Thursday, February 23, 2006

Crime and politics

On 31st January 2006 the Russian Ministry of the Interior website ran a story including the following:

<<The bloodiest Ukrainian gang traced in Moscow

The [Russian] Ministry of the Interior announced yesterday that it had apprehended members of the bloodiest and the most powerful Ukrainian gang, called "Donetsk Brigade", in Moscow over the weekend. This sting operation came after a two-year Russian - Ukrainian investigation that tried to eradicate the gang led by Georgian mafia boss Givi Nemsadze, a.k.a. Papa (Dad) and Givchick. According to Ukrainian security services, members of the "brigade" are responsible for at least 50 [un]solved[?] contract murders. And its leaders controlled about 200 major businesses at a time.>>

Until now Ukrainian media have not really picked up this story, but today the weekly 'Bez Tsenzury' have a big front-page spread entitled 'Gangs of Dontesk' with lots more on 'Givchick' and his gang. They make Scorsese's 'Goodfellas' look like 'Wallace and Gromit'.

According to the Ministry of the Interior 'top banana' in the Donetsk oblast, the members of the gang are suspected of having close links with state officials "of the highest rank," with parliamentary deputies, with candidates up for election to the new parliament, and, in particular, according to unofficial sources, with Rinat Akmetov.

Last year RFE/RL ran this: "Special-task force Berkut and an armored personnel carrier were involved in a search of the Donetsk-based firm Lyuks belonging to Ukrainian oligarch Rynat Akhmetov on 16 August, Ukrainain media reported. In July, Akhmetov failed to appear for questioning as a witness in a case related to a shooting in Donetsk in 1988. Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko suggested that Akhmetov may be arrested if he continues to evade investigators. Akhmetov is reportedly vacationing abroad."

The 'Bez Tsenzury' piece suggests that the Russian authorities are in no hurry to agree to Ukraine's request for their extradition, because they have in their hands a wonderful source of 'kompromat' which could be used as leverage on Akmetov and Yanukovych when [if] they come to power after the March 26th elections. Ex-minister for emergency situations Davyd Zhvaniya had already announced that Akhmetov had sold off a portion of his business empire to Russians. This may have been precipitated by blackmail threats from the Kremlin.

Givi Nemsadze, it seems was associated in the early '90's with a notorious Donetsk gang - the "Lyuks" gang. Curiously, the Partiya Regioniv VR election list includes at #66, a driver for a Lyuks Ltd, and at #84 the Lyuks Ltd General Director.

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