Feature Articles

October 2000

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

MOSCOW: Police officials said they have foiled an attempt to assassinate a prominent governor over an apparent property dispute in the aluminum industry - one of the most lucrative and allegedly crime-ridden sectors of the economy.

     Suspects were arrested and accused of planning to poison Aman Tuleyev, a presidential candidate who came in fourth in the March election.

     Tuleyev is the governor of the Kemerovo region in western Siberia. The plot appeared linked to attempts to gain control of metallurgy factories in his province.

     Russian news reports suggested a possible link to organized crime and said Tuleyev's assassins had been promised $700,000 for the hit.

ROME: Thieves used a homemade stop light Tuesday to rob an Italian freight train loaded with cigarettes craved by black marketeers.

     The holdup was the third robbery of a freight train carrying cigarettes in southern Italy in less than four months.

     Police said a band of about a dozen bandits planted a homemade red light on the tracks in the countryside in the Puglia region in southeastern Italy, making the Sicily-bound train to halt.

     The gang made off with about two tons of cigarettes legally manufactured by Italy's state tobacco monopoly and loaded them onto a truck.

     Many Italian smokers feed their nicotine habit with contraband cigarettes bought on the street from black-market vendors, avoiding steep taxes.

     The scope of contraband cigarette trafficking was underlined last month when the head of a state criminal court in neighboring Switzerland was arrested on corruption charges. Italian anti-Mafia investigators had photographed the official with an alleged top international cigarette smuggler.

TOKYO: Police have arrested a suspected member of an organized crime group from Taiwan on suspicion of possessing nearly 32 kilograms of an illegal stimulant with an estimated street value of 1.9 billion yen.

     The man, Li Rong-fu, 30, was caught carrying 21.3 kg of the drug concealed in a bag outside his condominium in the Okubo district of Shinjuku Ward on Friday. A raid on his home yielded a further 10.6 kg, they said.

     Tokyo investigators believe Li is a full-fledged member of the Taiwan mafia, and they said he has confessed to have worked as a drug courier.

ROME: Italy doesn't intend to postpone the planned sale of ETI SpA, the state tobacco monopoly, after Swiss magistrates alleged organized crime was arranging to buy control of the company.

     The Finance Ministry will tighten controls during the sale, which will take at least 12 months to complete. A cigarette smuggling scandal brought to light Mafia plans to get a foothold in the company once it goes public.

BEIJING: China executed four men, including a Taiwanese man and a Hong Kong resident, for counterfeiting and smuggling fake currency.

     Taiwan fishing boat captain Zhuang Tianhuo, of Kaohsiung, was put to death for trying to smuggle in 62 million yuan ($7.5 million) in fake Chinese currency in July 1998.      The four men were executed separately in the southern province of Guangdong. Most condemned prisoners in China are dispatched with a bullet to the back of the head.

TAIPEI: Tiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has vowed to stamp out ``black gold,'' or links between organised crime and politics, saying the public has waited too long and is running out patience.

     Addressing a meeting of prosecutors, Chen also promised to leave no stones unturned in fresh government investigations into an arms procurement scandal surrounding the mysterious death of navy captain Yin Ching-feng in 1993.

     Chen, who took office in May, is counting on an intensified war on ``black gold'' and the reopening of investigations into the arms scandal to bolster his flagging popularity.

     Gangsters once helped the Nationalists fight the Communist underground on the mainland. The Nationalists were routed by the Communists in civil war in 1949 and fled into exile in Taiwan, where they enforced rule with the help of hoodlums.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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