On Tuesday, the directors of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) met with House International Relations Committee on Capital Hill. CIA Director John Deutch said that organized crime represents a growing threat to democracy in Russia and has spread to 50 countries around the world, including the United States.
Director Deutch said, "Organized crime and corruption pose an increasing threat to political and economic reform in Russia. Russia's criminal groups reach across international borders, including our own. Russian criminal groups have the potential to support terrorism and contribute to the proliferation of materials, technology and weapons of mass destruction."
This is the first time that Director Deutch has testified before a Congressional Committee on the subject of Russian organized crime. Deutch tried to be optimistic on the issue by saying, "The facts do not support the important judgement that this criminal issue in Russia has gotten to such an extent that they are going to be unable to proceed with their ... slow but hopeful moves towards a more democratic society."
Even though he said that Russian organized crime groups have the potential to contribute to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Deutch stressed, "We have no data indicating that a nuclear weapon or a significant quantity of fissile material has ever been stolen from Russia. We also have no information that Russian criminal organizations are cooperating with terrorist groups or rogue states."
The reason that criminal groups have flourished is because the groups got their start in widespread government corruption even before the Soviet era ended. Deutch said, "The rapid collapse of the Soviet system and central planning offered opportunities for this underlying corruption to bloom, for criminals to reap much higher profits and for crime to become much more visible to the average citizen."
Overall, both directors, Deutch and Freeh of the FBI, gave what could be considered a gloomy assessment of the crime problem in Russia. FBI Director Louis Freeh said that when freedom was established in Russia, it helped spread the existing criminal network to expand abroad. Freeh said, "Evidence that organized crime activity from these areas is expanding and will continue to expand to the United States is well-documented."
The FBI director said that he was not going to make the same mistake that legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover made by ignoring the Mafia for 50 years. Freeh said, "We are not about to make the same mistake with Eurasian crime."
Freeh told the Congressional Committee that Russian crime groups are operating in New York City. The FBI is investigating several cases that involve everything from murder to a massive fraud scheme aimed at trying to steal $2 billion in fuel tax revenues.
The main point where it seemed to Deutch and Freeh differed was on their assessments of the anti-crime efforts by the Russians. Deutch said about the Russian law enforcement authorities, "Law enforcement agencies continue to be understaffed, under-funded and plagued by corruption."
FBI Director Freeh said that in its dealings with the Russians, the FBI has found that its Russian counterpart, the NVD, has proven to be a reliable partner in investigating cases and in making arrests.
Currently, the FBI has two Special Agents stationed in Moscow. They are handling about 300 cases and have requested a third agent to be assigned there.
Also speaking before the Committee on Tuesday was California Attorney General Dan Lungren, who spoke about the growth of Russian organized crime in his state and was the focus of an ENN report on 19 March 1996.
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