Russian mafia taking hold in Berlin

Russian mafia taking hold in Berlin
Photo: DPA
Berlin is emerging as one of the world headquarters of the Russian mafia, according to Wednesday's edition of daily Die Welt.

“In 2007, ten groups from former Soviet states were investigated on 95 suspected crimes, and in the previous year fourteen groups with 167 suspected crimes were investigated,” Bernd Finger, head of organised crime task force from the city-state’s office of criminal investigation (LKA), told the paper.

These groups are dominated by Russians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Belorussians and Azerbaijanis, but so far authorities don’t believe there are any top mafia “Godfathers” in Berlin, the paper reported.

“With the international trafficking of high-value cars we are dealing mostly with Poles and Lithuanians,” Finger said. “The buyers are mainly found in Russia.”

Former Soviet citizens are active in almost all areas of organized criminal activity, he added, saying that auto theft was their focal point, followed by activity in financial fraud, counterfeit documents and money, and drugs.

“In the ‘Russian’ organised crime world, victims suffered more than €13 million in losses and the criminals made €3.6 million,” Finger told Die Welt. “But these sums are not officially confirmed.”

Criminologists hesitate to use the term “mafia” in reference to the Russian crime groups, though, because they differ structurally from the Italian mafia, which tends to focus more on territorial issues than pure profit. “The Russian groups operate with pure economics, they calculate profits and losses in an exclusively mercantile manner,” Finger told the paper.

Preventative measures have so far been the best way to fight organised crime in Berlin, Finger said. The LKA has been able to prevent some 55 cases of extortion for protection money and arson attacks on Italian eateries by the Italian mafia in this way, he said.