Date: 08 July, 2012
Time: 13:16 Emirate time
Russian mafia and FSB are one and the same
[3 April 2012 , 02:16]
Reuters reports from London about the Russian mafia. It writes in particular:
"Moscow says there is no such thing as Russian mafia in London, rejecting talk of a criminal underbelly as a media-fuelled exaggeration.
Some Russians in London, however, painted a different picture, a network of clandestine crime syndicates engaged in electronic fraud, money laundering or commercial espionage.
"The Russian mafia does exist here. But it's invisible", said one insider, gazing at London's shimmering evening skyline from a bar on the top floor of a luxury hotel in the upscale Mayfair area.
"A friend of mine lived here, from a mafia family. They lived in a house in Kensington. They never went to Russian parties and kept a low profile. They tried to be respectable".
Observers were also swift to draw parallels between the Canary Wharf shooting and the murder in London of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko who died in 2006 after drinking tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210.
From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused an assassin on the payroll of Moscow (in the first place, he accused personally and directly Putin - KC) of carrying out the attack, a charge denied by the Kremlin.
"My personal experience and that of Sasha Litvinenko shows that criminals with tremendous power are of course able to kill people (anywhere)", said Boris Berezovsky, one of the most prominent Russian figures living in exile in London.
"There have been several attempts to murder me... I think I am only alive thanks to the protection (of the British security forces)", said the former Kremlin insider who left Moscow after falling out with Vladimir Putin.
Leaked secret diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Moscow once described Russia as a "virtual mafia state".
According to the American assessment, the government and organized crime are bound closely together in Russia, a description dismissed as nonsense by Moscow. In Soviet times, too, criminal syndicates were believed to run the black market in tandem with corrupt government officials.
With Putin now set for another six years as president, many fear the Kremlin will further tighten the screws, possibly leading to more capital outflows and a flood of asylum seekers.
William Browder, once a big investor in Russia who accuses officials there of stealing his firms and killing his lawyer, agreed. He fled Moscow in 2010.
"The Russian mafia now and the Russian government security services are one and the same", he said in London. "Any place where there are lots of Russians will attract the security services to carry out their dirty business outside of Russia".
Browder, whose grandfather was the general secretary of the American Communist Party, used to have $ 4 billion invested in Russia through his Hermitage Fund investment company.
One of his lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, died in jail from what Browder said was torture, a case which has drawn condemnation from Western powers. Dmitry Medvedev, due to hand presidential power back to Putin formally in May, once famously described it as "very sad".
"We have received 11 death threats in the last two years coming from Russia after we started this campaign for justice for Sergei Magnitsky", said Browder, adding, however, that he felt safe in London under the protection of British police.
"In my case, if I were to travel back to Russia I'd be arrested and tortured and killed in prison", he said.
Scotland Yard, the London police headquarters, declined to provide details of protection for those at risk, saying it was treating the attack on Gorbuntsov as an isolated case. When asked to elaborate, a spokeswoman said: "We haven't got anything to add in connection ... to the wider Russian community".
The Russian embassy in London said there had been no registered cases of murders of Russian citizens in Britain in the past five years. "There are only six people with confirmed Russian citizenship in British jails", said a spokesman.
In past years, a generation of Russian businessmen has gravitated towards London, seeking respectability after a lifetime of backstabbing and bending rules at home.
Some still keep up their guard in Britain, appearing in public flanked by bodyguards who wait outside as their employers dine in fine London restaurants. Children turn up to school with security guards, much to the amusement of their classmates.
"What this incident (Gorbuntsov) shows is that it's a necessary policy for the British government to restrict the travel of Russian criminals here", said Browder. "We don't want them shooting and killing on our streets".
Infuriating the Kremlin, London Russians have turned increasingly vocal in their attacks on Putin's rule. The presence of some figures such as Berezovsky has contributed to a sharp deterioration in relations between Russia and Britain.
"With Putin back in the Kremlin ... I am convinced we will soon hear about new prominent political asylum seekers", said Andrei Sidelnikov, a London-based opposition activist.
"The fact that Britain doesn't extradite people certainly irritates Putin ... They can only remove people physically and put pressure on family members and friends who stayed behind".
In a curious reflection of the current mood, a rock concert by visiting Russian singer Yuri Shevchuk, a rallying figure for the opposition, attracted thousands of Russians when he played in London in March.
"When the oil runs out, our president will die!" he shouted from the stage during one song. The crowd roared their approval.
Berezovsky himself was once a Putin protégé and confidant. In a twist similar to many other authoritarian nations, the tables have since turned abruptly, and the billionaire is now a fierce critic of Putin's rule.
Yet, the majority of Russians in London - employees in the financial sector, skilled professionals, students and laborers - live far from the intrigue-ridden world of Kremlinology.
"Many people have assimilated and have a British outlook now", said Boris Gofman, who runs the oldest Russian shop in London selling imported groceries to a nostalgic clientele.
Meanwhile, London's Daily Mail reported that Scotland Yard has renewed its criminal collaboration with Russian mafia police gangs, which had been interrupted and not resumed after the Russian nuclear attack on London, carried out by Putin on November 1, 2006 to kill fugitive FSB colonel Litvinenko.
Now London police, together with the Putin's mafia gangs, is investigating recent attempt on a major Putin's crook and thief "banker" in London, a certain Gorbuntsov.
A member of the Russian mafia Gorbuntsov was shot by an unknown rival in a parking lot, he fell into coma at first, but soon came out of it, and will cheat and steal again.
Department of Monitoring
 photo from article