Friday, January 11, 2008

Russian Mafia and Godfather Vladimir Putin?

You Can Get Anything You Want If Know A Certain Arms Dealer in Mother Russia

A Russian weapons smuggler was arrested at a children’s resort in the Pocono Mountains this past week. Even the Russian mafia needs the warm and fuzzy feeling on occasion. What could be more benign than a vacation at the Great Wolf Lodge, a Poconos resort that caters to families with children?

A reported criminal associate and local gun dealer was also arrested by federal agents in conjunction with the arrest of Sergey Korznikov of Moscow, Russia. The man, identified as Mark Komoroski, aged 45, is the owner of D&R Sports, a gun shop in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. Komoroski says he had a license from the “government” to sell the weapons and high-tech military devices like face shields and night-vision scopes but the federal agents, having arrested Komoroski, are obviously not in accord with this view.

A larger and more insidious picture of illegal arms dealing may emerge when federal prosecutors develop their case. Sergey Korznikov is the owner of a Russian company called Tactia. The Philadelphia Inquirer report says that Komoroski’s D&R Gun Shop shipped night vision rifle scopes and other assault weapons components to Korznikov’s company, Tactia. The documents accompanying the shipments were falsified and indicated that clothing, not war materiel, was inside the shipping containers.

The arrests came partly as the result of the renewed vigilance of the U.S. government after the 9-11 attacks. While government monitoring of financial and other data has come under criticism from some quarters, the increased security measures have yielded results. The U.S. intelligence watch list contained the name of Russian company Rockman EOOD. This is where the case becomes larger than would first appear; Sergey Bout is the owner of Rockman EEOD and he is the brother of a former KGB officer named Victor Bout.

Federal agents have not said publicly whether they have concluded that Sergey Bout was a single tributary among the many tributaries in the cascade of arms being shipped to combat hot spots around the world. No particular ideology can be observed from the pattern of Victor Bout’s arms dealings—he has sold weapons and war materiel to the Taliban and to its enemies, to African warlords and their enemies, and to anyone with enough money to purchase them.

Victor Bout has been the subject of books like the “Merchant of Death” and other books which describe Bout’s activities in international arms trafficking. While Victor Bout enjoys the protection of Russian citizenship, the U.S. and Interpol have tried unsuccessfully to capture him and bring him to justice. However, the Russians refuse to extradite Bout, currently living comfortably with his family in Moscow.

This is not the only instance in which the Russian refusal to extradite has impaired international criminal investigation. Russian president Vladimir Putin recently refused to surrender the men suspected of the murder by poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London. Putin has refused repeated requests by Britain’s Scotland Yard to interview the suspects. The common suspicion in Russia and in some quarters of the international press is that Putin, a former KGB agent himself, enriches his friends and protects them from political, legal, and business enemies.

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