26 October 2006

New Book: Transnational Crime and the interface between legal and illegal actors. The case of the illicit art and antiquities trade.

A.J.G Tijhuis

Paperback, 250 pages, (October 2006)
Publisher: Wolf Legal Publishers Language: English
ISBN-10 : 9058501957 Price: €30

How does transnational crime interact with legal companies and governments? Are legal actors primarily victimized by transnational criminals or are the two connected by collaborative relationships? And how are these crimes transformed into legitimate activities? This book seeks to answer these and related questions. The research presented is based on a thorough study of the literature on transnational crime as well as an empirical study of the illicit art and antiquities trade. Transnational crime in this study includes, besides the illicit art and antiquities trade, for example drug trafficking, cigarette smuggling, the trade in ‘blood diamonds’, human trafficking and international terrorism. The study of the illicit art and antiquities trade is based on data that were gathered in the Netherlands, France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The data sources included official files as well as interviews with archaeologists, museum curators, art dealers and other persons in and around the art and antiquities trade.

Edgar Tijhuis (1976) studied Law, Political Science and American Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He currently works as a lawyer at Pontius Lawyers in Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement in Leiden. The present research was conducted at the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement in Leiden.

Guinea-Bissau seeks aid to fight organised crime

BISSAU, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Short of patrol ships, planes, radios and even a prison, Guinea-Bissau is in danger of falling under the control of international organised crime gangs trafficking drugs, arms and migrants, security experts and diplomats say. The government of this tiny, coup-prone West African state, one of the poorest and most unstable in the world, is urgently seeking millions of dollars of foreign aid to modernise its army and police to tackle this security threat.

International donors, who will meet on Nov. 7-8 in Geneva to consider the aid request, want guarantees that the restless armed forces can be reshaped to keep the peace and not destroy it. The military has staged a rash of coups and mutinies and fought a brief civil war since Portugal granted the territory independence in 1974. "This is such a small and poor country that it can become a centre for organised crime. It can be bought," a foreign diplomat, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Diplomats say recent interceptions of drugs, arms and illegal migrants point to Guinea-Bissau becoming a defenceless target of trans-national crime.

The United Nations, which maintains a peace-building mission in Guinea-Bissau, is supporting the government's request for financing for a $170 million security reform programme. This proposes reducing and modernising the army, and retraining the police and judiciary. The plan forms part of a $400 million overall aid request intended to haul the country's 1.4 million people out of abject poverty. Most eke out a living from fishing and farming and cashew nuts are the main export crop.
The crumbling capital Bissau is plagued by almost permanent power outages, most roads become pot-holed quagmires a few dozen kilometres outside the city and civil servants have not been paid for three months. "Guinea-Bissau wants to be a state of law and order," Justice Minister Namuano Dias Gomes told Reuters on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, the only thing our armed forces know about is waging war ... in times of peace," he added.

Diplomats say President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira, who returned to power through elections last year, appears to support the reforms, although it remains to be seen whether his fractious military chiefs will accept them. Vieira, who ruled the country for nearly two decades after seizing power in a 1980 military coup, was himself ousted by rebellious officers in 1999.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says international drug cartels have honed in on Guinea-Bissau -- with its 5,000 km (3,000 miles) of jagged coastline, river inlets, mangrove creeks and remote islands -- as an ideal transit route to ship narcotics from Latin America to Europe.

Lack of training and resources has resulted in the almost total absence of any policing of the national territory and its borders, the U.N. agency says. The national headquarters of the judicial police looks more like a junk yard than a police station. "They have no radios, no vehicles and no laboratories ... We don't even have a prison," Justice Minister Gomes said. "If international criminals have discovered Guinea-Bissau, it is because they have discovered its weaknesses," he said. Gomes said the government was seeking financing for a $9 million project to build a 600-cell prison and also wanted funding for a modern identity card system.

25 Oct 2006 16:20:56 GMT
Source: Reuters

25 October 2006

Organized Crime Steals Millions From Online Brokers

The feds are investigating fraudulent activities that have cost brokers and their clients millions, forcing one company to take a one-time charge of $18 million.

Last week during a conference call with financial analysts, New York-based E*Trade noted that it had taken a one-time charge of $18 million due to online fraud.

"We have experienced a serious increase in fraud relating to identity theft," said Mitchell Caplan, E*Trade's chief executive, in the earnings call last Wednesday. That fraud, said Caplan, has been traced to a "concerted ring in Eastern Europe and Thailand," but new processes and technology had nearly eliminated the fraud. "In the last three weeks, we've seen that level of fraud drop to almost zero," Caplan claimed. Both the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are looking into the fraud, he said.

According to reports by Bloomberg News, Omaha, Neb.-based TD Ameritrade has also been hit by fraudsters out of Europe and Asia.

The criminals are using a number of profitable techniques, said Ameritrade and other sources quoted by Bloomberg, including a "pump-and-dump" scheme where thieves used customers' funds to drive up the prices of marginal stocks. The criminals would then sell shares they had purchased earlier for a large profit. The scheme typically sets off few or no security alerts at online brokers because no money is withdrawn from the compromised accounts, Bloomberg said. In other ploys, identity thieves open accounts using stolen names, then use those accounts for illegal trading or money laundering. Any investigation leads authorities to the victim, who appears to be responsible.

Customer fraud losses were made good by E*Trade and TD Ameritrade, both of which announced earlier this year that they would reimburse customers. Federal law does not require brokers to refund customers.

E*Trade has also aggressively pushed two-factor authentication tokens to customers. The tokens, which use RSA's SecurID authentication technology, are about the size of a flash drive, and generate codes that change every few seconds. Customers use the code, along with the usual username and password, to access accounts.

On the conference call with investors, Caplan said customers who used the tokens hadn't been touched by the Eastern European or Asian fraud gangs. "But not everyone has them, and when they have them, not everyone chooses to use them," he said. Some or all of E*Trade's $18 million loss may be covered by insurance, Caplan added, although he declined to give details.

TechWeb News
Oct 24, 2006 02:14 PM

17 October 2006

Beijing police smash capital's first organized crime ring

A 34-member organized crime ring, according to police the first mafia-style organization in Beijing since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, has been stopped in its tracks.

The Beijing Municipal Higher People's Court sentenced ringleader Hu Yadong, who was found guilty on 13 charges including bribery and grievous bodily harm, to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 2.62 million yuan (about 327,500 U.S. dollars).

Hu Yadong's younger brother, Hu Yafeng, was given a jail term of 19 years and an identical fine.

The court was told that the crime ring started operations in August 1996 when Hu Yadong hired several men to beat up Zhang Guoli, who was in charge of automobile maintenance at a local butchery. Zhang had incurred Hu's wrath by cutting back on the business he put through Hu's auto repair service. The gang hacked off half of Zhang's right ear.

Hu Yadong later bribed policemen and prison guards to get his men out of jail, and collaborated with Chang Yousheng to swindle money from swill cart drivers in the Gaoliying area.

The three police personnel were dealt with in separate cases, while Chang was sentenced to a jail term of six years.

Also convicted was Zhang Qiusheng, 43, a former lawyer with Jingji Law Firm in Beijing. Egged on by Hu Yadong, Zhang took 80,000 yuan from victims by promising them he could help them "buy their way out of prison". He received a jail sentence of five and a half years.

People's Daily Online

15 October 2006

B.C. Hells Angel challenges organized-crime label

A prominent member of the Hells Angels in B.C. has launched a constitutional challenge of the legislation that makes it illegal to be a member of a criminal organization. Rick Ciarniello, who often speaks on behalf of the Hells Angels in B.C., has applied in B.C. Supreme Court to have all the sections of the Criminal Code relating to the anti-organized-crime legislation quashed because they are vague and overly broad.

The case will be heard Monday in B.C. Supreme Court at the Vancouver Law Courts. Ciarniello, contacted Friday, said: "I'm not at liberty to say anything [about the case]." But he maintained that the motorcycle club is not a criminal organization.

Crown prosecutor Mark Levitz said Friday that Ciarniello is also claiming that his constitutional rights have been violated because of an Ontario Superior Court ruling that found the Hells Angels is a criminal organization. That ruling is under appeal. He said Ciarniello claims that the Ontario ruling unfairly tars him with being a member of a criminal organization just because he is a member of the Hells Angels in B.C.

If Ciarniello is successful in having the law ruled unconstitutional, it will be a major blow to law enforcement efforts to crack down on organized crime across Canada.

The Vancouver hearing, set for three days, will begin with the Crown arguing that the B.C. court should not hear Ciarniello's application because the proper forum is the Ontario courts, where Ciarniello could apply for intervenor status. "We say his complaint lies in the Ontario Court of Appeal," Levitz said in an interview. "We're trying to have his application summarily dismissed." The decision before the judge will be whether Ciarniello can bring his application before a B.C. court.

Representing Ciarniello in court will be two lawyers from Toronto, Alan Gold and Anil Kapoor, as well as Vancouver criminal defence lawyer Richard Fowler. The case comes at the same time that a number of Vancouver Hells Angels members are facing trial on drugs and weapons charges. One trial being heard at the Vancouver Law Courts involves Vancouver Hells Angels member Ronaldo Lising, who is accused of possession of methamphetamine (crystal meth) for the purposes of trafficking.

Lising was on bail for cocaine trafficking when he was arrested on the latest charges along with six other local Hells Angels members during a police sweep in 2005 that involved a police agent who infiltrated the Hells Angels.

Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, October 14, 2006

06 October 2006

Over 300 organised crime syndicates in SA: ISS

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) says more than 300 organised crime syndicates are working in South Africa and 10% of them specialise in cash-in-transit heists.

Johann Berger from the ISS says it is very optimistic of the police to say that they have dealt the cash-in-transit syndicates a major blow because there are too many gangs working and they have too much room to operate in. Berger says the South African intelligence community should primarily focus on these syndicates because they are a threat to national security. He says they need to expand their informer network, and they need a well co-ordinated effort to prosecute these gangs.

KwaZulu-Natal police are adamant that they have dealt the country's cash-in-transit syndicates a major blow. Twenty-five suspected gang members, including what police are calling heist kingpins, were arrested in the last few days. Police have been under pressure to deal with the increasing number of heists. Twenty-four of the men appeared in the Durban Magistrates Court today. They were charged with murder, attempted murder, hijacking and armed robbery. The men will appear in court again on November 6 for bail.

Simultaneous attacks near Hluhluwe
On Monday night, the gang carried out simultaneous attacks on two security cash vans near Hluhluwe. In one incident they managed to get away with cash. A police van arrived at the scene by chance and a shooot-out followed. In the other botched heist, the gang hijacked a car and abducted a 22-year-old woman. She was later found unharmed. The gang then drove past a security van. Shots were fired and a security guard died of his wounds later.

Police believe the gang regrouped in Richard's Bay where they changed cars. They were caught at the Umvoti toll plaza near Kwadukuza on Tuesday morning. Police recovered weapons and R700 000 of the R1 million believed stolen. Meanwhile, police are still searching for another gang who failed to rob a cash van in Hammarsdale between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Police are carrying out forensic tests on some of the vehicles the gang used.

October 05, 2006 SABC News

05 October 2006

Row erupts in Spain over treatment of Latin Kings

A meeting between a Madrid regional government official and members of a Latin American street gang has triggered a national debate over whether the gang members should be treated as a cultural association or as organised crime.

The row came to a head after members of the Latin Kings gang, which has been registered as a cultural association by the regional government of Catalonia, travelled to Madrid - where state prosecutors are trying to have them labelled as an organised crime gang - to meet the local youth ombudsman.

Madrid's regional government distanced itself from the meeting with the official. "We will never legalise groups like the Latin Kings, who have broken the law and are considered by the legal system to be part of organised crime," a spokesman said.
While members of gangs like the Latin Kings and the Ñetas make headlines for gang fights and murders and rapes in and around Madrid, their counterparts in the eastern region of Catalonia are being encouraged to hold meetings, play football and organise hip-hop concerts.

With their secret rites of passage, strange codes, titles like king and queen and their insistence that their members around the world form a "nation", the Latin American gangs are an alien phenomenon for Spain. News of fights and murders has made Spaniards nervous of the baggy-trousered, baseball cap-wearing boys and the heavily made-up girls who hang out together in parks and squares. "Groups like the Latin Kings and the Ñetas are thugs and delinquents," two Spanish journalists, Santiago Botello and Angel Moya, wrote in a book about them.

A variety of groups use the same names, explaining why Latin Kings in Madrid are involved in court cases accused of murders, kidnappings and rapes, while Latin Kings in Catalonia claim to have no contact with crime. "There are few groups of criminals, but that does not mean that all the young people who adopt a certain form of dress or musical taste should be criminalised," said Erika Jaramillo, alias Queen Melody, an Ecuadorian immigrant.

"The Latin Kings are not a crime group," an anthropologist, Carles Feixa, who has helped the Socialist-run Catalan government to legalise the group, told El País. "It is an organisation for help and solidarity among young Latin American immigrants."

Authorities in the Catalan capital of Barcelona believe that fewer than half the 600 people in the city who consider themselves to be Latin Kings - including some in jail - have signed up to join the newly legal group. The groups, who have their origins in such countries as Ecuador and Peru, have described themselves as a "Latino" self-defence force, willing to use violence to defend their own people.

Their critics allege that male gang members claim "ownership" of female members. "Once you become a Latin Queen the only way out is death," one former member was told. The Latin Kings have allegedly been involved in four murders in Madrid, while only one has been registered in Barcelona. Barcelona is now trying to follow a US initiative, brokering "peace" agreements between rival gangs.


The Latin Kings were founded by Puerto Ricans in Chicago in the 1940s. By the 1970s they had spread across the US and were involved in organised crime, especially drug trafficking. The organisation has also spread through Mexico and Latin America. The Ñetas were created in a Puerto Rican prison in the 1970s. They spread to the east coast of the US in the 1980s, where they were once led by a woman known as La Madrina. Mara Salvatrucha started in Los Angeles among immigrants fleeing the war in El Salvador in the 1980s. Members have tattoos in Gothic lettering. "MS" and "13" are the most popular tattoos.

Thursday October 5, 2006
The Guardian