Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

What Russia Must Do to Fight Organized Crime

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

What Russia Must Do to Fight Organized Crime

Article excerpt

Abstract: Most analysts explain the persistence of organized crime in Russia as a result of corrupt government officials who protect major crime bosses and hinder law enforcement attempts to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations. Although official corruption is undoubtedly a major factor, such analyses ignore other, no less important, obstacles, many of which are embedded in the Russian legal system itself. This article examines various gaps in Russian law, such as inadequate mechanisms for introducing wiretap evidence and cooperating witness testimony in court proceedings, which hinder the investigation and prosecution of organized crime in Russia.

Key words: criminal procedure, operational search activity, organized crime, Russian criminal law

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Most analysts explain the persistence of organized crime in Russia as a result of corrupt government officials who protect major crime bosses and hinder law enforcement attempts to investigate and prosecute criminal organizations. Although official corruption is undoubtedly a major factor, such analyses ignore other, no less important, obstacles, many of which are embedded in the Russian legal system itself. Beginning with the passage of the Organized Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the United States has developed a complex legal structure which, by providing law enforcement with the tools needed to investigate and prosecute organized crime, has resulted in the weakening of La Cosa Nostra. Russia, however, lacks corresponding laws.

On the basis of the U.S. experience, Kenneth Lowrie, deputy chief of the United States Department of Justice Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, has identified five elements necessary to an effective antiorganized crime program. These are (1) criminal statutes that allow for the prosecution of a criminal enterprise as a whole, (2) laws that allow for the use of confidential informants and undercover operations, (3) laws that facilitate the use of cooperating witness testimony in court proceedings, (4) laws that permit electronic surveillance and the use of wiretap evidence in court proceedings, and (5) an effective witness protection program. (1) A comparative analysis of relevant Russian laws in light of these elements reveals that Russia's legal base is woefully inadequate to combat organized crime and is likely as much of an obstacle to the eradication of organized crime in Russia as is official corruption.

Enterprise Theory of Prosecution

The U.S. Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Title 18, U.S.C. [section] 1961 et seq., passed in 1970, facilitates the prosecution of organized crime by allowing prosecutors to join multiple defendants and multiple crimes in a single case if the defendants and crimes are all connected to the same criminal enterprise. Without such a law, defendants in a single criminal organization would be prosecuted separately for separate crimes. By contrast, joining defendants and crimes in a single case allows prosecutors to present to judges and juries a complete picture of the defendants' criminal activity.

In 1996, Russia added Article 210 (Organization of a Criminal Society) to its Criminal Code, which, like RICO, purports to facilitate "enterprise" prosecutions. Specifically, Article 210 criminalizes the creation of or participation in "a criminal society ('criminal organization') [established] for the commission of serious or especially serious crimes." However, very few cases are actually prosecuted under this statute. The ineffectiveness of Article 210 appears to be the result of several factors. (2) First, Article 210 is poorly drafted and tails to provide a workable definition of "criminal society." RICO defines a racketeering enterprise as "any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity," engaged in a "pattern of racketeering activity" [18 U. …

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