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The New Stage of The Fight Against Organized Crime In Russia

by Victor Shabalin, J.L. Albini, R.E. Rogers


In the summer of 1994, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) estimated that 25% of the Russian gross national income was derived from organized criminal activities. The MVD also believed that 5600 criminal groups were involved primarily in capital/money laundering, the drug business, and extortion. Consequently, President Yeltsin issued the Decree: "On The Urgent Measures To Defend The Population Against Gangsterism And Other Kinds Of Organized Crime," on June 14. This Decree suspended many of the existing laws that protected individual rights. The measure was controversial, but it was supported by the majority of the Russian people as a necessary evil to fight organized crime. The Russian criminal justice experts believe these laws will help control the economic criminalization caused by organized criminal associations and will encourage the development of honest business. They also hope that this Decree will mark the turning point in the fight against organized crime.

In the summer of 1994, the fight against organized crime has entered a new stage. At this time the magnitude of criminal activity has become very threatening to our society. If in 1993, the shadow economy, which is the material basis of organized crime, covered 25% of the gross national income (44-45 trillion rubles), then in 1994 this figure might reach 280 trillion rubles.

The tempo of economic criminalization is far ahead of all other economic indices. Government and academic criminal justice experts believe there are 5600 stable groups that are involved in a wide range of criminal activities. Russian criminal associations are increasingly more active abroad. According to the FBI data, announced by its director, Lewis Freeh, twenty four groups act abroad. Their main activities are capital/money laundering, the drug business and extortion.

Organized crime has become the most important political problem in Russia. It threatens to damage the unstable political, economic, and social systems by means of corruption and violence. It has created a situation where there is no guarantee of the Russian citizen's personal safety.

At the same time, the judicial basis of the fight against especially dangerous crimes has become dated long ago. The Russian criminal justice system doesn't even have definitions of organized crime and associations that reflect the new kinds of production, forms of property and capital, which came to being in Russia during the last five years.

This was the determining factor that induced President Yeltsin to issue the Decree titled: "On The Urgent Measures To Defend The Population Against Gangsterism And Other Kinds Of Organized Crime," on June 14, 1994. Compared to the existing criminal justice and legal procedures, the Decree aimed at the protection of the life, health and property interests of citizens. It also introduced some strict measures towards organized criminal associations and their members:

  • a) If there is enough evidence that someone has participated in a criminal group or is under suspicion for having committed serious crimes, the examination can be made, in agreement with the office of the public prosecutor, before the charges are brought against someone, and its results might be used as the proof of guilt.
  • b) In similar cases the inspection of the suspect and his relatives' financial activities and transactions can be made.
  • c) In order to investigate and stop organized crime, the information obtained from the criminal investigation can be actively used as proof in criminal cases.
  • d) With individuals suspected and accused of gangsterism and organized crime, such measures as the denial of bail, and the detention of up to thirty days without charges can be taken.
  • e) The confidentiality of banking transactions cannot be an obstacle for obtaining data and documents of financial activity, deposits, and operations of accounts belonging to persons and organizations having to do with organized crime groups.
  • At the same time, the Decree mandates that the afore-mentioned measures are only valid until the Federal Meeting of the Russian Parliament (its purpose will be to draft legislation to fight organized crime) adopts corresponding laws, and are under the control of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

    President Yeltsin's Decree precipitated polemical debate in the Russian society. It caused heated discussions among lawyers, political scientists and the political elite. Many of them think that the Decree contradicts the Constitution and violates a number of rights and freedoms of the citizens. The majority of the commercial structures and a significant part of the press have a negative attitude towards the Decree. The parliamentary faction "Choice of Russia" led by Gaidar, former economic adviser to Yeltsin, vehemently expressed the opinion to abolish it. Though there are many supporters of the Decree, one of the extreme positions is taken by Zhirinovsky's parliamentary faction, the Liberal-Democratic Party. The L.D.P considers the Decree too mild and demands that the army participate in the fight against organized crime by using summary execution to shoot the mob leaders and the use of field-court marshal to purge the corrupt members of the MVD (national police). The leaders of the law enforcement bodies and their representatives of the local administrations consider the Decree up-to-date.

    Using sociological research data, many well-known and respected lawyers support the Decree and believe that the personal safety of the citizens of Russia takes precedence over their abstract civil liberties. Many Russians consider that the limitations of some rights, of those suspected and accused of crimes committed by organized groups, are largely compensated by the increase in the guarantee of the right to life and safety for the majority of population. The ordinary people of Russia have reacted positively to the Decree and the measures needed to implement it.

    In addition, supporters of the Decree refer to the fact that many points of this document are reproduced in the text of the Bill "On the Fight with Organized Crime," which is now being heard at the Federal Meeting of the Russian Parliament. The issuing of the Decree has filled the juridical vacuum, formed between the old and new laws and stimulates the Parliament to enact new criminal justice legislation.

    The aforementioned Bill "On the Fight with Organized Crime" is the result of the great work done by a creative group of lawyers with Professor Asalia Dalgova, President of The Russian Criminological Association, as its leader. In short, the main statements of the law consist of sixty-two items as follows:

    • Particular measures of the fight with organized crime are taken by special detachments. Other detachments will use the resources which are at their disposal.
    • There are three main levels of organized crime: group, organization and association;
  • -There's also the fourth level of organized crime-particularly those with dangerous associations that have international connections. These communities, through the use of corruption and criminal terror, have influenced the power on the federal level. The fight with this kind of organized crimes has been given to The Committee. In The Fight With Especially Dangerous Organized Crimes and is subordinate to the Federal Meeting. The committee presupposes qualitatively a higher level of professional training of its officials which would include: the knowledge of foreign languages, foreign laws, international law, the practice of criminal justice in different countries, and the traditions and culture of these countries.
  • In the Committee's arsenal, there are some non-traditional executive inquiry measures, which cannot be found in the existing laws. Among them are infiltration into criminal communities and the control, delivery, creation and use of "legendary" enterprises and etc. The complex measures implemented to fight the laundering of criminal capital occupies a particular place in the Bill.

    The Law on Organized Crime is still under discussion, nevertheless, a great number of statements appeared in the press and stated that the measures provided by the law are "draconian." However, the law has been written by using the experience of the international community in its fight with organized crime, and on the whole, corresponds to those strict but necessary measures used towards organized crime in all civilized countries. In this respect, it's worth mentioning the Moscow citation of the FBI Director, L.Freeh: that organized crime in Russia threatens not only the safety of this country but the safety of the U.S.A. In addition, he doesn't consider the Decree of President Yeltsin as an extreme violation of human rights.

    One can hypothesize about the possible scenarios that may result from the implementation of President Yeltsin's Decree and the introduction of the Law On Organized Crime in the near future:

  • a) The documents mentioned above might be used in the Parliamentary political game of who is tougher on crime. The crime factor as a political resource/issue has always been used in Western bourgeois civil politics and is becoming a major issue in Russia as well. The people's fear of crime, real or fictitious, is used by political forces to get additional political and financial support. However, if the public perceptions of criminal activities worsen, the resulting hysteria precipitated by such a "game" might lead to serious social conflict.
  • b) The fight with organized crime could be in the background of a lasting economic depression, and its effect could cause business and financial chaos. Under these conditions, the economic and social roots of organized crime won't be damaged, and the fight against it might be one more "crusade", which our country has experienced in great numbers. In this scenario, it is quite likely that the influence of criminal structures on Russian society will become greater.
  • c) At the end of this year, according to the government's forecast, the decline in the production of goods and services will slow down and stabilize, and the economic recovery will begin. What is urgently needed to facilitate the new economic recovery is the implementation of new laws to fight organized crime and prevent its influence on economic development.
  • Without delay, laws should be adopted to fight organized crime in the areas of corruption, illicit criminal incomes, and laundering of capital/money, the criminal distortion of privatization, and others. These laws would help control the economic criminalization caused by organized criminal associations and would protect and encourage new honest commercial enterprises. In this case, the fight against organized crime is becoming a part of the reform and recovery process of the Russian society and might be effective. If these laws are effective, organized crime little by little will gravitate to its traditional spheres (drugs, prostitution, pornography, gambling, etc.), where efficient criminal justice control can be taken. Time will show what scenario will develop from the fight against organized crime in Russia.


    As of September 1995, President Yeltsin's Decree, "On The Urgent Measures to Defend The Population Against Gangsterism and Other Kinds of Organized Crime," is still the law in the Russian Federation. However, because of the continued deterioration of Russia's social and economic infrastructures, the Decree unfortunately has not produced the desired effects in combating organized crime that its proponents had optimistically predicted.

  • Russian Criminological Association
  • Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Shabalin, V. (1995) Interview with co-authors J.L. Albini and R.E. Rogers

    Colonel, Professor Victor A. Shabalin is a Professor of Political Science at the Khabarovsk Graduate Militia College in Khabarovsk, Russia. Professor Shabalin is a member of the Criminological Association and has participated in the drafting of new laws to fight organized crime in the Russia Duma. He is also considered to be one of the foremost scholars on Russian organized crime and has published numerous papers and monographs on this subject.

    Victor Shabalin
    Professor of Political Science
    Kharbarovsk Graduate Militia School,
    Kharbarovsk, Russia

    Dr. Joseph Albini is recognized as one of the foremost experts on American and international organized crime and has written numerous books, monographs, book chapters and papers on this subject. His book The American Mafia, (1971) is considered a classic in the study of organized crime. Professor Albini is currently Co-Director of The Joint Russian-American Academic Committee For The Promotion Of The Study of Comparative Criminal Justice.

    J.L. Albini
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    Department of Criminal Justice
    4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 455009
    Las Vegas, NV 89154-5009

    R. E. Rogers, Ph.D. has been studying Russia/The Soviet Union for thirty-five years as a student and professor. He is presently the American Co-Director of the Joint Russian-American Academic Committee for the Promotion of The Study of Comparative Criminal Justice at Eastern Michigan University, and is also a consultant on the Russian criminal justice system. Dr. Rogers has co-authored several articles on the Russian criminal justice system and is involved in a number of collaborative research projects with his Russian colleagues.

    R.E. Rogers
    Co-Director of Joint Russian-American Academic Committee
    for The Promotion Of The Study Of Comparative Criminal Justice
    Eastern Michigan University
    Continuing Education/Interdisciplinary Technology
    493 W. Forest, Detroit, MI 48201

    © 1995: IASOC

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