By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
Since 1992, the Russian word Mafyia has
been officially used in the Russian Federation’s documents to refer above all
to organized crime, structured through stable groups that repeatedly perpetrate severe crimes and
offences. In particular, this word refers to the interests of the world
“below” – the invisible universe of organized crime – with the world
“above”, namely institutions, ruling classes, politicians and
Both the real Mafia, namely the Sicilian one, and the Russian one were born around mid-19th century.
The Sicilian Mafia became the
“parallel State” in a region where the Unitary State did not exist or
counted for nothing. A case in point is the Baron of Sant’Agata, the feudal
lord of Calatafimi, who ordered his mobsters to “side with the winners”, when
he realized that Garibaldi’s troops, the so-called “Garibaldini” were winning
in the plain.
“organization”, which had long-standing roots -probably Arab and in any case
independent of the Kingdom centred on Naples and the Campania region –
discovered its political role precisely with Garibaldi-led Expedition of the
Thousand that landed in Sicily, after which it became the primary mediator
between the small group of “Piedmontese” soldiers and the great mass
of peasants. It immediately agreed with the feudal lords, who helped it considering
that it was winning.
The Mafia itself was both the improper
bank of the wealthy feudal lords and the only form of effective social control,
solely in favour of the Sicilian feudal elites – and hence also of the Unitary
happened also in Naples, when Garibaldi appointed Liborio Romano – who was also
the Head of Camorra – as Chief of Police. An inevitably very effective
Conversely, in Russia organized crime was
initially used – in politics – by
various revolutionary groups to fight the Tsar.
Later, there was the magic moment of an important “friend of the
people”, namely Nicholai Ishutin.
was the first to establish a group of professional revolutionaries, in 1864,
simply called “the Organization”.
However, with a view to better achieving
the revolutionary, anarchist and violent aims of his Organizacjia, Ishutin
created another new structure. It was called the “Hell” and had to
engage in all possible illegal activities, together with the already active
criminals: murder, theft and blackmail. All this had to happen while the
“Organization” was running its lawful social and organizational
Hence, for the first time politics became the cover for a criminal organization.
Goodness knows how many imitators Comrade Ishutin had.
It was the beginning of a very strong bond
– also at theoretical level, through many excerpts from Lenin’s texts that
exalted Russian revolutionary populism – between organized crime and the
Bolshevik Communist Party.
fact, on June 26, 1907, a bank stagecoach of the State Bank of the Russian
Empire was attacked and robbed in Tiflis, Georgia. It was a robbery fully
organized by top-level Bolsheviks, including Lenin and Stalin.
There was also the strong support of local
criminals led by Ter-Petrosian (“Kamo”), the Head of the Georgian mob and also
Stalin’s early associate.
The relationship between organized crime
and Bolshevism – particularly with reference to the “agrarian reform”
of 1930-1932 – remained central.
The Soviet power absolutely needed its extra legem left hand to harshly
bring peasants into line and to militarily organize the conquest of factories,
as well as to control or physically eliminate the entrepreneurs or bureaucrats
of the old Tsarist regime.
Everything changed with Stalin, who,
together with the stabilization of the Bolshevik regime, made possible also the
verticalization and creation of a unitary command hierarchy in the vast world
of Russian crime – and in the Party.
Hence the Organizatsja was founded, i.e. a strongly verticistic
Panrussian structure – as indeed the Bolshevik Party was.
The “Organization” – full of symbols and
particular rites, like the many para-Masonic organizations of the revolutionary
Napoleonic network in Italy, which imitated the secret society of Carbonari (the
so-called Carboneria) or, precisely, Freemasonry, albeit with entirely new
mechanisms and symbols – was sung heroically by one of the poets, former
“Thief-in-Law” (the generic term used by Stalin to designate all the
members of the Organization), but much loved by Stalin, namely Mikhail Djomin,
who exalted the achievements of the Vorovskoi Mir, the Thieves’ World, that had
only one code of conduct and revenge throughout the USSR.
the Party established the first organizational structure of the
“Thieves-in-Law”, who much operated during the Stalinist regime: the
Mir “brigades” were led by a “reserve group” that generated
and selected an additional covert group that had to be permanently related to
the Soviet political, economic and financial power.
In fact, the “Vory v Zakone”,
the Thieves-in-Law, had relations on an
equal footing with the Party and State leaders. They dealt with the various
“brigades” and managed the odshak, the cash pool, through an ad hoc Committee.
Through the odshak, said Committee mainly paid salaries to the
Organization soldiers, but above all invested its proceeds in the so-called
Without the criminal organizations and their
autonomous finance, there would have been neither the Soviet normalization
after Stalin’s purges, nor the money for
Leninist industrialization and the funds – extremely needed for the USSR
– targeted to foreign trade and the related sales of raw materials from 1930
This also applied to the Sicilian Mafia, a
true organization between two worlds, the American and the Italian ones, which
invested in real estate in Sicily when there was no capital, in the aftermath
of the Second World War, or refinanced capitalism in Northern Italy after the
political and union storm in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Without Mafia’s capital and without the
protection provided by some entrepreneurs to the most important fugitives in
Milan, there would have been no economic recovery after the disaster of 1968.
Reverting to the Bolsheviks, Stalin accepted
the presence of the “Thieves-in-Law” in their main sectors of
activity, in exchange for their careful persecution of his personal and Soviet
regime’s political adversaries.
Years later, even de Gaulle did so when
proposing to the Corsican underworld – one of the most ferocious in Europe – to
fight the OAS and eliminate it, in exchange for some State favours and the
transfer of many gangsters of the Brise de Mer – as the Corsican Mafia was
called – to Marseille.
Hence there is no modern power that could do
without its particular “Thieves-in-Law”. A case in point was China,
in the phase of the “Four Modernizations” and the subsequent
Tiananmen Square movement, or the United States itself, which dealt primarily
with its various Mafias, especially in periods of severe financial crisis.
the 1950s, shortly before Stalin’s death, inter alia, a very close relationship
was established between the “Organization” and the Soviet power
was exactly the underground economy – fully in the hands of the “Thieves-in-Law”-
which, in Brezhnev’s time, became the meeting point between Mafia and
Organizatsjia already had excellent relations with the parallel
“capitalist” organizations – relations which were established upon
the creation of the Russian structure in the meeting held in Lviv in 1950 – and
it became essential to find the goods which were never found on the Russian
market, including weapons and illicit capital flows.
Corruption became the real axis of bureaucracy
and of the Party itself, while there was a spreading of poverty that closely
resembled the poverty of Ukrainian and Crimean peasants during the so-called
“agrarian reform” of 1930-1931.
Later, always in agreement with the Bolshevik
leadership, Mafyia organized – in every factory or office – “clandestine
units”, not falling within the scope of the collectivist system, which
created an underground market that, from 1980 to 1991, was even worth 35-38% of
the Soviet GDP.
proceeds from that semi-clandestine trade were shared between the Party, the
“Organization” and the law enforcement agencies. No one could escape
Again in the 1980s, precisely due to the social
and political pervasiveness of the “Thieves-in-Law”, the
Organizatsjia was structured into units for each commodity sector, especially
with units specialized in oil, minerals, wood, precious stones and even caviar.
that stage, however, many Soviet Party and State leaders were officially
accepted in the Organizatsjia, thus becoming the necessary link between the
“Thieves-in-Law” and the institutions.
Furthermore, with Gorbachev’s reforms, Mafyia
was no longer only an important part of the economic system,but became the
economic system in its entirety.
The elimination of the old political
apparatus and fast privatizations enabled the old leaders of the various
“clandestine units” to quickly collect the initial capital to buy
everything going from companies onto the now apparently liberalized market.
Sometimes Mafia’s intimidation was also
needed, when the old employees did not want to assign – for a few roubles –
their shares that the law allowed to be allotted between workers and managers
of the old State-owned factories.
1992 Yeltsin himself admitted that over two thirds of the Russian production
and commercial structure were in the hands of the “Organization”.
However, in memory of the old ties with
similar organizations abroad, only Mafyia did start the first joint-venture
contracts with Western companies and 72% of that opening onto the world market was
only the work of the Organizatsija.
That was exactly what Judge Falcone would have dealt with in Russia with
his Russian colleague Stepankov, if he had not been killed with his wife and
three agents of his escort in a bomb attack.
The joint venture worked as follows: firstly, foreign capitalists put
their money into the companies of the “Organization” and later –
without realising it and only with the hard ways – they were in the hands of
the old “Thieves-in-Law”.
Nevertheless, it was from 1990 to 1992 that the Russian Mafia structure
penetrated the West with vast illegal funds managed together with the local
surprisingly, a few days after the Capaci bombing, Giovanni Falcone was to fly
to Russia to talk with the Russian Prosecutor General, Valentin Stepankov, who
was investigating into the CPSU funds that had disappeared in the West.
intermediary of the operation could only be the “Organization” that
knew the Sicilian Mafia very well, at least since the aforementioned meeting
held in Lviv in 1950.
amount of money went from the CPSU to the “sister” parties and
probably the issue regarded also the failed coup against Gorbachev in August
Each CPSU faction had its autonomous funds –
often huge ones – given to “sister” parties but, above all, to their
most similar internal wings. Here a significant role was played by the covert bank
accounts held in Zurich, together with the Wednesday air transfers to the local
Narodny Bank, as well as the money transfers that took place during the visits
of the CPSU executives to the various local “comrades”.
Nevertheless, the cash flows -managed only by
the Organization -were regarded by the CPSU’s “old guard” mainly as a
source of personal survival and a basis for future political action at national
level. Everyone, ranged face to face upon the field of the new CPSU factions,
thought to said cash flows.
Coincidentally, it was exactly in those years
and months that the Sicilian Mafia expanded – for its drug business – to the
Caucasus and Anatolian Turkey, on the border with the new Russian Federation.
that time – as currently – the Russian Mafyia had preferential relations with
the Sicilian Mafia, the Neapolitan Camorra, the Chinese triads and the Turkish
Also the relations with Latin American and
Arab criminal organizations have been mediated by Sicilians or Calabrians (in
South America), Turks (in Central Asia and India) and Chinese (in Maghreb and
Currently the Organization’s yearly turnover
is still 2,000 billion roubles approximately, with weapons – including nuclear
ones – which were provided by the Mafyia sections within the Soviet and later
Russian Armed Forces.
even Luciano Violante – the former President of an important anti-Mafia
Parliamentary Committee – maintained,
both the CPSU and the KGB have long had
excellent relations with the Sicilian Mafia. The Russian Mafyia itself
is now the world centre where money laundering strategies, as well as the
division of territories at international level and the new strategies of
relations with the various ruling classes, are managed.
Violante used to say that the CPSU and the
KGBhad put in place the most recent Russian Mafia, with which they were
Hence the new post-Soviet oligarchy – selected
after Mafia wars that,between 1990 and 1995, exacted a toll of 30,000 victims –
has now merged with the ruling class.
As Solzhenitsyn used to say, currently in
Russia a maximum of 150 people rules. Putin deals with the
“Organization”, but he is certainly not linked to it.
Furthermore, according to the most reliable
Russian sources, currently the “Thieves-in-Law” network is composed
of about 50,000 people, including managers and mere “soldiers”.
Nevertheless, their network of intimidation and capital makes them
essential in carrying out any kind of “white” operation. They are the
bank of the new Russia, considering that all the official banks are part of the
the Russian media jargon, the Russian Mafia bosses who have reinvented
themselves in the legal business are called avtoritet(“authorities”).
Russian Mafyia also operate abroad, throughout Europe, but does not operate
directly in the territory of the various countries. If anything, it seeks
relations with the State and bureaucracy, through the national criminal
networks, without by-passing them.
Currently the Russian money laundering hub is
still France, while recently the “Organization” has been spreading
quickly within the German economic, banking and commercial fabric.
Italy, it operates mainly in Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and, obviously, Rome.
According to the Italian police sources, the
capital flows of the Russian “Organization” in Italy are equal to
38.5 billion a year, while the flow of Russian money laundering is still
focused on France, albeit with some operations made in Spain and Portugal. A
diversification already underway, which could also affect Italy.
first channel has always been Latvia, used by Russian mobsters to enter the
Euro area directly.
With a view to penetrating Latvia, the Russian
“Organization” created dummy companies based in London.
Later a Russian company lent money to the
company based in London – a company with main headquarters often located in
Russian company did not repay the debt – hence a corrupt judge in Moldova
forced the Russian company to transfer capital to a Moldavian account.
Hence the money entered Latvia in a perfectly
legal way and later the Euro area and Western economies.
The network has already endangered 753 Western banks – and money laundering is still one of the primary business activities of the Russian “Organization”.
*About the author: Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.”
Source: This article was published by Modern Diplomacy