On June 9, 2000, the popular Vancouver radio program CKNW in Canada had a one-hour interview with author Robert I. Friedman. He was promoting his new book, "Red Mafiya: How The Russian Mob Has Invaded America."
He described how the Jewish Mafia ballooned in Brighton Beach, New York during the 1970s and 1980s when leaders such as Andropov were emptying the prisons in USSR of Russian Jewish criminals who then emigrated to Brighton Beach in America.
Later, the extortion rackets expanded into multi-billion dollar operations into other cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, when they teamed up with the Russian Mafia.
Friedman gave examples of the Mob's ties to sports (10 players in the NHL including Pavel Bure, Fetisov, etc.; Joe Namath and his New York restaurant which was frequented by the Mafia) and politicians including Robert Kaplan, Canada's former cabinet minister responsible for CSIS and the RCMP, Paul Martin, Canada's cabinet finance minister, etc. Money laundering examples included TSEs YBM Magnex and Bank of New York.
And there was the "Money Plane" operation, with regular almost daily flights leaving New York for Moscow with sometimes $1 billion payloads in new $100 Federal Reserve notes arranged by the Republic National Bank. In Moscow, the billions are deposited in the Russian Central Bank for further distribution to the Russian Mafia -controlled banks.
Friedman agrees that the money benefits the Russian Mafia and not the general population. He also named Mafia names, familiar ones being Mogilevich, Ivankov, Sliva, Elson, Sigalov, etc. and described how the Russian Mafia placed a hit contract on his life. Friedman is one brave and excellent investigative journalist.
Below is an excerpt from his Red Mafiya book (available at amazon.com and chapters.com) dealing with the Russian Mafia in Israel. Friedman's article "The Most Dangerous Mobster in the World" is available at: http://ukar.org/friedm01.shtml
Red Mafiya: How The Russian Mob Has Invaded America
By Robert I. Friedman
Of all the nations where the Russian mob has established a presence, none has been more deeply compromised than the State of Israel, America's staunchest ally in the volatile Middle East. More than 800,000 Russian Jews have made aliyah or settled in Israel since the first massive wave of immigration in the 1970s. The Russians took advantage of Israel's most sacred law--the Right of Return, which guarantees Jews the right to return to their ancestral home land, where they would receive citizenship and live as free men and women outside the odious yoke of anti-Semitism. "The Russians are a blessing," said Israel's top political columnist Nachum Barnea, who stands in public awe of their brilliant intellectual gifts in a variety of fields.
But just as in Brighton Beach, Russian immigration to Israel has brought a more unwelcome element--the vor v zakonye and their criminal minions. Ten percent of Israel's five million Jews are now Russian, and 10 percent of the Russian population "is criminal," according to NYPD notes of a briefing in Manhattan by Israeli police intelligence official Brigadier General Dan Ohad.
"There is not a major Russian organized crime figure who we are tracking who does not also carry an Israeli passport," says senior State Department official Jonathan Winer. He put the number at seventy-five, among whom are Mogilevich, Loutchansky, Rabinovich, and Kobzon.
Many of the mobsters who have Israeli citizenship, such as Eduard Ivankov and Sergei Mikhailov, are not even Jewish. In the mid-1990s, an Israeli police sting-- code-named Operation Romance--netted, among others, a high-ranking Interior Ministry official who was taking payoffs from Mikhailov and convicted KGB spy Shabtai Kalmanovitch to issue passports to dozens of Russian gangsters, according to Brigadier General Hezi Leder, the Israeli police attache in Washington, and classified FBI documents. (Kalmanovitch, after serving time in an Israeli prison for treason, became one of Moscow's most notorious mobsters and frequently returns to Israel.)
Russia's criminal aristocracy covets Israeli citizenship "because they know Israel is a safe haven for them," said Leder. "We do not extradite citizens."
"The Russians then use the safe haven to travel around the world and rape and pillage," added Moody.
The country has also remained attractive to gangsters because "Israel is good for money laundering," explained Leder. Under Israeli law, banks can accept large cash deposits with no questions asked. In one instance, a corrupt ex-deputy prime minister of Ukraine smuggled $300 million of illicit cash into Israel in several suitcases, and deposited it into a bank, as Israeli Minister of National Security Moshe Shahal told a gathering of intelligence heads in June 1996. "I've watched Russian mobsters exchange suitcases full of cash out in the open at the Dan Hotel's swimming pool," laughed an American underworld crime figure. "Israel is a country that encourages people to come and invest money," said Leder. "There is no mechanism to check the origin of the money."
Israeli police officials estimate that Russian mobsters have poured more than $4 billion of dirty money into Israel's economy, though some estimates range as high as $20 billion. They have purchased factories, insurance companies, and a bank. They tried to buy the now defunct, pro-labor Party Davar daily newspaper, and the pro-Likud Maariv, the nation's second largest newspaper. They have even put together a koopa, or a pool of money, for bribes and other forms of mutual support. One of Leder's greatest fears is that the Russians will compromise Israel's security by buying companies that work for the military-industrial complex. The mobsters, in fact, attempted to purchase a gas and oil company that maintains strategic reserves for Israel's military. "They could go to the stock market and buy a company that's running communications in the military sector," he complains.
Insinuating themselves throughout the country, Russian dens have bought large parcels of impoverished development towns, taking over everything from local charities to the town hall. For instance, Gregory Lerner, a major Russian crime boss who arrived in Israel with huge amounts of money, allegedly owns everything from fashionable restaurants to parts of several port city waterfronts.
"Do you know what Gregory Lerner did in Ashkelon!" Leder asked me during an interview in New York. "His mother was three times in the hospital there. He bought new medical equipment and dedicated it to his mother! It's the way the mobsters wash their name." They do so, he explains, in order to build up grassroots support and openly influence politicians -- or even run for elective office. Leder worries that one day three or four Russian gangsters who have bought their legitimacy will win Knesset seats, take over a key committee, and be in an ideal position to stop an important piece of anti-crime legislation, such as a proposed bill to criminalize money laundering.
One of Leder's worst fears came true when Russian gangsters handpicked several candidates to run for local and national offices, according to the minutes of a classified Israeli cabinet meeting held by the Committee of the Controller in June 1996. And in May 1997, Israeli police launched a probe into allegations that Lerner attempted to bribe former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, among other Knesset members and cabinet ministers. The investigation was inconclusive, however, and no charges were filed.*
*Succumbing to persistent pressure from the Russian government, the Israeli police finally arrested Lerner in May 1997 as he was about to board a flight to the United States. He was charged with attempted bribery, defrauding four Russian banks of $106 million, and attempting to set up a bank in Israel to launder money for the Russian Mafiya. Lerner pleaded guilty to bank fraud and bribing government officials on March 22, 1998, after having fiercely maintained for months that he was a victim of an Israeli government plot to discredit Russian emigre entrepreneurs.
One politician already ensnared in the web of organized crime is Russian-born Natan Sharansky, the head of the Russian Yisrael Ba-Aliya and minister of the interior in the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Because of his resistance to the Soviet regime and his strong and open identification with Judaism, he suffered a long, brutal confinement in the Gulag before international pressure led to his release. In Israel, the charismatic dissident was lionized by the Jewish people, and he became a power broker for the large and growing Russian emigre community, whom he helped integrate into a rigid society that sometimes seemed jealous of the talented new Russians.
However, Sharansky has publicly admitted that his party has accepted campaign contributions from NORDEX president Grigori Loutchansky. Officials from the U.S. Congress, the State Department, and the CIA pleaded with Sharansky to sever his ties to Loutchansky. "We told Sharansky to stop taking money from Loutchansky," says Winer. "We told him about [Loutchansky's] MO: bribery, influence peddling, that he was a bridge between foreign governments and traditional organized crime."
Sharansky simply refused, arguing that he needed the money to resettle the tidal wave of Russian emigres. "When we warned Sharansky," says the congressional investigator, "to stop taking money from Loutchansky, he said, 'But where am I going to put them,"' referring to the huge influx of Russian Jewish refugees. "'How am I going to feed them! Find them jobs!"' He figures Loutchansky is just another source of income.
"Sharansky is very shrewd," the congressional investigator continued. "He knows better. It was a cynical [decision]. He did take money. Then he asked, 'Why shouldn't I!' The CIA warned him that Loutchansky was trying to buy influence through him and his party for [the] Russian Organized Crime/Russian government combine. We told Sharansky that Loutchansky is a major crook." (Sharansky declined to comment.)
Ignoring all the warnings, Sharansky introduced Loutchansky to Benjamin Netanyahu prior to Israel's 1996 national elections. The Israeli press reported that Netanyahu received $1.5 million, in campaign contributions from Loutchansky, a charge the prime minister hotly denied. "The Likud is corrupt, and Bibi [Netanyahu] is disgusting," says Winer. "He's had meetings with Loutchansky and Kobzon -- criminals promoting their own interests."
Kobzon's influence in Israel may exceed that of even Loutchansky and Mogilevich. "Kobzon has big [political] connections in Israel," says Leder. For instance, in January 1996, Kobzon was detained upon his arrival at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport "because of his ties to the Russian Mafiya, " Labor Party Knesset member Moshe Shahal said in his cramped Knesset office in Jerusalem. Shahal, at the time the country's security minister, intended to send the mobster back to Russia, but then the phones started ringing in the chambers of high government ministries. Kobzon's friends in Israel petitioned the minister of the interior, the minister of transportation, and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who finally ordered the airport police to free Kobzon and let him enter the country. Peres, who was being pressed by the Russian ambassador, told Shahal that he relented to avoid a messy incident with the Russian government. (The following year, Kobzon flew to Israel in his private jet to pick up Marat Balagula's eldest daughter, who lives in Netanya, to bring her back to Moscow to celebrate his sixtieth birthday.)
With two decades of unimpeded growth, the Russian Mafiya has succeeded in turning Israel into its very own "mini-state," in which it operates with virtual impunity. Although many in international law enforcement believe that Israel is by now so compromised that its future as a nation is imperiled, its government, inexplicably, has done almost nothing to combat the problem. In June 1996 Leder, then chief of Israeli police intelligence, prepared a three-page classified intelligence assessment that concluded: "Russian organized groups [had] become a strategic threat" to Israel's existence. He documented how they were infiltrating the nation's business, financial, and political communities. Shahal used the report to brief Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Shin Bet, Israel's FBI, and Mossad, and provided his own recommendations on how to uproot the Russian mob. Before Rabin had a chance to act on the Plan he was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish religious zealot in Tel Aviv following a peace rally. Shimon Peres subsequently set up an intra-agency intelligence committee on the Russian mob after reading Leder's report, but did little else. Leder's report was shelved by Netanyahu, according to Shahal.
"Israel is going to have to do something," says James Moody. "They could lose their whole country. The mob is a bigger threat than the Arabs."
Leder agrees: "We know how to deal with terrorist organizations. We know how to deal with external threats. This is a social threat. We as a society don't know how to handle it. It's an enemy among us."
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