Feature Articles

November 13, 2000

Round Up The Usual Suspects 1

By John William Tuohy

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

compiled by John William Tuohy

Bogota: A partly built submarine found on the outskirts of the Colombian capital, some 220 miles from the nearest ocean, may point to a shadowy, undersea alliance between Russian mobsters and drug traffickers from the United States and Colombia, authorities said on Friday.

     Colombian police announced the discovery of the orange-colored, 100-foot steel submarine on Thursday, saying it apparently was designed by Russians and intended to smuggle vast quantities of cocaine or heroin out of Colombia. The discovery of the vessel, dubbed a ``narco-sub'' in the local media, prompted the local head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to say: ``I've never seen anything like this in 32 years of police work.''

     The National Police chief, Gen. Luis Ernesto Gilibert, huddled on Friday with the DEA station chief, Leo Arreguin, and Russia's military attache in Bogota to discuss what one senior police source described as ``irrefutable proof of the presence of the Russian Mafia'' in Colombia.

     Police intelligence officials said that three retired Russian naval engineers had worked on building of the vessel, which was less than half finished when it was found.

     Russian-made tools and engineering documents translated from Russian into Spanish were found in a warehouse in a working-class district on the West end of Bogota where the sub was being built. An official estimated about $5 million had been spent so far in constructing the submarine.

Dubai: Saudi Arabia has executed a Nigerian man for trying to smuggle cocaine into the kingdom and a Saudi man for raping a woman, raising to at least 93 the number of people put to death in the country this year.

     In 1999, Saudi Arabia executed at least 99 people, including many foreigners.

Phnom Penh: Two Taiwanese nationals and six Cambodians have been charged with human trafficking in connection with a scheme to lure Cambodian women into the sex trade by promising them marriages to Taiwanese men.

     The two men were accused of hiring the six Cambodian women as brokers to find young women who wanted to marry and move to Taiwan.

     The young women were to be moved to Vietnam where fake marriage ceremonies would be performed and false marriage documents issued. They were then to be taken to Taiwan and forced into prostitution.

Santa Fe, NM: Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has advocated the legalization of marijuana as part of an overhaul of the nation's "self-defeating and antiquated drug laws."

     Nader joined with New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, in criticizing the nation's ``war on drugs'' as a failed policy for fighting drug use.

     Nader - like Johnson - supports lifting criminal sanctions for marijuana possession. For other drugs, such as heroin, he advocated ``harm reduction'' programs, such as methadone maintenance and needle exchanges, that focus on treatment of addiction and prevention of health problems from drug use. Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush oppose legalizing marijuana, according to their campaign spokesmen.

Grand Rapids, Mich.: Four teen-age girls who admitted selling a 15-year-old for sex with four men received sentences ranging from one to 25 years. The four men had paid them about $80 to have sex with the girl on Sept. 29, 1999.

     All four girls, ages 16-18, pleaded guilty to charges including first-degree criminal sexual conduct and pandering and were given at or below the recommended minimum sentences.

     The men pleaded guilty in January to third-degree criminal sexual conduct, served 10 months each in jail and were deported to their native Guatemala.

San Diego: A former US Customs Service inspector has pleaded guilty to lying about a fake memo that urged agents to ease passage into the country for trucks owned by a company linked to Mexican drug cartels.

     In a deal with federal prosecutors, Michael Horner, 47, admitted that he conspired to mislead Senate investigators looking into corruption in the Customs Service and lied to FBI agents about the memo. ``Essentially, I manufactured the thing for media exposure,'' Horner, a longtime critic of the Customs Service, told US District Judge Judith Keep on Thursday.

     The memo, supposedly written by the San Diego district director Rudy Camacho, called for agents to quickly process trucks owned by a company linked to drug cartels. Horner faxed the memo to a ''60 Minutes'' producer and it later ended up on the desk of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who called for an investigation.

     In 1997, ''60 Minutes'' cited the memo in a story about drugs coming into the United States at the San Diego border.

Melbourne: Australian and Asian crime gangs are smuggling thousands of guns into Papua New Guinea in return for high quality marijuana.

     The Age newspaper said growing amounts of premium marijuana called ``PNG Gold'' were being shipped to northern Australia for guns, citing concerns raised by PNG law enforcement authorities, regional diplomats, Australian intelligence and defense sources.

Australia: The International Olympic Committee is insisting on an explanation for the Australian government's decision to deny entry to two Asian Olympic officials with alleged criminal links. The Australian Immigration Ministry cited security reasons for refusing entry to Gafur Rakhimov, a national Olympic committee and boxing official from Uzbekistan, and Carl Ching, a basketball official from Hong Kong.

     Both men have been accused of having ties to organized crime.

     Rakhimov is a senior executive of the International Amateur Boxing Association, vice president of the Uzbek Boxing Federation and vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia. In a recent book that quotes FBI and Russian police files, Rakhimov is described as an organized crime boss in Uzbekistan.

     A full chapter is devoted to Rakhimov in the book, ``The Great Olympic Swindle,'' by British author and journalist Andrew Jennings, a longtime IOC critic.

     The book says the FBI office in Miami opened a file on Rakhimov in 1995 under the heading ``Russian Organized Crime/Racketeering'' and listing him as a top figure of the new ``Eastern Mafia.''

     The book also cites a dossier on Rakhimov in the Moscow office of the Chief Directorate for Fighting Economic Crime. Ching is president of the Asian Basketball Confederation and vice president of the international basketball federation. Hong Kong media reports said Ching, 60, had been under police surveillance on suspicion of being linked with China's crime syndicates, known as ``triads.''

     In 1994, Ching was barred from attending an international basketball tournament in Canada for national security reasons.

     The Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong quoted Ching as being outraged by the decision to keep him out of Australia. Ching said he had attended the Olympics in Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta, where he claimed he was made an ``honorable citizen.''

     Ching said he would pay $1 million to anyone who could prove he was involved in criminal activities.

Mexico City: Mexican authorities confirmed on Friday that the death of a top trade official was a suicide, despite widespread skepticism about circumstances surrounding the case from corruption-wary citizens.

pRaul Ramos Tercero, 45, a deputy secretary in the trade ministry who had been supervising the Renave car registration program, was found late on Wednesday with gashes in his neck, wrists and thigh in a wooded area 12 miles (20 km) from Mexico City.

     Federal forensic experts late on Friday confirmed the initial conclusion by local officials that Ramos had taken his own life, ruling out foul play.

     But federal authorities and political commentators said that coming on the heels of allegations Renave was being run by a suspected Argentine ``Dirty War'' torturer and major question marks about the concession to run the scheme, Ramos' grisly death could only be regarded with suspicion.

     Ramos' slashed himself in both wrists, on both sides of the neck and in his thigh, severing his femoral artery, forensic officials said. He bled to death in woods just off a road, leaving six suicide notes.

     In the notes, the official blamed the media for creating an ``atmosphere of hysteria'' over Renave that made him decide, for his family's honor, to take his own life, even though he insisted he had done nothing wrong.

     Renave was launched in May to build a national database that would help curb Mexico's car theft Mafia's. But it was unpopular from the start among car owners, who had to pay $38 to register a new car and $11 for a used car. The outcry forced the government in August to cut the cost for registering older cars in half.

     The death was the latest blow to Renave, which has turned into a nightmare for President Ernesto Zedillo in his final months in power and reinforced public conviction that corruption after 71 years of one-party rule is deeply rooted.

     Renave, which came into force in May, has been unraveling following allegations that Argentine businessman Ricardo Miguel Cavallo may be a former torturer from Argentina's 1976-83 military dictatorship wanted by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon for genocide. Cavallo's company was awarded the Renave concession along with two Mexican firms.

     Since the arrest of Cavallo, newspapers have speculated that he enjoyed political protection in Mexico, and that the way the concession was granted may have been irregular. Local media have reported that one of the bidders for the concession had offered to do the job for about $2.60 per car.

Los Angeles: The film, ``Gimme Shelter.'' spruced up for its 30th anniversary with digitally remastered stereo and enhanced colors, is being reissued in theaters across the United States over the next few months, paving the way for the Nov. 14 release of a DVD featuring a wealth of previously unreleased footage.

     A young fan was stabbed to death by members of Hells Angels in front of the stage during the show. By chance the murder was captured on film, and it forms the climax of the legendary 1970 rock 'n' roll documentary.

     The Stones, who own 50 percent of the film, have cooperated with the reissue but are not talking about it. But Mick Jagger, 26 at the time, was not enthusiastic about releasing it.

     ``Gimme Shelter'' centers on a free concert for 300,000 people at the speedway near San Francisco on Dec. 6, 1969. The Stones organized it, in part, to combat criticism about high ticket prices (top price $7.50) on their just-finished U.S. tour. While some in the audience were trying to perpetuate the hippie vibe by raising money for the Black Panthers, passing out flowers, blowing bubbles or throwing Frisbees, others were worse for wear after taking bad LSD.

     By the time the Stones took the stage, it was very cold and the Hells Angels were cross that their beloved motorbikes they had brought to the front of the stage were getting pushed by the force of the crowd. And their masculinity was offended by the sight of prancing English musicians.

     But they arguably saved the day. As the band was performing ``Under My Thumb,'' 18-year-old Meredith Hunter pointed a gun at the stage and was immediately set upon by the Hells Angels, one of whom fatally stabbed him. Alan Passaro, who was tried for Hunter's murder, was acquitted and drowned a few years later.

     The death scene is played in slow motion at the end of the film, during a scene that shows Jagger watching the footage on a monitor several months later.

Russia: Gunmen ambushed a suspected crime boss in front of a prestigious St. Petersburg hotel this week, killing him and two other people before escaping.

     Alleged mob boss Gocha Tsagarenshvili and an unidentified woman had emerged from their Jeep Cherokee and were walking toward the entrance of the Hotel Astoria when they were shot by two men who leaped out of a small Russian Zhiguli car.

     The gunmen had apparently been waiting for Tsagarenshvili, Petukhov said. Their car was later found abandoned with a Kalashnikov rifle and a pistol inside.

Ottawa: According to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, Organized crime groups are distributing illegal gambling machines extensively throughout Western Canada.

     Police say that video gaming and lottery machines are the newest, and possibly the largest, illicit source of gambling income available to the Canadian mobs.

New London Ct.: A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.

     The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld a lower court's decision that the city did not discriminate against Robert Jordan because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test.

     Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took the exam in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

     The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

     The US District Court found that New London had ``shown a rational basis for the policy.'' In a ruling dated Aug. 23, the 2nd Circuit agreed. The court said the policy might be unwise but was a rational way to reduce job turnover.

Washington DC: The Justice Department is having difficulty in hiring researchers to evaluate the FBI's so-called Carnivore system for monitoring the Internet.

     Five groups of researchers have decided not to participate in a study that would examine whether Carnivore, when used properly, would not violate civil rights laws.

     Jeffrey Schiller, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network manager, told the newspaper: "This is not a request for an independent report. They want a rubber stamp." Other researchers said that the Justice Department's restrictions for the study were too stringent.

Washington: The Securities and Exchange Commission has completed its fourth sweep against online fraud, indicting or closing down 33 companies and/or individuals who allegedly were involved in "pump and dump" schemes.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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