Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Murder for Hire as a Manifestation of Organized Crime

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Murder for Hire as a Manifestation of Organized Crime

Article excerpt

The number of murders for hire is on the rise in Russia, presenting a new challenge for Russian law enforcement agencies. Murders for hire are defined as a "service" of economic activity whereby business competitors are intimidated or killed as a means of resolving problems. Also known as contract killings, these murders are committed for personal and political reasons. Until recently, murder for hire was mentioned neither in the Russian media nor in the legal literature and legislation. The new criminal code of the Russian Federation (paragraph 3, article 105) acknowledges the deliberate causing of a person's death by hiring a murderer.

Murder for hire, as a subcategory of contract killings, is usually committed by professional "hit men" for monetary compensation. Some criminal organizations specialize in this line of work; orders for murder can be filled by a staff of professional killers. The criminologists who study the phenomenon of contract killings believe that conditions have emerged in the Russian Federation conducive to the establishment of large criminal organizations similar to Murder Incorporated of the 1930s in the United States, an organization that was responsible for about 1,000 contract killings in its ten-year existence.

What is striking to the man on the street is their cruelty and scale, and the professionalism with which contract killings are now carried out. One is struck by the availability of information on the locations of the murders, the names of the victims, and the amount of the remuneration received by the murderers. However, it is rare for the name of the person who ordered the killing to be publicized.

The number of such crimes is growing, and specialists believe them to be linked to organized crime rather than to any other form of criminal activity. Organized crime manifests itself in those cases when an organization is necessary to provide leadership, subordination, distribution of roles, and deployment of resources. In such cases, criminal operations turn into a self-sustaining activity. Organized crime is highly professionalized. The preparations for operations are extensive, and the command and control mechanism is extremely tight and secure. Murders are handled in such a professional manner that the only chance of solving them is when they are committed by dilettantes or when powerful political figures take an interest in them.

As is widely known, the laws of the market apply to organized crime. Demand for commodities and services generates supply. In the criminal world, there is a demand for illegal profits, removal of competition, monopolies on certain types of entrepreneurship, and so on. In response to these demands of the criminal market, a supply of criminal services has emerged and is flourishing.

The Origins and Characteristics of Murders for Hire

Contract killings appeared in Russia in the early 1990s as the transition from a command to a market economy got under way with voucher privatization of state property. A spate of contract killings corresponded with monetary privatization, not only in the criminal underworld, but also among legitimate entrepreneurs. The emergence of the market economy has been accompanied by a new form of murder--murder as a means of resolving commercial disagreements. This category also includes murder as a result of dividing profits from commercial ventures; murder of a competitor or of an unyielding customer obstructing commercial activity; murder when one of the parties breaks an agreement, as a consequence of fighting for spheres of influence among criminal gangs, and as revenge for the murder of a member of a criminal gang.

From the point of view of a criminologist, it is extremely interesting to consider the supply and demand mechanism in contract killings. Because such crimes are seldom solved and the perpetrators remain unknown, it is important to reconstruct the sequence and interplay of forces in those cases that have been solved by law enforcement agencies in the Maritime Province, An examination of the 1996-97 criminal investigations of this region reveals that in the category of contract killings, two cases were filed with the court, four were investigated by law enforcement agencies, and one was dismissed. …

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