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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

RUSSIA: The government-criminal alliance The fight against organized crime is inseparably linked to the question of high-level government corruption. When a corrupt government forms an alliance with organized crime, domestic law- enforcement agencies become cops on the beat -- chasing down muggers and pickpockets -- while aiding, and benefiting from, major criminal activity. Only when the government/criminal alliance is destroyed can the rule of law return. In the former USSR such a situation exists today. The examples are numerous and brazen: The head of the department in charge of battling corruption at the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) recently fled abroad, fearing arrest for selling protection to criminal groups. The head of the Ukrainian MVD was fired by the president, both of whom are suspected of complicity in the murder of a journalist. Members of parliament in Georgia have demanded the resignation of the interior minister and the prosecutor-general for corruption. A Korean businessman recently confessed to having given the president of Kazakhstan a bribe of $10 million. Can the criminal/government alliance in the former USSR be defeated, and if so, by whom? In the past four years the only serious prosecution of corrupt officials from Ukraine has been undertaken by Western governments. The United States is preparing to try former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko on charges of money laundering and mail fraud. Lazarenko has already been convicted on money-laundering charges in Switzerland. Belgium is continuing its investigation of the activities of Oleksandr Volkov, a close adviser to President Leonid Kuchma. Germany has put on trial Viktor Zherdytsky, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, and Ihor Didenko, a former senior official of the Ukrainian state gas-trading company, Naftogas Ukraina, on charges of stealing millions of dollars from a fund established to compensate former "Ostarbeiters" (workers from the East) who were in fact slave laborers for the Nazi regime. The Italian police in Turin arrested a group of Ukrainians for smuggling vast quantities of arms to Croatia during the UN embargo in 1993. At the time of their arrest in 2001, one of the arrested suspects, Leonid Minin, had in his possession $500,000 worth of uncut diamonds and numerous forged end-user certificates for illegal arms sales to Liberia (see below). An alleged co-conspirator, Oleksandr Zhukov, was also arrested. He is the president of Syntez Holdings in Odesa, which controls the Marine Transport Bank which in turn holds on deposit most of the Odesa city budget´s money. Yet Ukrainian law-enforcement agencies remain strangely paralyzed when it comes to bringing Ukrainian criminals to trial. The situation in Russia is better, but not by much. Pavel Borodin, the secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, was arrested and held in jail in New York until his release on bail. He is also being investigated in Switzerland on charges of fraud and taking kickbacks. The Russian authorities issue periodic arrest warrants for Boris Berezovsky, yet are unable or unwilling to detain him. The Russian MVD seems to be hopelessly mired in endless corruption scandals; there are fears that its former minister and the current national security adviser, Vladimir Rushaylo, is deeply involved in the corruption of his former subordinates. Georgia has been caught up in a never-ending crisis of corruption and graft that has implicated the top leadership in the country and could point to the country´s president, Eduard Shevardnadze. The Central Asian states are in a class by themselves when it comes to top-down corruption. Can it be cleaned up? A reasonable proposition for the West to consider is that, in order to defend its own interests, it might have to undertake this enormous task by itself -- without substantial help from existing law-enforcement agencies in these countries. Past experience has shown that when the West is forceful in its demand that practices such as money laundering cease, then action is taken. Related laws were passed in Russia largely because the United States demanded that this be done or sanctions would be applied. The same is true of laws aimed at defending intellectual property. And while the mere passage of laws in these countries is no guarantee that such illegal activities will end, it is an important beginning. The existing situation is such that internal ministries (law- enforcement bodies) of the former Soviet Republics are unreliable and highly corrupt. The intelligence services have been transformed into private investigative organizations for the leadership and their friends. Parliaments are too corrupt to pass necessary laws and provide oversight. Vote-buying remains a common practice in the Ukrainian, Latvian, and other parliaments while their members remain immune from prosecution. Western intervention in domestic legislation and law enforcement in the former USSR is an unavoidable consequence of the government/criminal alliance in those societies. It is no wonder that recently democratic opposition organizations have appealed to the FBI to help solve domestic crimes in their countries, while others have turned to the Council of Europe to create special investigative bodies to look into such cases as the murder of Heorhiy Gongadze in Ukraine. Does the democratic West have the wherewithal and the legal and moral right to police the former USSR? With no alternative in sight, this might be the only method left for establishing the rule of law in those countries. Radio Free Europe , November 16, 2001

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