Feature Articles

May 7, 2001

Round Up The Usual Suspects

By John William Tuohy

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washingon, D.C.

compiled by John William Tuohy

The Magazines Network...

     Italy: Italy�s Anti-Mafia police said they have smashed an international arms smuggling ring run by Russian and Ukrainian groups which had supplied thousands of tons of weapons to the Balkans in the early 1990s.

     Police said some 13,500 tons of arms passed through Italy to be sold in the Balkans, especially to the Croatian army in the 1990s when former Yugoslavia was under an arms embargo.

     Six people had so far been arrested on charges of arms trafficking in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Italy including Russian-born oil magnate Alexander Zukhov, owner of extensive petrol interests in Ukraine.

Italy: A Sicilian court postponed an appeal against the 1999 acquittal of former prime minister Giulio Andreotti on charges of involvement with the Mafia.

     Andreotti, 82, a life senator and seven-times prime minister, stood accused of being the Mafia's "godfather" inside government, was cleared two years ago after a sensational four-year-long trial for lack of proof.

     Much of the prosecution evidence was based on uncorroborated testimony from Mafia turncoats whom Andreotti accused of trying to settle old scores against him by lying in court.

     The most shocking allegation against Andreotti was that he once exchanged a kiss of respect with Salvatore "Toto" Riina, the Sicilian Mafia's "boss of bosses" and then Italy's most wanted man. Riina is now serving a life sentence.

Italy: Police in Naples are bracing for a possible surge in Mafia violence in the southern city of Naples after two shootings in recent days.

     One person was killed and at least six injured in two attacks in the past week as rival clans of the Camorra, the Naples Mafia, fight it out for control of one of Europe's most lucrative drug markets.

     Costanzo Calcagno, 49, a suspected member of the Ascione clan, was killed in a hail of eight bullets as he played cards with friends at a Catholic community center. A 64-year-old pensioner was also injured in the attack.

     Last week five people were injured in a shoot-out in the center of Ercolano, a town just east of Naples, in a second hit the target of which was thought to be another Ascione member.

     The Ascione, named after the imprisoned Raffaele "Il Lungo" ("the long one") Ascione, is regarded as the stronger of the two clans looking to gain dominance in the Naples drug-smuggling market, one of Europe's most active.

     The rival clan is alleged to be controlled by Giovanni Birra, who is currently on parole.

Canada: A veteran Montreal police officer and his now-retired partner were arrested and accused of leaking confidential information to criminal bikers as well as the Russian Mafia. A third man, a civilian who operates a security business with the retired police officer, was also arrested.

     Cmdr. Andre Durocher said the information was obtained from police computers and given to biker gangs and some other organized crime groups, such as the Russian Mafia and some of its eastern European counterparts.

Canada: Eight members of a gang prosecutors say is linked to the Hells Angels pleaded guilty to charges of gangsterism and drug-trafficking. The guilty pleas were a major victory for Canadian law enforcement agencies in their crackdown on motorcycle gangs accused of running Mafia-style drug rings. The defendants were arrested last year and were among the first to be tried under a federal law that makes it illegal to take part in organized crime.

     Late last month, police arrested more than 100 people suspected of links to the Hells Angels in a series of raids in Quebec, Ontario and other Canadian provinces. Police say drug-trade turf wars between the Hells Angels and a rival group are blamed for at least 158 murders, 169 attempted murders and the disappearances of 16 others.

     Special security measures were in place for the trial. Plexiglas was put up around a prisoner's dock that faced away from the witness stand to prevent the defendants from intimidating those testifying against them.

Mexico: Mexico City judge has convicted the leader of one of Mexico's biggest drug organizations on drug trafficking charges and sentenced him to 17 years in prison.

     Juan Jose Quintero, 58, is the uncle of convicted drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who is also serving a 40-year sentence for the 1985 slaying of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

     Quintero, arrested in 1999, was convicted and sentenced Friday. He was acquitted of organized crime charges, the newspaper Reforma said, and may yet appeal the drug conviction.

     Prosecutors say Quintero was an important figure in the Juarez-based drug organization, which was led by Amado Carillo Fuentes until his death in 1997.

     Quintero's conviction came as the Mexican government named a former electoral court judge, Estuardo Mario Bermudez, as the country's top anti-drug prosecutor and assigned one of its most experienced prosecutors, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, to the federal organized-crime office.

     There are seven or eight large Mexican drug gangs, and the largest continue to operate from Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

England: Britain is considering the introduction of tough U.S.-style conspiracy laws to tackle organized crime. The plan is aimed at around 150 crime lords who are effectively untouchable because current legislation does not give the police enough powers to bring them to justice. To stop their illegal activities, the government is considering introducing a law like the U.S. Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), credited with helping to smash New York Mafia families in the 1980s, the Economist said.

     RICO allowed federal agents to target the organizing entity behind a crime, not merely the act itself, giving almost unlimited powers for surveillance and allowing judges to pass discretionary sentences and fines.

     Official statistics have shown an alarming rise in organized crime in Britain, with drugs-related offenses, trading in illegal immigrants and bootlegging of alcohol and tobacco among the fastest growing crimes.

     It was not announced that the English troops currently illegally occupying Northern Ireland would be included as potential to be rounded up along with other thugs should the Act become law.

Poland: Former Polish sports minister Jacek Debski, who fought and ousted scandal-prone communist-era soccer bosses, died on Thursday after being shot in the head in what investigators suspect was a revenge killing. Debski, 41, who often wore black and sported a clean-shaven head, was found lying near a bridge over the Vistula river on Wednesday with a gunshot wound to the head. He died later in hospital, police said.

     In a macabre twist to the latest of a series of gangland-style killings of sports figures in formerly communist eastern Europe, Debski died after dining in a nearby restaurant called Cosa Nostra.

Japan: Three alleged members of the Yakuza have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling gun parts and live cartridges into Japan from the Philippines, with 13 guns and ammunition seized in subsequent raids. According to police investigations, Shimizu and Kuwahara landed at Narita airport March 30 from Cebu Island in the Philippines, hiding gun parts and 200 live cartridges in specially designed shoes.

Japan: A suspected member of the Yakuza has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in stealing some 400 high-priced cars in two months.

Japan: A 52-year-old gangster has been arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting a policeman in Utsunomiya, capital of Tochigi Prefecture.

     Kazuo Shimada allegedly shot Morio Okubo, 51, a police sergeant of the Tochigi prefectural police force, in the side at around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at a taxi company in Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo, police said.

     Okubo died from bullet wounds about two hours after the incident, marking the first shooting death of a police officer since 1995, according to police.

     According to police investigations, Okubo and four other police officers were dispatched to Toya Taxi's head office after Shimada fired his shotgun during a dispute with one of its drivers over money.

     When police tried to subdue him, Shimada opened fire, wounding Okubo, police said, adding that of the five, only Okubo was not wearing a bullet-proof vest.

China: Authorities in eastern China's Shandong province have executed 12 people for murder, armed robbery, fraud and other crimes. The 12 were among 202 convicted criminals sentenced at public rallies in four Shandong cities on Sunday. The executions were carried out immediately after the rallies.

     China recently announced it would intensify its five-year-old ``Strike Hard'' anti-crime campaign, singling out organized crime and offenses involving explosives for particular attention.

"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the
"Round Up The Usual Suspects" is produced by the

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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