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OCCRP Weekly News Roundup

Monday, 18 June 2012 16:26
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Russian Tit for Tat

Rightfully so, media outlets have written extensively about Moscow authorities’ decision to search the homes of several key Russian opposition figures before Tuesday’s large rally. Allegedly, the search was in connection to clashes between activists and riot police on May 6.

Of course, the Russian Investigation Committee couldn’t miss searching the home of firebrand blogger, Alexei Navalny, who labeled the ruling party, United Russia, a “party of crooks and thieves.”

Russian authorities are fighting Navalny not only at his home, but on his other turf – the internet. Members of the ruling party are planning to create a website where United Russia members can register their dissatisfaction with remarks made by Navalny. The website’s intention is to sue Navalny; if all members were to sign, the lawsuit could exceed US$1.8 billion.

Surprisingly, some Russian businessmen – not traditionally allied with the opposition – are joining forces with Navalny.

A group of prominent Russian businessman have taken a stand against corruption by funding an organization that will tackle corruption in government procurement. Navalny manages the fund, which so far has received donations of 10,000 USD each from 11 businessmen.

The organization will use the money to pay for lawyers who work on uncovering corruption.

An Opportunity Perhaps Not Completely Squandered

Some have called it a lost opportunity for Ukraine.

“Euro 2012 is definitely a chance for Ukraine to improve its international image,” Liza Ermolenko, emerging-markets analyst at London-based Capital Economics Ltd., said June 1. “Unfortunately, it looks more likely that the exact opposite will happen.”

Some politicians bemoan the fact that Ukraine is co-hosting the Euro 2012 football championship in the face of charges of corruption, racism and the continued imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

But an ABS-CBN news report points to the good: the Euro 2012 has provided a platform for some Ukrainian individuals to air grievances.

On Sunday, a group of nuns took to the streets to protest what some posters said is the city authorities’ desire to “destroy” their chapel, while Ukrainian language purists marched without retaliation. Banners in support of the opposition that back Yulia Tymoshenko sailed through the air.

Ukrainians have grievances, and it’s unlikely the current government is going to crackdown while in the world’s spotlight. Time will tell if such activism, and attention, will continue after the tournament.

But if the situation prior to Euro 2012 is s any sign, it’s not time for optimism yet.

Organized Crime from the Hood (of a car)

Romanian authorities captured this video of Romanian gonzo thieves in a fit of madcap audacity akin to something Hollywood would only attempt with CGI.

At a high speed and in darkness, a thief tried to enter the back hatch of a moving commercial truck from the hood of his colleague’s car. Another colleague, fitted through the car’s sunroof, held his legs.

Leaders of the group allegedly include members of the Santer Porumbita family and Danut Ion, previously associated with the notorious Camataru brothers organized crime group. On Tuesday, Romanian authorities searched 21 locations in connection with the group’s stunts, which allegedly resulted in over €300,000 in stolen merchandise.

Bulgarian Busts

And some more promising news:

According to information from the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, the country’s special forces received a positive evaluation in drug proliferation and drug trafficking from Brian Nichols, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.

These on the heels of an operation earlier this week where Bulgarian authorities helped confiscate over 40 kilograms of heroin en route to the Austrian Market. The operation was a joint operation with Austrian and Romanian authorities that culminated with arrests in Romania. According to reports, Bulgarian authorities deliberately let the drugs move through their country in order to fully document the drug traffickers’ scheme.

And earlier in the week, not related to drugs but still a coup for Bulgarian authorities, three members of a transnational crime ring that specialized in money laundering, human trafficking and sexual exploitation were arrested In Bulgaria. Others in the network were arrested in France and Belgium.

Police in Belgium, France, Poland, Bulgaria, Eurojust and Europol collaborated on the effort.

"Young women were recruited in Bulgaria for the purpose of sexual exploitation in several European countries including Belgium and France," the agencies said, explaining that proceeds from the gang's activities were sent back to Bulgaria and "invested".

We can only imagine what kind of “investments” a crime ring would make.

 

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