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OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 7th, 2009, 2:23 am

Ex-cop links Labor with mafia
Natalie O'Brien | February 07, 2009

A FORMER top crime-fighter blames federal Labor figures and police for allowing the Italian mafia to flourish in Australia.

According to former NSW assistant police commissioner Clive Small, the Calabrian organised crime group known as the 'Ndrangheta now poses more of a threat than ever before.

The claims are made in a new tell-all book by Small, who is famous for locking up backpacker murderer Ivan Milat.

He says the nation's most powerful law enforcement agency, the Australian Crime Commission, has not even admitted the Italian mafia exists.

"The Calabrian mafia is a more serious problem now than ever before in Australia and that coincides with its growth internationally," Small told The Weekend Australian.

"Governments and all political parties now need to decide whether they do something about this or try and just shoot the messenger."

Small's book, Smack Express: How Organised Crime Got Hooked On Drugs, co-written with author Tom Gilling, has been used as a source for the coming Underbelly 2 series, which starts on Monday and is set in the 1970s when the Mr Asia crime syndicate moved from importing marijuana to heroin.

The book recounts how the mafia has been involved in more than 40 murders, including that of anti-drugs campaigner Donald McKay in Griffith in the 1970s.

Several of the victims were mafia rollover figures.

Small said there was a longstanding connection between the Calabrian mafia and the Labor Party that went back to the 1960s and included the late federal MP Al Grassby.

Grassby was one of the most colourful and controversial figures in 1970s politics. He was immigration minister in the Whitlam government from 1972 to 1974 and was credited with introducing the policy of multiculturalism to Australia. But he has long been accused of having had links to the Calabrian mafia, which, it was claimed, funded his election campaigns.

After his death in 2005, former National Crime Authority investigator Bruce Provost revealed that Grassby had used political pressure to stop an investigation of his mafia links.

"People in the community should be concerned about the appropriateness of these relationships, which require thorough investigation and transparency," Mr Provost said.

Smack Express reveals new facts about the 1984 attempted murder of NSW Detective Michael Drury, who had refused a bribe from corrupt detective Roger Rogerson.

Small was one of the officers instrumental in uncovering Rogerson's role in the attempted murder of Drury.

Rogerson told The Weekend Australian yesterday that he would not be buying a copy of the book. "I hate that man -- with a passion," Rogerson said. "I never met anyone who was more ambitious than Clive."

Small said the book showed that one of the most pressing issues facing crime-fighters today was the continuing growth of the Calabrian mafia.

He said the Australian Federal Police had dropped the ball when it came to organised crime and that the ACC's biggest investigations focused on tax fraud and its role in the intervention in Aboriginal communities.

"The extent of the mafia's activities are reflected in the fact that, despite some huge seizures, there has been no signs of a shortage in the drug market."

Small was one of the most experienced police officers in NSW. He had an almost 40-year career with the NSW police force.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/st ... 84,00.html

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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 7th, 2009, 2:25 am

Italy: All in the family
February 5, 2009

As organized crime networks in southern Italy evolve into a less penetrable and more family-based structures, the best hope for defeating them may be improving the region's standard of living, writes Eric J Lyman for ISN Security Watch.

By Eric J Lyman in Rome for ISN Security Watch


For more than a generation, Italy's strategy for confronting organized crime in the country's poorer southern regions has revolved around infiltrating the ranks of the various groups and cultivating informers from among existing members. But recent data shows that it is a tactic that has begun to lose its effectiveness.

Italian law enforcement has in recent years captured several high-level mob bosses, and the number of jailed organized crime figures continues to grow. Local businesses in many crime-ridden areas have taken the bold step of refusing to pay protection money - the pizzo - that has bled them dry for decades, while polls show that a weary public has historically low tolerance for crime groups.

But new statistics show that despite all that, the five major Italian crime organizations - the high-profile Sicilian Mafia and the Camorra in Naples, the enigmatic 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, the smaller Sacra Corona Unita in Apulia, and Basilicata's upstart Basilischi - are enjoying unprecedented levels of economic success even as the Italian economy slows to a crawl.

According to the think tank Eurispes, organized crime in Italy last year took in a staggering €126 billion (US$161 billion) - equivalent to nearly a tenth of Italy's gross domestic product and 40 percent more than the €90 billion they took in the previous year.

"By almost any measure, it was a banner year for these organizations," Gian Maria Fara, the president of Eurispes, told ISN Security Watch.

Almost half of the total amount (€59 billion) comes from drug trafficking, but protection fees, prostitution, extortion and arms trafficking are all major sources of income. None of this is too surprising. But what may be startling is that the strongest and healthiest of all the organizations is Calabria's 'Ndrangheta.

With a difficult-to-pronounce name said to derive from the ancient Greek word for "virtue" and "heroism," the 'Ndrangheta inhabit the tip of the Italian boot. The most rural of the major Italian crime organizations, they do not have the centralized power structure headed by a "boss of bosses" other organizations traditionally have. They rely instead on family units that interact, even from such far-flung places as Australia, South America, and Eastern Europe.

The secretive 'Ndrangheta are also the most closed and most family oriented of the groups - both facts that make it harder for traditional law enforcement methods to work.

"It's very hard to find an informer for the 'Ndrangheta because they're all related," Fara said. "Someone taken into custody is much less likely to become an informer if that means he'd end up informing on his cousin or brother. And it's just about impossible to infiltrate the groups, because these people have all known each other since childhood. You can't fake that."

The bad news for law enforcement is that the other organizations are starting to take moves from the 'Ndrangheta playbook. Partially because of infighting, which makes it more difficult for the new generation of bosses to consolidate power, and partially out of the need to close ranks as protection against informers and infiltrators, there is reason to believe that at least Sicily's Cosa Nostra and the Neapolitan Camorra are starting to evolve into less penetrable and increasingly decentralized organizations. The Basilischi, though the smallest of the five groups, already have a structure similar to the 'Ndrangheta.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has vowed to increase funding for law enforcement and to crack down on crime. But it's difficult to believe that a few extra police officers and some new equipment will help reverse such a deep-rooted trend.

In the end, the best strategy for solving Italy's organized crime problems may be simply addressing the country's other woes - political corruption and anemic economic growth.

It's no coincidence that all of the country's major crime networks exist south of Rome, in the country's beleaguered mezzogiorno, where political ineptitude and a dearth of economic activity are endemic. Organized crime has never thrived in vibrant, wealthy, and well-run northern cities like Bologna, Parma or Verona.

Sociologists argue that the issue of corruption and poverty, as it relates to crime in the mezzogiorno, is a chicken-and-egg situation: Are these areas corrupt and poor because of the mob, or does the mob exist because they are corrupt and poor? Whichever the case, it's clear that the two sides go hand in hand. And the best way to get rid of one may be to eliminate the other.

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affa ... n&id=96152

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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 7th, 2009, 2:30 am

Even gangsters get the blues
By Justin McCurry - Special to GlobalPost
Published: February 5, 2009 18:35 ET

As Japan's economy weakens, what are 80,000 gang members to do?

TOKYO — Kazuhiro Yamada may describe himself as an innocent victim of the recession, but he is unlikely to win much sympathy.

Until he lost his job last year, Yamada, who prefers not to reveal his real name, was a member of the Sumiyoshi-kai, one of Japan’s most notorious crime syndicates, or yakuza.

As a mid-ranking mobster in greater Tokyo, his duties included shaking down businesses for protection money, chauffeuring his bosses around town and, on occasion, providing muscle when his gang’s relations with associates threatened to turn sour.

Then, at short notice, he was unceremoniously dumped for not paying his dues, a non-negotiable condition of yakuza membership from the lowliest mobster to the men at the very apex of their criminal careers.

"Without the organization behind me, what am I supposed to do? Who's going to hire an old man covered in tattoos with a missing digit?” he says of his vanished pinkie, hacked off in a ritual act of penitence for a past misdeed he’d rather not discuss.

“I’m too old for construction work and I can't see how I can learn to type with only nine fingers, so that pretty much rules out a white-collar job.”

Now only just the right side of 50, Yamada is just one of countless gang members feeling the pinch from the global economic downturn and stock market collapse.

After a year in which the Nikkei index shed almost 50 percent and Japan officially entered recession, the yakuza, like other market players, can only look on in horror as the world’s second-biggest economy teeters on the brink of meltdown.

In better times, yakuza foot soldiers bankrolled their hedonism – expensive cars, clothes and women – with a seemingly endless supply of profits from traditional cash cows such as gambling, prostitution, drugs, loan sharking and protection rackets.

It was a time when gangs proudly displayed their insignia at the entrance of their headquarters, swapped information with detectives over drinks in classy hostess bars and dined with senior politicians and wealthy construction magnates.

The legal squeeze began in 1992 with the introduction of the toughest anti-yakuza laws to date, forcing them to conceal their telltale tattoos and swap their gaudy suits for bespoke Italian cloth, as organised crime went white collar.

The change in tactics paid off, but only as long as the economy stayed on its upward trajectory after the lean years of the “lost decade” of 1990s recession.

To stock price manipulation and property sales the yakuza have added wedding and funeral services, talent agencies, and even bakeries and flower shops to its portfolio. It is not for nothing that the Yamaguchi-gumi, by far the biggest of Japan’s 27 gangs, is known as a “Wal-Mart” of the yakuza.

Last year the National Police Agency [NPA], spooked by organised crime’s assault on the property and securities markets, warned that its involvement in the regular economy was “disease that will shake the foundations of the economy.”

Despite promises to take on the mob, the police have yet to make inroads into organized crime. Yakuza membership is not illegal and, unlike their FBI counterparts, Japanese investigators are banned from using wiretapping, witness protection and other tools that would bring the arrests they crave.

According to the NPA Japan is home to 80,000 gangsters, about half of whom belong to the Yamaguchi-gumi, with footholds in dozens of businesses in Japan and the United States, and increasingly, Russia and China.

Takashi Kadokura, the author of two popular books on Japan’s underground economy, estimates the yakuza’s illegal income amounts to as much as 1.6 trillion yen ($17.5 billion) a year. Its financial chicanery is so broad and complex that the size of its legal income will forever be a mystery.

The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission has identified more than 50 listed firms with links to organized crime, and the Tokyo metropolitan police has listed about 1,000 yakuza front companies, about 20 percent of them involving real estate.

The public and police remained largely tolerant of the yakuza, which reciprocated by keeping violence to a minimum and ensuring civilians did not become the victims of stray bullets.

But now fears are growing that intense competition for dwindling financial spoils will spark an escalation of the violence.

The past two years have seen several shootings in Tokyo as the Yamaguchi-gumi, keen to expand beyond its western Japan base, attempts to seize control of lucrative parts of the capital such as Akasaka and Roppongi.

“The recession affects the yakuza just like everyone else,” says Jake Adelstein, an underworld authority and former crime reporter for the Japanese daily the Yomiuri Shimbun. “As the economy worsens the spoils will diminish, gang membership will fall and more squabbles and fights will break out.

“They are losing investments in real estate and that means losing jobs as well. The consolidation of businesses through mergers and acquisitions is also freezing them out. Just like the banks, they have loaned money to people who can no longer afford to pay them back.”

Denied their usual incomes, many gangsters are turning to the state for help. Last month officials admitted that hard-up yakuza members had claimed millions of dollars in unemployment and other benefits by producing fake letters of excommunication from their gang bosses.

Yamada, who is selling off his possessions to make ends meet, says he will soon be joining the ranks of the yakuza dispossessed.

“I'm going to go on welfare and then I don't know what I'm going to do,” he says. “To be a yakuza used to be a job for life, but now we're being treated like temporary workers or salesmen. You don’t “sell enough” and its goodbye.

“This is how it is now in the organization. The people at the top live well but everyone else is barely able to make a living. It’s the American business model transplanted to Japan … and it sucks.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/japa ... -the-blues

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Re: OC News

Unread post by Lee23Claire » February 7th, 2009, 3:50 am

Good stuff. How do the Yamaguchis stand in terms of worldwide influence?

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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:06 am

Mexican Drug Cartels Armed to the Hilt, Threatening National Security
By Matt Sanchez
Wednesday, February 04, 2009

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In November, along the border with Texas, Mexican authorities arrested drug cartel leader Jaime "el Hummer" Gonzalez Duran — one of the founders of "Los Zetas," a paramilitary organization of former Mexican soldiers who decided there was more money to be made in selling drugs than in serving in the Mexican military.

As El Hummer was being transported to the airport in an armed vehicle, his fellow cartel members launched a brazen attack against the federales.

They were armed to the teeth. Their arsenal ranged from semi-automatic rifles to rocket-propelled grenades. When the smoke finally cleared and the government had prevailed, Mexican federal agents captured 540 assault rifles, more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 150 grenades, 14 cartridges of dynamite, 98 fragmentation grenades, 67 bulletproof vests, seven Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles and a Light Anti Tank (LAW) rocket.

This is modern Mexico, where the leaders of the powerful drug cartels are armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons, many of which are smuggled over the border from the United States. It is with this array of superior weapons that drug cartels are threatening the very stability of their own country. And it's why America's outgoing CIA Director, Michael Hayden, says violence in Mexico will pose the second greatest threat to U.S. security next year, right after Al Qaeda.

Americans are understandably focused on the flow of drugs and migrants into the U.S. from Mexico," says Andreas Peter, author of "Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide."

"But too often glossed over in the border security debate is the flow of weapons across the border into Mexico," he told Foxnews.com in a statement via the Internet.

The cartels are obtaining arms from America by using "straw man" buyers, who legally purchase weapons at gun shops and gun shows in the U.S. The weapons cross into Mexico, where border security is much weaker heading south of the border than it is going north.

Authorities don't know how many firearms are sneaked across the border, but the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) says more than 7,700 guns sold in America were traced to Mexico last year, up from 3,300 the year before and about 2,100 in 2006. Mexican authorities say 90 percent of smuggled weapons come from the United States.

In Northern Mexico, high-powered American weapons have enabled drug cartels to control whole territories. There is the Colt AR-15, the civilian version of the military M-16. And there is the "cuernos de chivo" — Spanish for goat horns . . . the 30-shot curved banana clip of the AK-47.

The AK-47, long the symbol of guerrilla revolution, is not the most accurate or technical assault rifle, but it gets the job done. It is the workhorse of drug cartels, and ammunition can come from a variety of world sources, including the United States.

And then there are the sniper rifles.

"The .50-caliber was interesting because we haven't seen that type of arm used in Mexico yet," said Scott Stewart, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer and an analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical security firm. The .50-caliber long-range sniper rifle is incredibly accurate and dangerous; a trained operator could kill a human being with a round from well over a mile away.

For criminal cartels like Los Zetas, greater firepower means greater influence in not only the drug trade; it has enabled them to infiltrate and threaten the entire power structure of Mexico. In December, the Mexican attorney general announced the arrest of Maj. Arturo Gonzalez Rodriguez for allegedly assisting Mexican drug trafficking organizations — allegedly for $100,000 a month.

The connection between the drug cartels and the Mexican army has given cartel leaders access to military grade weapons like the high powered Five-Seven semi-automatic pistols.

A favorite with the cartels, the Five-Seven has the advantage of being light: under 2 pounds, with a 20-round clip filled with bullets the cartels call "matapolicias' — "cop killers."

"The 5.7 x 28, armor piercing (AP) rounds are not available for sale to the general public and are probably coming from the Mexican military," said Stewart who has analyzed U.S.-Mexican border security issues for half a decade.

The drug-related murder rate in Mexico doubled in 2008 from just one year before, and as the violence escalates, the power of the drug cartels has destabilized Mexican authority to the point of threatening national security.

Last week Gen. Ángeles Dahuajare announced that more than 17,000 soldiers had deserted in 2008.

"The Mexican Army is becoming a revolving door for the enforcement arm of the drug cartels; they simply pay better," Stewart said.

"If they don't get the weapons from the U.S., they'll get it from somewhere else: Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina or even former satellite state 'gray markets,'" he said.

Despite the efforts of his comrades in crime, El Hummer wound up in jail — and Mexican authorities paraded him before the media to reassure the public that they are still in control.

But that was largely for show. As long as weapons flow into Mexico, the drug cartels will be able to develop an arsenal. "Control" will be unstable, at best.


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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:09 am

Prague is a stop for heroin entering Europe
Since joining Schengen zone, drug is easier to distribute
By Wency Leung - Staff Writer
February 5, 2009

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Customs officers suspected something odd about the 20-year-old Bulgarian the moment they spotted him at Prague Ruzyně Airport.

The man, who had just arrived on a direct commercial flight from Istanbul, acted edgy and uncertain, and his awkward behavior suggested that he had never really traveled before. Even through the airport's security camera monitor, customs officers could sense that his trendy clothes and carry-on bag belied his provincial demeanor.

After pulling him aside and X-raying his bag, the officers confirmed their suspicions: The soft material bag contained a double bottom, in which 2.74 kg of heroin lay wrapped in two layers of black plastic.

For airport customs officers, this Jan.15 seizure was the second major heroin haul in as many months. On Dec. 5, a Romanian man in his 20s was nabbed, also arriving from a direct commercial flight from Istanbul with 2.5 kg of heroin concealed in the reinforced back of his knapsack. With a street value of about 800 to 1,000 Kč ($38-48) per gram, officials estimated the value of heroin each man was carrying to be in the millions of crowns.

"We were surprised they would do it in such an obvious way," said Pavel Drobek, spokesman for the General Directorate of Customs. "We're surprised by their audacity."

Czech customs officials are accustomed to seizing small quantities of marijuana, Ecstasy and the popular methamphetamine pervitin, usually smuggled through the post, Drobek explained. But heroin has never ranked high on the list of trafficked drugs in the Czech Republic.

That has begun to change, however, ever since the country entered the Schengen zone in December 2007, eliminating border checks between member nations, Drobek said. Once heroin enters the Czech Republic, it is relatively easy to transport it on through Western Europe undetected.

Transit country

"The Czech Republic now serves as a transit country [for heroin]," Drobek said, noting that large quantities of the drug are being delivered here in its pure form. "It's a rather new trend."

Over the past year, there have been a number of large seizures of heroin and several heroin-related arrests throughout the country, with suspects of disparate origins.

On Jan. 22, police in Plzeň arrested one Asian man who allegedly led them to an unspecified quantity of heroin, rolled up in small balls and stashed behind a bush near a restaurant. Plzeň police arrested another Asian man on suspicion of dealing heroin Dec. 4.

According to the Czech News Agency (ČTK), police in Central Bohemia said in August that they arrested a man from Kosovo for allegedly hiding 3.6 kg of heroin in a forest near Skorkov. And, March 17, customs officers near Břeclav discovered 15.5 kg of heroin hidden in a passenger vehicle with Czech plates coming from Macedonia. Ten days later, customs officials nabbed a Czech citizen and a citizen of the former Yugoslavia, who were later charged with possession and procurement of 25.5 kg of heroin.

According to Interpol, heroin produced in Afghanistan is moved into Europe through two primary routes. It is typically smuggled along the so-called "Silk Route" in Central Asia through Russia, the Baltic states, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic to other parts of Europe, or it is transported along "the Balkan route" through Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia via Turkey, a major staging point for the drug's entry into Europe.

It is typically more common to move heroin overland using passenger vehicles, since authorities cannot easily check private cars within the European Union without legal reason, Drobek said.

Tom Blickman, a specialist on international drug control policy and organized crime at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, said it was difficult to speculate whether the two seizures at the airport indicated a new mode of transport for heroin smugglers.

"Many organizations are involved [in drug smuggling] and they will use different routes depending on the opportunities they see and contacts they have," Blickman said in an e-mail. However, he noted: "Now that this [flight] route has been discovered, controls will probably increase and new methods will be tried."

Aside from the fact that both men came directly from Istanbul, there is no indication that the two cases are related, Drobek said, but he suspected the men had been hired by smuggling operators to test the security at Prague Ruzyně Airport.

"If it's easy to get in through the airport, traveling with it to other countries wouldn't be a problem," Drobek said.

Domestic use

Despite the apparent increase in trafficking, official statistics on heroin use in the Czech Republic show that the domestic market for the drug is relatively small, when compared with other illicit drugs.

Viktor Mravčík, head of the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, estimated that the number of heroin users in the country is around 6,000. (In comparison, there are an estimated 20,900 pervitin users.) According to his monitoring center's most recent annual report, published in 2008, the availability of heroin in 2007 remained level compared with previous years.

While the statistics may not reflect it, there are recent signs the drug is trickling into Czech society.

During a recent visit to the Kojenecký ústav infant orphanage in Kolín, director Eva Nemeškalová showed reporters the tiny deformed legs of 4-month-old Gabriel, whose full name has been withheld to protect his identity.

"His mother has a serious problem with drugs - heroin," Nemeškalová explained, noting that Gabriel was transferred to the orphanage from a hospital about three days after he was born, sharing his mother's addiction to the drug in addition to his leg deformity.

Cases like Gabriel's were extremely rare only a couple of years ago, Nemeškalová said, but she estimated that nearly 20 percent of the infants she now encounters at the orphanage are born to parents who use heroin.

In Plzeň, police have noticed an increase in the availability of heroin on the streets, mostly distributed by foreigners, police spokeswoman Michaela Altmanová said. Dealers often carry the drug rolled up in small balls, which they carry around in their mouths, she said.

In Prague, Jiří Richter, head of the Sananim drug rehabilitation center, said he has also heard more about the opiate lately, as clients report that the quality of available heroin has recently improved.

Jakub Frydrych, the newly appointed head of the National Anti-Drug Center (NPC), acknowledged that the Czech Republic has not just become a transit country but "a target destination for drugs - heroin not excluded," due to the growing affluence of the country since the 1990s.

His main priorities, he said, are to keep NPC staff up to date on the latest methods of fighting organized crime, and to focus on developing international cooperation with other countries.

Although Drobek said Czech authorities have since returned the Bulgarian and Romanian suspects to their home countries, Drobek said there is no end to the fight against the heroin trade.

"These people are willing to take risks, no matter what the risks are," Drobek said. "Even if you increase the punishments…it wouldn't deter people from running the business because it involves so much money."

http://www.praguepost.com/news/460-prag ... urope.html

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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:15 am

Ex-general, 2 others found shot to death near Cancun
By Tracy Wilkinson
February 4, 2009

Reporting from Mexico City -- The bodies of a longtimeMexican army general and two associates were discovered early Tuesday on a highway to Cancun, the latest execution-style victims of the violence sweeping Mexico.

Brig. Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello, who left the army last month and was working as a security consultant for the mayor of Cancun, is one of the highest-ranking officials killed in lawlessness fueled by drug trafficking and other gangland crime.

"Without a doubt, we are talking about an organized crime execution," state Atty. Gen. Bello Melchor Rodriguez told reporters. He said the bodies were found in a bullet-riddled SUV that had probably been intercepted on the dark road. The men had apparently been tortured before being killed with single shots to the head, Melchor said.

Killed with the general were an active-duty army lieutenant and a man thought to be a civilian who was serving as a bodyguard, authorities said.

There was speculation that the slayings were intended as a warning to Cancun officials, some of whom have sought to rid the popular beach resort of drug traffickers and other gangsters.

The notorious Gulf cartel, among the most ruthless of Mexico's drug gangs, is active in Cancun.

Tello and the two others "fell in the line of duty," Cancun Mayor Gregorio Sanchez said at a news conference. "We will continue with a firm hand. They are not going to intimidate us."

Tello served in the army's elite presidential guard but was dogged by controversy. More than a decade ago, when he was a senior official in Mexico City's Public Security Ministry, he was accused of the torture and murder of six detained youths. He spent a year in prison before he was ultimately cleared of the charges.

Elsewhere in Mexico, 14 people were reported killed between Monday night and late Tuesday afternoon in the border state of Chihuahua. Most of the dead were found in Ciudad Juarez.

In one incident, a man and a woman were gunned down in a supermarket parking lot and a third person was killed in the checkout line.

In Durango state, two police officers were killed Tuesday in a shootout, and another officer died when a police station in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas was attacked before dawn.

In the state of Zacatecas, the police chief of Villanueva was shot to death Monday. Residents had recently asked for army protection from criminals and drug gangs.

More than 5,300 people were killed last year in a raging drug war in which government forces are fighting traffickers and their hired guns, and the traffickers are fighting among themselves for control of lucrative drug routes to the U.S.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld ... 2861.story

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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:18 am

Four get life for 'mafia' killing
Monday February 2, 2009

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A court in Italy has sentenced four alleged mafia members to life in prison for the murder of a politician in the southern region of Calabria in 2005.

Francesco Fortugno, vice-president of Calabria's regional assembly, was shot dead at a polling station in Locri.

His murder caused outrage in Italy and was seen as a challenge to the state by the Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta.

The four men convicted by the court in Locri were accused by prosecutors of being 'Ndrangheta members.

The 'Ndrangheta - which means "Honoured Society" - shot into the limelight in 2007 after six of its members were massacred in Germany.

The criminal organisation has interests in the illegal drugs trade and money laundering, as well as construction and infrastructure.

'System of collusion'

Mr Fortugno, a former doctor, was investigating the awarding of hospital contracts in the Calabrian healthcare system at the time of his murder, which happened on 16 October 2005.

In court on Monday, Alessandro Marciano and his son, Giuseppe, were found guilty of ordering the killing, Salvatore Ritorto was found guilty of being the gunman, while Domenico Audino was judged to have been an accomplice.

Three other men were given sentences ranging from four to 12 years for offences including mafia association.

"This sentence is important because people in Calabria can conclude there is a genuine will to denounce these crimes," said Agazio Loiero, president of the Calabria region, after the verdict.

"Today many offences are committed in Calabria often go unpunished because people are scared to file a complaint," he added.

Giuseppe Lumia, the former head of the Italian parliament's anti-mafia commission and member of Mr Fortugno's Democratic Party, said he hoped the "system of collusion" built by the 'Ndrangheta could finally be uncovered.

In 2007, a key informant in the case who helped identify the four convicted men committed suicide.

Despite being given police protection, Bruno Piccolo was said to have been fearful for his life and felt ostracised by the local community.


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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:21 am

Tougher Border Can’t Stop Mexican Marijuana Cartels
New York Times
Published: February 1, 2009

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TUCSON — Drug smugglers parked a car transport trailer against the Mexican side of the border one day in December, dropped a ramp over the security fence, and drove two pickup trucks filled with marijuana onto Arizona soil.

As Border Patrol agents gave chase, a third truck appeared on the Mexican side and gunmen sprayed machine-gun fire over the fence at the agents. Smugglers in the first vehicles torched one truck and abandoned the other, with $1 million worth of marijuana still in the truck bed. Then they vaulted back over the barrier into Mexico’s Sonora state.

Despite huge enforcement actions on both sides of the Southwest border, the Mexican marijuana trade is more robust — and brazen — than ever, law enforcement officials say. Mexican drug cartels routinely transported industrial-size loads of marijuana in 2008, excavating new tunnels and adopting tactics like ramp-assisted smuggling to get their cargoes across undetected.

But these are not the only new tactics: the cartels are also increasingly planting marijuana crops inside the United States in a major strategy shift to avoid the border altogether, officials said. Last year, drug enforcement authorities confiscated record amounts of high potency plants from Miami to San Diego, and even from vineyards leased by cartels in Washington State. Mexican drug traffickers have also moved into hydroponic marijuana production — cannabis grown indoors without soil and nourished with sunlamps — challenging Asian networks and smaller, individual growers here.

A Justice Department report issued last year concluded that Mexican drug trafficking organizations now operated in 195 cities, up from about 50 cities in 2006.

The four largest cartels with affiliates in United States cities were the Federation, the Tijuana Cartel, the Juarez Cartel and the Gulf Cartel.

“There is evidence that Mexican cartels are also increasing their relationships with prison and street gangs in the United States in order to facilitate drug trafficking,” a Congressional report from February 2008 stated. Intelligence analysts were detecting increased Mexican drug cartel-related activity in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Seattle and Yakima, Wash. — areas that used to be controlled by other ethnic networks.

Smuggling is still most conspicuous in the Southwest, which has been home to Mexican traffickers for more than two decades. From Nogales, Ariz., recently, a reporter watched as smugglers across the border, in hilltop stations, peered through binoculars at the movements of American Border Patrol agents. The agents gunned their trucks along the barrier looking for illegal crossings.

About noon, border agents saw a 60-pound bale of marijuana drop over the fence.

“That kind of thing happens every day here,” said Agent Michael A. Scioli, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection.

For the cartels, “marijuana is the king crop,” said Special Agent Rafael Reyes, the chief of the Mexico and Central America Section of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It consistently sustains its marketability and profitability.”

Marijuana trafficking continues virtually unabated in the United States, even as intelligence reports suggest the declining availability of heroin, cocaine and other hard drugs that require extensive smuggling operations.

By combining smuggling with domestic production, the cartels have sustained the marijuana trade despite the onslaught of enforcement actions on both sides of the border. From 2000 through 2007, Mexican authorities arrested about 90,000 drug traffickers, more than 400 hit men and a dozen cartel leaders, according to a 2008 Congressional report. The United States extradited 95 Mexican nationals last year. Seizures in the first half of 2008 outpaced the average seizure rate from 2002 to 2006.

But the price has been high. Tensions have increased among the cartels, which are warring over lucrative drug routes through Mexican border towns like Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales, Sonora. More than 6,000 people, including hundreds of police officers, were killed by drug-related violence in Mexico in 2008. United States Border Patrol agents are also reporting more violent confrontations with traffickers.

As the Mexican government and American authorities have hardened the border, drug cartels are increasing production just north of it to avoid resorting to smuggling.

Many of the largest marijuana plantations are hidden on federal and state parklands, federal authorities say. Bill Sherman, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent based in San Diego, said the authorities were also finding an increasing number of farms in Imperial and San Diego Counties, an area traffickers traditionally avoided because of the presence of border guards, various police agencies and Camp Pendleton, a Marine base.

“We’re seeing a lot more grows down here now,” Mr. Sherman said. “That is a shift.”

Drug enforcement agents uprooted about 6.6 million cannabis plants grown mostly by cartels in 2007, one-third more than the plants destroyed in 2006. In California, the nation’s largest domestic marijuana producer, the authorities eradicated a record 2.9 million plants by the end of the marijuana harvest in December.

Yet enforcement officials say they see no discernible reduction in the domestic supply. Prices have remained relatively steady even as the potency of marijuana increased to record levels in 2007, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, a Justice Department analysis agency.

Mr. Reyes also noted that Mexican traffickers in the United States were choosing hydroponic marijuana, which is more potent, profitable and easier to hide because it can be grown year round with sunlamps. (A pound of midgrade marijuana sells for about $750 in Los Angeles, compared with $2,500 to $6,000 for a pound of hydroponic marijuana.) He noted a case last year in Florida in which Cuban growers used several houses in a single Miami tract development to supply hydroponic marijuana to Mexican traffickers.

Kathyrn McCarthy, an assistant United States attorney in Detroit, said Mexican traffickers in Michigan were trading Colombian cocaine for hydroponic marijuana from British Columbia to sell in the United States. In Washington State, now the second biggest domestic producer of marijuana, Mexican cartels are growing improved varieties of outdoor marijuana to compete with BC Bud and other potent indoor plants.

Last year, narcotics officers discovered 200,000 high-quality marijuana plants growing amid leased vineyards in the Yakima Valley. The Northwest has traditionally been the province of Asian hydroponic networks.

Despite increased planting, the cartels still rely on smuggling. Near Nogales, Ariz., Mr. Scioli pointed out several cross-border tunnels, one of which extended from the backyard of a house, under the fence and into Mexico 40 yards away. Another series of cross-border tunnels made use of existing sewer lines or drainage pipes. They were among the nine smuggling tunnels drug enforcement agents have discovered there since 2003.

Despite the fact that the authorities are discovering more marijuana production inside the United States, most of the cartels’ leadership remains in Mexico and, for now, so does most of the violence. Still, recent photographs from Mexico of the decapitated heads of Mexican policemen play in the minds of law enforcement officials on this side of the border, who are vigilant for signs of spillover.

The Mexican police in Sonora “are stuck between two warring cartels,” said Anthony J. Coulson, a federal drug enforcement agent. “The cops are being killed as pawns. They’re being used to show how much power and control the cartels have.”

Mr. Reyes, the special agent, said, “The violence is happening because of the pressure we’ve exacted, but it does not fuel any increase or decrease in marijuana.”

No one sees a quick end of the violence in Nogales, Sonora.

Sheriff Tony Estrada of Santa Cruz County said there was so much violence on the other side of the border that many Mexican police officers and politicians had become virtual refugees in Nogales, Ariz.

“The violence has left a large contingent of police on this side of the border,” Sheriff Estrada said. “The killing will stop when somebody dominates. When somebody takes control.”


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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:24 am

$1.2m smokes bust
Contraband cigarettes found on Eastern Shore
Fri. Jan 30 - 5:31 AM

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There’s more than one thing at stake when people purchase cheap illegal cigarettes, the officer in charge of the Nova Scotia RCMP’s federal enforcement section says.

"People need to be aware that they are funding criminal activity if they purchase illicit tobacco products and those tobacco products are not sold legitimately," Insp. Brian Brennan said Thursday. "And really, illicit tobacco shouldn’t be looked upon by the general public in any different way than, say, drug trafficking."

The always evolving illicit tobacco trade also presents risks to public safety and health in Canada, Insp. Brennan told reporters at a news conference Thursday where he displayed 299 cases of contraband cigarettes RCMP netted on the Eastern Shore the day before.

"There should be a concern for all citizens when they’re not buying something that was manufactured under strict guidelines because you don’t know what you’re getting. The same could be said for purchasing cocaine (or) marijuana — the person using it and purchasing it has no idea in what environment that particular product was produced."

RCMP, including members of the force’s customs and excise unit, seized the contraband smokes at about noon Wednesday at a home on Highway 7 in Smiths Settlement, near Musquodoboit Harbour.

"RCMP received information on suspicious activity in the area and completed surveillance of a residence and discovered two vehicles — a rental truck and an 18-wheeler — on the property which had illegal tobacco in them," Insp. Brennan said.

"Illegal tobacco trends seem to originate in Central Canada and are part of organized crime groups and individual entrepreneurs bringing in large loads of tobacco to the Atlantic provinces."

Police do not yet know what group is behind this cache. RCMP arrested two men at the scene in connection with what they’re calling one of the largest seizures of illegal cigarettes in the province. Richard George Nelson, 43, of Lachine, Que., was arraigned before Judge Hughes Randall in Dartmouth provincial court Thursday on two charges under the provincial Revenue Act, of possessing tobacco without paying taxes and possessing tobacco without proper markings, and one under the federal Excise Act, of possessing contraband cigarettes. Mr. Nelson returns to court today for a bail hearing.

Graham Leslie Murphy, 41, of Smiths Settlement faces the same charges. He’ll appear in court Feb. 25.

If the 299 cases of cigarettes had been bought through retail supply, they would have had a value of $1.2 million, Insp. Brennan said.

In Atlantic Canada, people are selling illegal cigarettes from their homes, their cars and potentially from legitimate businesses, police said.

In 2008, the RCMP nabbed 48,396 cartons of contraband tobacco in 81 separate seizures. If that product had been bought on the retail market, the value would have been more than $3.8 million, Insp. Brennan said.

Investigators are still trying to determine where the cigarettes seized Wednesday came from and what their intended destination was.


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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 8th, 2009, 3:27 am

Colombian hitmen abroad
Spain is shocked by the presence of Colombian contract killers there. This phenomenon has also occurred in more than ten countries.
January 26, 2009

Niño Malo,” or “Bad boy;” “Bang Bang” and “Chucky” are some of the aliases of experienced Colombian assassins who appeared last week in different articles in the main Spanish newspapers. Since January 9, when two killers surreptitiously entered a Madrid hospital and wiped out the drug trafficker Leonidas Vargas with a silencer, the issue of contract killings has captivated the country’s attention.

Contract killings and mafia collection operations is not a subject with which the Spaniards are accustomed. In addition, it is a phenomenon that deeply concerns authorities in that country since there are more and more frequent bloody murders by Colombians in different Spanish cities.

According to an investigation by the El Mundo newspaper, just in the last two years Colombian killers have assassinated 30 people on Spanish soil, and currently there are about 50 gangs of Colombian killers in that country. While in Spain they are astonished, the unfortunate truth is that it is not just a Spanish problem. In at least ten countries Colombian killers have committed murders and vendettas.

One of the most widely-known “jobs” of the Colombian assassins outside of Colombia was the murder last February of the head of the Norte del Valle drug cartel, Wilber Varela, in Merida, Venezuela. In Venezuelan states such as Táchira and Zulia, assassinations committed by Colombians are frequent. In October 2007, the murder of the emerald dealer Yesid Nieto in Guatemala was another of the more noteworthy cases which pointed to Colombian killers. In 2005, Colombian killers traveled to Acapulco, Mexico in order to dismember Jaime Pineda, alias “Pispis,” a former policeman who was part of the mafia group of Diego Montoya, alias “Don Diego.” But the killers did not travel outside of the country just to assassinate well-known capos like Varela, Nieto or Leonidas Vargas.

Although the majority of the killings are related with score-settling among different Colombian mafia groups, the efficiency and low costs of the Colombian killers make them highly in demand by criminal groups in several countries. In Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico, the killers are also contracted for local vendettas and they have installed permanent “offices.” The same is occurring in Chile, Paraguay and Argentina. In August of last year, for example, media headlines were captivated by a series of murders involving a gang of Colombian killers who committed the crimes in the middle of the day in a well-known shopping center in Buenos Aires.

The pursuit by the Colombian Police on some of the big collection offices of cartels such as those from Norte del Valle and Antioquia, has also been one of the causes why many suspected killers are abandoning Colombia and setting up shop in other countries. One of the big advantages that the killers have in order to set up in other countries is the scant experience that local authorities have combating that type of organization. While some countries have asked for help from Colombian entities to face the matter, unfortunately very little can be done to put the brakes on this growing and shameful export of killers.

http://www.semana.com/noticias-print-ed ... 20094.aspx

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Re: OC News

Unread post by thewestside » February 9th, 2009, 9:23 pm

Bulgaria's Special Agents Bust Wanted Organized Crime Boss Zlatko Baretata
6 February 2009, Friday

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A special task team from the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (DANS) has apprehended Friday morning the alleged crime boss Zlatomir Ivanov aka Zlatko Baretata ("The Barret"), Bulgarian information agencies report.

On Wednesday, the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office issued a call for a state-wide search for Ivanov. The search was called after Baretata failed to appear at the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office by 2 pm Wednesday as mandated by a summon issued earlier in the day.

The authorities have been trying to track down Baretata and several of his closest associates to interrogate them about their alleged link to three murders for hire and two attempted murders. They are also face charges for establishing and heading an organized crime group, distribution, trade, and dealing of illegal drugs.

Sofia Police staged Wednesday morning a special operation in order to detain Zlatomir Ivanov. They raided his offices and his house in the Sofia "Dragalevtsi" suburb.

In a special interview for the Darik radio Tuesday, one of the alleged top drug dealers in Bulgaria's capital Sofia in the recent years, Dimitar Vuchev aka Dembi, stated that Baretata was the most important Bulgarian Drug Lord as well as the mastermind behind several of the country's emblematic execution style underworld killings.

The first murder Baretata is linked to the one of Georgi Natsev, European Boxing Champion and former bodyguard of Dembi. Natsev was killed on June 12, 2005 by a bomb placed in a car driven by several of Dembi's bodyguards.

The second murder for hire, allegedly masterminded by Baretata, is the one of the notorious Drug Lord Nikola Ivanov Bobura (The Beaver), who was shot by nine bullets in the chest and head on October 8, 2006 . The shooting happened on front of the bar "Amazing" in Sofia's district "Gotse Delchev", following two previous, unsuccessful attempts on The Beaver's life in 2004 and 2005.

Baretata is also going to be charged with the attempted murder of Dembi, perpetrated in the morning of December 6, 2006 in front of the "Skyline" bar in the Sofia "Simeonovo" suburb,

Baretata is further linked with the murder attempt on the life of Anton Miltenov aka Klyuna (The Beak), committed on June 28, 2002. The Beak was shot by an unknown sharpshooter in his house on the Sofia "Kniyzhevo" suburb.

The other attempted murder Baretata is, reportedly, going to be charged with, is the shooting against Radoslav Velkov - Temeruta (The Unfriendly) on December 6, 2006. The Unfriendly was shot in the head upon leaving the Sixth Police Precinct in Sofia where he had been with his lawyer to be interrogated about the attempted murder of Dembi, earlier that same day.

For years, the murder attempt on the life of the Unfriendly, along with several others, had been attributed to Dembi.

Thursday, the Sofia City Prosecutor subpoenaed Baretata, who was asked to appear at the Prosecutor's Office by 11 am on Friday. Baretata's wife had signed the subpoena.


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