Feature Articles

October 23, 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

CYPRUS: According to police, the Cyprus Stock Exchange is under siege by members of organized crime,

     A series of bomb attacks in August damaged offices of brokerages in two coastal towns and destroyed the $80,000 car of a prominent trader in the capital.

     Justice Minister Nicos Koshis recently said well-known underworld figures have been spotted in an area reserved for investors at the stock market. Some brokers have been approached by gangsters demanding to buy shares, the Association of Brokers has told authorities.

     Meanwhile, speculation is rampant that gangsters were buying stocks to launder money earned from drugs and prostitution, though a police investigation was inconclusive.

LIECHTENSTEIN: Government officials are playing down the impact of Liechtenstein's inclusion on international blacklists by groups that say it is too lax in the fight against money laundering and tax evasion.

     The FATF, created by the Group of Seven major industrial powers to promote the fight against money laundering, put Liechtenstein on its blacklist in June. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development followed suit and named Liechtenstein among 35 countries that were potential paradises for tax evaders.

     The Liechtenstein Banking Association, said assets under management at banks had dipped only slightly in the first half of the year from 114 billion Swiss francs ($66.59 billion) at the end of 1999.

     This was despite the fact that association members now require all new clients to be identified so that they cannot remain anonymous and use financial intermediaries like trustees or lawyers to open accounts for them.

ENGLAND: According to a survey of British crime trends published on Friday Hi-tech offenses like Internet fraud, e-mail abuse, computer hacking and virus spreading look set to increase during the next 20 years,.

     The survey predicts an increase in credit card fraud over the Internet, with bogus goods and services increasingly being sold via illegal ``virtual firms.''

     E-mail abuse, viruses and hacking will also increase, it warns, with specially tailored software making these crimes easier to commit and a new type of professional criminal, the ``hacker for hire'' emerging.

     [It also forecasts a growth in the illegal uploading (copying to) and downloading (copy from) on the Internet, with music, films and games especially vulnerable to this type of copyright infringement.

FINLAND: Up to 1,000 Hells Angels motorcycle gang members from around the world gather in Finland this weekend for their annual party.

     Finnish authorities said they were on high alert and have already refused entry to over 60 foreign bikers because of criminal backgrounds, Helsinki border control official said.

     Hells Angels members are holding their three-day gathering, which is held in a different country each year, at a hunting fortress in Hameenlinna, 60 miles north of Helsinki.

     Herranen said both police and border patrols would keep a close eye on the bikers, who have mostly come from European countries but also from the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.

     The Hells Angels and rival biker gangs waged a violent and bloody turf war in the mid-1990s in the Nordic countries, but since then crime linked to the group has dropped.

WASHINGTON: The federal government and the New York attorney general have filed suit against a group of adult Web sites that allegedly were billing customers for services that were labeled as free.

     The legal brief filed by the Federal Trade Commission and the state said the sites collected $188 million from 1997 to 1999, according to CNet and are among the defendants in the case.

     The lawsuit says those sites and others charged customers' credit cards for accessing areas that were supposed to be free, and some people who hadn't even visited the sites were also slapped with charges.

FLORIDA: A computer consultant has been charged by federal agents with trying to extort $1 million from a Massachusetts computer company.

     Michael Pitelis was arrested late Tuesday for allegedly sending threatening e-mails to Parametric Technology Corp. of Waltham, Mass.

     Authorities said Pitelis threatened to post a password online that would let anybody use the company's products for free.

ENGLAND: Organized criminals are believed to have carried out the first Internet "bank robbery," stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

     The online bank Egg, which has 1.2 million customers and is owned by Prudential, seems to have been the target of the professional hackers.

     Details of the break-in remained vague, but the "robbers" are not believed to have taken money from individual accounts.

WASHINGTON: The US Customs Service has seized more than $11.4 million in cash that people tried to smuggle out of the country, including by stuffing it in bicycle tires, cereal boxes and concealed car compartments.

     At least one person attempted to sneak cash out of the country by tightly rolling $100 bills, inserting them into condoms and swallowing them.

     The seized cash, the result of a six-week nationwide effort called ``Operation Powerplay,'' was part of a crackdown on money laundering. The operation led to 194 arrests, including people wanted for armed robbery and drug possession, Customs said as it announced the action Thursday.

     The ``vast majority of the seized money related to the sale of illegal drugs,'' Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly told The Associated Press in an interview.

     More than half of the cash seized was destined for Mexico, Israel, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Jamaica, Customs said.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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