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ORGANIZED CRIME TRIAL MOVED AFTER SMALL EXPLOSIONS DAMAGE AMSTERDAM COURT BUILDING

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: The extortion trial of an alleged Amsterdam underworld figure was moved to a new venue Monday after explosions damaged the top-security court building where the case had been due to start. Security shutters were damaged and windows smashed in the explosions at 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) but there were no injuries, according to a police statement.

“Everything is being done to ensure today’s case can go ahead,” the statement said. The cause of the explosions was being investigated but there were no immediate arrests. Justice officials said later that the case would be moved — for Monday at least — to a court room at another building in Amsterdam. By early afternoon, the case still had not started. The decision was based on “security concerns,” said court spokeswoman Jacqueline Dubois.

Willem Holleeder — previously convicted in the 1983 kidnapping of beer tycoon Freddy Heineken — is accused of extorting money from four businessmen in Amsterdam. He denies the charges.

“What has happened is annoying for him, because he just wants to get on with his case,” Holleeder’s attorney, Jan-Hein Kuijpers told the national broadcaster’s Radio 1. “Nobody wants this kind of thing. I don’t know in whose interest it is to damage the building.”

The court room hit by Monday’s explosions was built on an industrial zone in eastern Amsterdam in the late 1990s and has hosted several high-profile organized-crime and terror trials, including that of the Islamic extremist who murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

The Associated Press
Published: April 2, 2007

JAPAN: YAKUZA GANGS PROSPERING DESPITE LAW

Yakuza gangs are as active as ever despite a law passed 15 years ago to crack down on organized crime. The number of gangsters, which ostensibly dropped somewhat after the anti-organized crime law took effect in 1992, has hardly changed, say sources close to both police and gangster groups. And gang-related crimes continue. Gangs are teaming up with foreign criminal elements to run theft rings and drug deals. They are even gunning down rival gang members in turf wars — as happened in broad daylight in central Tokyo in February.

Police seem powerless. According to police estimates, Japan has 21 recognized organized crime syndicates, with roughly 85,000 full-fledged and loosely affiliated members nationwide. The largest is the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, with about 39,700. Its membership has doubled in the past two decades. Yamaguchi-gumi is three times larger than its Tokyo-based rival, Sumiyoshi-kai, and four times bigger than Inagawa-kai, also in Tokyo. These groups are organized in hierarchical structures.

After the law was enacted, police cracked down in the Kansai region, Yamaguchi-gumi’s home base, and the gang broke with a long tradition of sticking to Kansai turf and extended its tentacles into Tokyo. “There is much more money to be made in real estate and other transactions in Tokyo,” according to a senior Yamaguchi-gumi member who moved to Tokyo several years ago. “Fierce competition within the syndicate has triggered new ways of making money, and this is the way we expand.”

Today, Yamaguchi-gumi has more than 3,000 members and affiliated members in Tokyo, twice as many as it had five years ago, according to police estimates.

From 2005 to 2006, the syndicate also formed tie-ups with eight independent gangster groups in Kyoto, Hiroshima and elsewhere. The smaller groups were apparently looking for protection from the bigger organization. In September 2005, the Yamaguchi-gumi absorbed the Kokusui-kai, which along with the Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai groups, had long fought to keep Yamaguchi-gumi out of the capital. One insider, who had predicted Yamaguchi-gumi advances into Tokyo would trigger a gang war, said his fears came true 18 months later. On Feb. 5, a senior affiliated Sumiyoshi-kai gangster was gunned down, apparently by a Kokusui-kai member.

Police sources say one unintended effect of the anti-organized crime law is that gangs are now smaller only “on paper.” In effect, the yakuza gangs have downsized their organizations by having members leave to support gang activities from outside the group.

Police define a “syndicate” as a group with a certain percentage of mobsters with criminal records, and keep close tabs on them. Now police are having a harder time tracing murky connections to decide which gangs to pin the crimes on. At the end of last year, police estimates showed about 41,500 “official” gang members nationwide, with an additional 43,200 loosely affiliated members. That’s not much less than the total 96,000 in 1992 when the anti-crime law took effect.

If a full-fledged gang member is caught for a crime, the gang’s top leader can be held responsible.

Nichi Bei Times Weekly March 22, 2007

CANADA: NUMBER OF CRIMINAL GROUPS GROWING

The number of organized crime groups in B.C. grew for the third year in a row in 2006 — to 124, up from 108 identified the previous year, says a 2006 RCMP report obtained by The Vancouver Sun.

The 2006 Integrated Threat Assessment on Organized Crime says that police successfully disbanded 19 of the groups operating in 2005, but another 35 organized crime groups started up. “The increase was also manifested in the number of mid-to-low-level criminal organizations identified, the growth in which accounted for nearly all the annual change overall,” the report says.

The graph in the report looks alarming, starting in 2003 with just 52 groups and rising in each of the last three years. But the report also says better record-keeping and analysis of crime groups accounts for some of the increase. In terms of successes, five crime groups were disrupted last year through “successful enforcement.” Ten groups disbanded or disappeared from police radar and are no longer considered a criminal threat. The rest were rolled into larger crime groups, the report says. “An additional ten groups saw a decline in assessed threat due to enforcement actions against the group or its associates,” the report says. “Thus law enforcement actions yielded positive results in terms of disruption against 15 of 108 organized crime groups — that is 14 per cent — over the past year.”

And as last year, independent crime groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs — particularly the Hells Angels — are at the top of the pack in terms of sophistication and criminal involvement. “The remaining profile of organized crime in the province is comprised of Asian-based organized crime, Indo-Canadian organized crime, Eastern European and various other smaller categories.”
Most of the new groups formed were trying to cash in on the lucrative drug trade, particularly marijuana and crystal meth.
“In light of the continuing trend in synthetic drug production and trafficking and as regards to the well-known situation regarding marijuana cultivation, it is not surprising that the typical core activity of the independent and OMG-associated criminal organizations newly added in 2006 is that of drug-trafficking and drug production, with most of these groups scoring in the middle range of known criminal organizations in the province,” the report says.

Whole sections of the 400-plus page document were blanked out for security reasons. Of the so-called independent groups, a number of them work in concert with biker gangs, the report says, while others are “truly independent.” The researchers noted that pot cultivation appears to have plateaued, “remaining comfortably the biggest single criminal revenue generator in B.C./Yukon and a sizeable industry in the region in its own right. Reported grow operations are levelling off, but the average number of plants is consistently increasing,” the report says. “Methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs continue to expand as an enforcement challenge and a social problem.”

Vancouver Sun 17 March 2007

CANADIAN DRUG TRAFFICKERS GO GLOBAL

Canadian police do say that drug traffickers are going global in their desire to reap bigger profits from precursor chemicals used for deadly synthetic drugs like crystal meth and ecstasy. Criminals in countries like India and Canada are the new powerbrokers as they can get their hands on large quantities of chemicals that can then be exported — legally in some cases — to Canada.

TURKEY: WEAPONS SMUGGLING CONCENTRATED AT SYRIA BORDER

During operations of the Security General Directorate’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department (KOM) over the last seven years, over 5,600 pistols, including 754 Glock guns and 326 long-barrel rifles and 613 shotguns, were seized, according to official figures.

Weapons of foreign origin captured as a result of operational activities and investigations by the Security General Directorate reportedly entered the country via the customs gates, where barriers are insufficient due to the mountainous terrain along the Iraqi and Syrian borders and a busy border trade.

The weapons are brought to Turkey by smugglers who live along the borders and make a living through smuggling. These weapons are transported via trucks or other vehicles which carry loads from northern Iraq to Turkey through the border gates.

Among the weapons seized by the KOM teams over the last seven years are 754 Austrian-made Glocks, popularly known as “ghost guns.” Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin, a Council of State judge in Ankara, said that during the last two years, there was a spike in seizures of Glock guns, a weapon also used also in the 2006 murder of Father Andrea Santoro in Trabzon. “Last year, 316 Glocks were captured in the police’s responsibility area, compared with 350 in 2005, 87 in 2004 and one in 2002,” he said. No Glocks were reported in 2000, 2001 and 2003, according to security statistics.

Speaking to the Anatolia news agency about the Glocks, a security official said: “The claim that the Glocks aren’t detected by X-ray scanners is an unfounded rumor started by arms dealers.” Telling how the Glocks’ mixture of polymer-carbon was designed by an Austrian, the official added, “This got the attention of the security forces, since these weapons are functional in all kinds of weather.” Emphasizing that Glocks are the world’s first plastic alloy weapons and weigh about 650 grams, the official said: “Out of this weight, almost 500 grams are steel barrel and other components.”

The official stressed that the technology used in the Glocks is also now used in many weapons, he added: “In addition to renowned international weapons makers, the domestic armament industry produces polymer-waist weapons. Glocks are preferred since they are light, easily repaired and resistant to bad weather, and are available in many models in various calibers other than 7.65. Especially the Glock-18 model can be made full automatic by modifying it.”

The New Anatolian
15 March 2007

4TH INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CRIME CONGRESS

The Global Financial Crime Congress jointly organized by Interpol and UNODC takes place from 17- 20 April 2007 at the UNODC facility located in Bangkok, Thailand. This event is designed to focus on the latest developments in the area of financial crime including money laundering and terrorism financing that is likely to impact on financial crime investigations over the next few years. Interested parties can contact Interpol.

“WE’RE PLAYING WHACK-A-MOLE ALL THE TIME WITH ORGANIZED CRIME.”

Winnipeg’s police chief is warning politicians about organized crime in the city as the local Hells Angels chapter reorganizes its ranks. Jack Ewatski told councillors on the city’s protection committee that organized crime gangs have no problems filling their ranks because drug trafficking is lucrative.

“It’s like when you go to the Red River Ex and you play that whack-a-mole game. You know, you hit one over the head, another one pops up somewhere else. I can’t be more blunt than that,” Ewatski told the committee, which overseas the police department’s budget. “We’re playing whack-a-mole all the time with organized crime.” Outside the meeting, Ewatski called the fight against organized crime a continuing battle his officers face. “Once we create a gap, it’s filled,” he said.

Lorne Schinkel, president of the Winnipeg officer’s union, agreed. “I applaud the chief for finally saying we’re playing whack-a-mole with organized crime. The city council needs to know what the hell is going on with crime in our city,” said Schinkel.

With the arrests of three local Hells Angels and three Bandidos in the past year, organized crime groups in Winnipeg have suffered some blows in the past year or so. Outside yesterday’s meeting, Ewatski said it would be “naive” to think these gangs have been shut down.

While the ex-president of the local Hells Angels chapter, Ernie Dew, is jailed awaiting trial on cocaine trafficking charges, the biker club has a new leader. Sources say the new top boss, Dale Donovan, took over the club earlier this winter. Dew was arrested during Project Defence, an undercover sting that tackled cocaine trafficking in Winnipeg, culminating with the arrests of 13 people in February 2006.

Later that year, police arrested three alleged members of the local Bandidos chapter in connection with the Ontario killings of eight bikers and their associates. Among those arrested was Michael Sandham, an ex-cop turned local Bandidos chapter president.

Winnipeg Sun March 6, 2007

CANADA IN THE GRIP OF ORGANISED PIRACY?

As recent media coverage pictures Canada in the grip of Organised Crime involved in IP crimefurther scrutiny learns that both the claims of the level of piracy in Canada as well as the involvement of Organised Crime are highly exaggerated.

According to a previously secret RCMP report obtained under the Access to Information Act, the reality is that counterfeiting, though a concern, may not be as significant a problem. The report called into question claims that organized crime lies behind all Canadian counterfeiting, instead noting that their involvement varies throughout the country. For example, it concluded that in the northwest, “only a few cases could be classified as organized crime; for the most part, IP crime there involves people who are `trying to make a dollar.’”

FIGHTING ORGANISED CRIME IN ISRAEL

Combating Organised Crime in Israel is taken a step further towards a multi-agency approach as the police, Justice Ministry and Tax Authority unveiled a joint intelligence unit at National Police Headquarters to fight organized crime. The center, which will enable the three bodies to pool intelligence, is meant to overcome the difficulties in intelligence collaboration caused by existing legislation. The attempts of investigators from one of these bodies to obtain intelligence from the others have caused long delays that hindered their work. Now for the first time, representatives of the Tax Authority, Money Laundering Prohibition Authority and police will work together under the same roof, pooling resources to fight organized crime.

Meanwhile efforts to combat Organised Crime were hampered by corruption from inside the police ranks.

SCOTLAND: VIETNAM GANGS BEHIND CANNABIS FARM BOOM

Vietnamese organised crime is behind a sudden explosion of cannabis cultivation in Scotland in the past year, with more than 40 factories producing £5 million of the drug in the past nine months.

Graeme Pearson, head of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), will today tell a drugs conference that cannabis cultivation in Scotland has gone from a “homespun cottage industry” to mass production lines overseen by Far Eastern “Mr Bigs”. A network of Vietnamese gangs, responsible for mass cannabis production in North America and the south of England, is understood to have recruited members of the Chinese community in Scotland to set up dozens of factories across the country in recent months.

A big rise in cannabis cultivation in parts of England has already been witnessed in recent months, with the proceeds reinvested in other aspects of organised crime, including heroin, cocaine and firearms. Last week police disclosed the results of Operation League, a major cannabis-production crackdown, mainly in the west of Scotland, which has seen about 20 factories shut down. Police made several arrests during the operation, including Vietnamese and Chinese nationals, along with Scots.

But Mr Pearson will today tell a Scottish police conference on cannabis that the scale of the production is even higher. He told The Scotsman: “In the past year, cultivation in Scotland has gone from a baseline of almost nothing to a very substantial quantity. “More than 44 cultivations with a crop worth more than £5 million have been uncovered in the past six months. “It’s gone from a homespun industry to a major production-line approach and is now big business. He said organised crime gangs had set up production “very quickly” in Scotland in the past year. “There is a Vietnamese and Chinese backdrop to many of these developments,” he said.

Scots police were alerted to the problem by law-enforcement authorities in Canada, where Vietnamese and other Far Eastern gangs have seized almost total control of the cannabis market over the past five years. The criminals also moved into class A drugs and violent gang wars ensued. Cannabis production subsequently spread to mainland Europe and has now reached Scotland. Supplies of the Class C drug in the UK have traditionally come from countries such as Afghanistan, Lebanon, Morocco and the Americas, but it is thought that around 60 per cent is now home-grown – compared with 10 per cent a decade ago.

Ian Latimer, chief constable of Northern Constabulary and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, which has organised the two-day conference at Turnberry, said: “This new development emphasises the need for individual police forces to work closely with the SCDEA. “The significant number of arrests in the last nine months could not have been made without that partnership.”

The Scotsman, 2 March 2007

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