access by minors, provide video or computer games which often feature components of gambling.

The NIS report details the activities of specific crime syndicates and explains how they are using money from computer game rooms and illegal casinos to fund their operations. It states that organized crime evades 4.5 trillion won in taxes from adult game rooms and 4.3 trillion won from PC gambling rooms each year. The NIS estimates that the market for adult game rooms, PC gambling rooms, and illegal casinos amount to 50 trillion, 36 trillion, and 2 trillion won, respectively. The Hankyoreh has learned that the NIS sent the report to the presidential office last month.

According to the NIS, 9.3 percent of Korea’s population - or 3.2 million people - is addicted to gambling, close to four times as much as Canada, where 2.6 percent of the population is addicted, and Australia, where 2.1 percent of the population suffers from gambling addiction.

The report says that even in small cities with fewer than 50,000 residents there are on average three to five mafia-operated game rooms, a phenomenon it says is sucking the life out of local businesses. In the small town of Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, for example, there are 24 game rooms that together take in between 2 million won to as much as 10 million won every day. Nationally there were 11,000 registered game rooms in 2003, but the NIS estimates that their number has risen by 15 percent annually and that today they number 20,000, including ones that are unregistered and therefore illegal.

The report even quotes specific rumors about local officials accepting bribes from these gambling establishments. Among other government agencies, the report names the police station in Seoul’s Gangnam neighborhood as rumored to be on the take from a casino in Samseong-dong.

Aug.25,2006 The Hankyoreh

22 August 2006

Criminal Intelligence Service Canada Annual Report 2006

In 2006, the CISC criminal intelligence community identified nearly 800 organized crime groups operating in
Canada. While many of these groups remain concentrated in and around major urban centres, a significant
number operate from smaller communities across the country. Organized crime groups can be found virtually
everywhere there is profit to be made from criminal ventures. The 2006 report (PDF) was reselased on 18 August 2006.

15 August 2006

McGuinty Government Announces Second Major Crime Court

TORONTO — The McGuinty government will open Ontario's second major crime court in north Toronto, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced today. "The new major crime court will ensure we are prepared as major prosecutions make their way through the court system," said Bryant. "This courtroom, like the one we announced in May in downtown Toronto, will be equipped to meet the extraordinary needs of these complex trials that involve multiple accused."

The province's second major crime court will be located in the 2201 Finch Avenue West Courthouse. The courtroom will be enhanced with additional security measures and will be designed with prisoner boxes and holding cells that can accommodate multiple accused, additional counsel tables, larger jury boxes, a separate entrance for witnesses and specialized systems to allow for the presentation of large volumes of evidence.

While the courtroom will be designed specifically to meet the requirements of large, complex trials, many of the enhancements will be portable so they can be used in trials at other locations across the province. The courtroom at 2201 Finch will be used for other criminal trials when major-scale prosecutions are not before the courts. "This is the latest in a series of measures our government has taken to fight guns and gangs," said Bryant. "Now we are upgrading courtrooms to increase the justice system's ability to accommodate these cases as they make their way to trial."

The construction will be done in phases with the first phase beginning immediately. It is expected the courtroom will be ready in fall 2007. The province's first major crime court at the 361 University Avenue Courthouse, which was announced in May, is under construction and is expected to be ready by fall 2006.

Establishing major crime courts is one component of Ontario's Organized Justice Strategy, which was designed to fight all types of organized crime, including gang and gun violence. The Attorney General is in St. John's, Newfoundland today speaking to the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association about Ontario's plan to combat organized crime on all fronts.

The McGuinty government is on the side of Ontario families concerned about crime and safety. That is why the government is implementing a $51-million package of initiatives to fight gun crimes. The package includes:

*Expanding the number of Crown prosecutors working on the Guns and Gangs Task Force to 64, including dedicated Crown prosecutors working in every region of the province
*Establishing a state-of-the-art provincial operations centre to allow for highly co-ordinated investigations and prosecutions of guns and gang-related offences. The centre will include the newly expanded Guns and Gangs Task Force which includes the Toronto Police Service, Ontario Provincial Police, a team of specialized Crown prosecutors, support staff, probation and parole officers and a victims unit.
*Fast-tracking the hiring of 1,000 additional police officers so that they can be on the streets by the end of 2006.

Ministry of the Attorney General
August 14, 2006

Zimbabwe: Organised Crime On the Rise

FOUR phenomena in Zimbabwe point to the rise of organised crime -- threats of violence against Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr Gideon Gono, organised criminal gangs, money laundering rings and the involvement of senior police officers in corruption. The question is: Are we seeing the evolution of Mafiosos in Zimbabwe?

A Mafia, as described by Annelise Anderson in "The Red Mafia: A legacy of Communism", is "a group that is characterised by profit-oriented criminal activity, that uses violence or threats of violence, that uses its resources to discourage cooperation of its members with the police and that corrupts legitimate government authority". The word Mafia, as Anderson notes, characterised some powerful Sicilian families engaged in violent criminal activities and who also achieved considerable control of economic activity.

The term was later adopted in the United States to describe organised criminal groups in the wake of the Great Depression.
Mafia groups thrive on illegal businesses and illegal markets. It is in the interests of Mafia groups to control the illegal market. Inevitably they are averse to economic reforms or any other policies that threaten the existence of illegal markets and their enterprises.

Such gangs have targets and the means to hit them (weapons). The Russian Mafia (also known as Red Mafia) for instance has, according to the Wilkipedia, 100 000 members owing allegiance to 8 000 crime groups. The Red Mafia controls about 80 percent of all private businesses and about 40 percent of the nation's wealth. When Russia was undergoing economic reforms, which threatened illegal businesses, the Mafia targeted bank executives, reform-minded business leaders and investigative journalists. These were systematically murdered or kidnapped. Between 1992 and 1994, 10 bankers were killed.

Thus the threats of violence against Dr Gono's life and the subsequent arson at his farm -- coming in the wake of his announcement of progressive measures to curb illegal financial activities -- are typically Mafia behaviour. Since Mafia groups are involved in many illegal activities, they have large structures to cope with the scope and sizes of their activities. While enforcement of their jungle laws in businesses is enhanced through violence, they also use bribes to control the legal system, from police officers to court officials.

It is not surprising that many cases involving corruption and other criminal cases are not successfully prosecuted. Organised criminals devote resources to corrupt judicial officials and investigative journalists, especially in an environment where these are poorly remunerated. These criminal groups, who are described by the Wilkipedia as criminals whose motivation is profit, have legitimate businesses to front their illegal ones. In order for their illicit activities to thrive, they need society's "support" and they get it through violence, bribery, symbiotic relationships between their illegal businesses and the illegal ones and blackmail. Consequently, they target the judicial and police officers including legislators in order to control them through bribery, threats or both.

Legitimate businesses are used either as a cover or as a means to operate underground enterprises. For example in Zimbabwe, one might own a legitimate fuel business and through its legitimate licence, import the fuel. But very little of the liquid would be seen on the open market, as most of it ends up on the illegal parallel market. Some police and government officials would be corrupted because the Mafia thrives where there is little trust in government or the police. When those in authority know about, and are involved in the underground economy, bribery and extortion, there would be selection and enforcement of the laws. Only the small fish are netted and the recourse of going to the law becomes a futile and frustrating experience.

Konstantin Simis, a Soviet defence attorney who had numerous clients in the underground economy was quoted by Anderson commenting on the laundering of illegally earned cash saying it was a "criminal activity protected by the authorities against which ordinary recourse of going to the police proves unprofitable". The recent arrest of two senior police officers (an Assistant Inspector and an Assistant Commissioner) who were allegedly caught with $5 million ($5 billion old value) in cash typifies the involvement of police officers in underhand economic activities.

Money laundering is one of the prime activities of the underground economy. The Wilkipedia aptly describes what it is and its specific purpose as, "engaging in specific financial transactions in order to conceal the identity, source and/or the destination of money and is a main operation of underground economy". This is done to avoid detection and prosecution for illegal activities. Significantly, those people who have been caught with billions in cash, including prominent businesspeople with legitimate enterprises have "failed" to account for the source of their money and its destination (which was obviously not the banks").

John McDowell, writing in "The Consequences of Money Laundering and Financial Crime," notes that money laundering has devastating effects on the economy and national security. He adds: "It provides fuel for drug dealers, terrorists, illegal arms dealers, corrupt officials and others to operate and expand their criminal enterprises". McDowell also notes that it increases cross border cash shipments to those, "with loose arrangements for detecting and recording the placement of cash in the financial system".

Hence it is not surprising that many of Zimbabwe's bearer cheques (used as legal tender) are smuggled to foreign countries. Barely a week after the new bearer cheques were introduced, they had found their way illegally out of the country and some people were arrested at border posts attempting to smuggle them.

Organised crime masterminded by Mafiosos leads to economic stagnation or depression. Pino Arlacchi, a historical sociologist, noted that during the 1970s and 1980s areas of southern Italy with high rates of organised crime had concomitantly poor economic growth rates. Analysts have also noted that one of the causes of the growth of organised crime is bureaucracy, especially when decisions are unclear and difficult to monitor. Bureaucrats, they argue, fuel corruption by demanding payment, tips, kickbacks and bribes for the awarding of tenders.

Bureaucratic corruption then takes the complexion of the Mafia when violence or threats of violence come into play. In fact some of the power struggles manifest in quasi-government institutions such as councils and parastatals are symptomatic of the struggle for underworld activities such as influencing awarding of tenders. Mafiosos also influence political decisions and legislation by ensuring that those who win political seats are either their kith and kin in crime or that they are corruptible.

Inevitably they manipulate the political system and its players either from within or behind the scenes. Gang leaders who have been arrested or those on the run in the country are a testimony of the prevalence of organised crime. These gangs range from burglars to armed robbers. The Irish Mafia (or Irish mob) is regarded as one of the oldest crime syndicates in the US (since its inception in 1800) and it is reputed for having run the most successful burglary rings in that country.

Slowly, in Zimbabwe, burglary syndicates are emerging and they are terrorising residents. Some of them are known and residents complain that they do not stay in custody for long. Armed robbery gang leaders such as Norman Karimanzira, who is now late, Musa Taj Abdul, Lucky Matambanadzo and Gift Mwale among others, are symbolic of the growth of organised syndicates in Zimbabwe. These gangs have become so disciplined and well connected to be considered part of the organised crime syndicate -- Mafia.

While the Mafia usually operates underground, they may become so powerful that they can come out of their shells and become known through symbolic dressing and other means. For example the Japanese Mafia or the Yakuza (or Yokudo), the masters that control the underground market, make themselves distinct as they wear dark glasses and suits and are known to walk with "an arrogant gait". At the rate organised crime is emerging in Zimbabwe, are we not likely to see such criminal arrogance one day?

The Herald (Harare) August 10, 2006

12 August 2006

UK Threat Assessment 2006/7

The United Kingdom Threat Assessment (UKTA) describes and assesses the threats posed to the UK by serious organised criminals and considers how those threats may develop in future. The UKTA was previously produced by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS).
The 2006/07 edition has been produced by the new Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), which replaced NCIS, the National Crime Squad (NCS), and parts of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the UK Immigration
Service (UKIS) on 1 April 2006. It was published on 31 July. (PDF)