Russian Mafia Leads Among Top 10 Criminal Organizations

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Mafia has named the Russian mafia as the leading criminal organization in the world followed by the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, the biggest of Japan's Yakuza crime clans.

Ian Brandes of the Daily Record points out that the Russian mafia is involved in everything from stolen art to nuclear technology and that they often "leave rivals riddled with bullets in the streets of Moscow."

Moscow's Solntsevskaya Bratva, known as the Brotherhood, have just been named the worst criminal gang in the world in a major survey.

And the planet's most famous mobsters, the "Five Families" of the New YorkMafia, barely scrape into the top 10, Brandes points out.

Up-and-coming mobster Syergyej Mihajlov 'Mikhas' and a fellow gangster, Viktor Averin formed the organization in the mid-80s. They choose to ignore the codes and guidelines of the traditional thieves in law and based themselves on a more Western style, with Mikhas preferring to call himself a 'businessman' rather than a vor. However, strict discipline was still enforced and thieves in law were not excluded from the groups activities.

Eventually, gangs under the control of the syndicate controlled virtually the entire south-west of the city. The organization also merged with the influential Orekhovskaya gang, led by thief-in-law Syergyej Timofeyev. The union was partly a result of fear of warfare with Chechen mafia groups and other "southerners".

In 1989-1990, the arrests of several gang leaders including Mikhaylov crippled the organization. Several high ranking gangsters tried to form their own separate crews but ended up being murdered, including Alexander Bezuvkin (killed 1990), Dima Sharapov, Valera Merin, "Edik the Fridge", Uzbek Lenya and Abramov "Dispatcher" (all killed in 1993). In 1994 a meeting of mafia bosses was held in Vienna, shortly after which Timofeyev was murdered when a bomb in his car went off near the house of the then Russian prime minister. Timofeyev's heir to the leadership of Orekhovskaya, Igor "Max" Maksimov, was killed in February of 1995. However despite all the killings, by 1996 the bratva not only regained their strength lost in the early 90's but had actually become one of the most powerful criminal organizations in Russia. Mikhaylov used Timofeyev's death as an opportunity to take control of businesses previously owned by the Orekhovskaya organization. By the end of 1995, it was estimated the Solntsevskaya group controlled about 120 legitimate firms and businesses in the Moscow, Crimea and Samara regions. They also bought many businesses abroad.

In 1993, the members of the organization met with another powerful crime boss, Semion Mogilevich, to trade in art and antiques stolen from churches and museums in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 1996 Mikhaylov was arrested in Switzerland on a variety of charges. However as he sat in prison awaiting trail and the prosecutors were building their case, a number of key witnesses turned up dead and due to the lack of evidence provided by Russian authorities, a conviction was not possible. He remains free and the boss of the organization today.

In 1997 and 1998, the presence of Mikhailov, Semion Mogilevich and others associated with the Russian Mafia behind a public company, YBM Magnex International Inc., trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, was exposed by Canadian journalists. On May 13, 1998 dozens of agents for the FBI and several other U.S. government agencies raided YBM's headquarters in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Shares in the public company, which had been valued at $1 billion on the TSE, became worthless overnight. Years later, (in 2003), Mogilevich and YBM associates, but not Mikhailov, would be placed on the FBI's "Most Wanted" List in connection with the scheme.

As of 1998, the Solntsevskaya gang contains around 5,000 members.

The Brotherhood maintains relationships with many legitimate businesses, offering these groups 'protection' the gang also assist the businesses when it comes to not-so-legal matters.

A 2003 report for the US Library of Congress revealed that the organization had a presence in Mexico and was working with local drug cartels as well as being involved in money laundering, prostitution, credit card fraud, human trafficking, arms deals and other illegal activity.

Anyone who threatens the Brotherhood's business tends to end up dead.

Former FBI agent Bob Levinson says the Russian Mafia are "the most dangerous people on earth".

No 2 in the gangland top 10 are the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, based in the city of Kobe and run by mastermind Shinobu Tsusaka.

The 40,000- strong Yamaguchi-gumi are among the world's wealthiest gangsters, bringing in billions of dollars a year from extortion, gambling, the sex industry, guns, drugs, and real estate and construction kickback schemes. They are also involved in stock market manipulation and Internet pornography.

Third place in the poll goes to an Italian Mafia gang - but not the Sicilian Cosa Nostra or the Camorra of Naples.

The little-known "'Ndrangheta", based in the southern district of Calabria, have ties to Colombian drug barons.

Some believe they are responsible for 80 per cent of Europe's cocaine trade.

While other Mafia gangs have been crippled by informers, the 'Ndrangheta have kept their vows of silence because the mob is built on close family ties.

Most gangs only care about cash. But the fourth mob on the list, India's D Company, have sinister ties to Islamic terror, according to Brandes. Boss of bosses Dawood Ibrahim masterminded a wave of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993.

Top 10 criminal organizations according to the study were as follows:

1 Solntsevskaya Bratva

2 Yamaguchi-gumi

3 'Ndrangheta

4 D Company

5 14K

6 Sicilian Mafia

7 Dai Huen Jai

8 Tijuana Cartel

9 United Bamboo

10 The US Mafia 'The Five Families'

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