This project consists in creating a virtual art theft within the Manchester Art Gallery. The user will play the role of a thief that had stolen an art masterpiece and is being interrogated by a police detective. During the interrogation the thief remembers the heist through several flashbacks allowing the player to experience the heist in first person.
Friday, July 31, 2009
The book, Australian 'Ndrangheta, is not currently available on Amazon.com, but the linked article provides insight into both the 'Ndrangheta's activities in Australia as well as into its ritual practices.
That a Brazilian connection should exist is hardly surprising given that both Brazil and various West African transit countries, such as Guinea Bissau, speak Portuguese.
Reportedly, the most popular routes are through Holland, Spain, and South Africa.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Ton Cremers firstname.lastname@example.org has invited you to join the Museum Security
Network group with this message:
Dear (former)Museum Security Network subscribers,
(APOLOGIES FOR POSSIBLE CROSS POSTING)
Following my recent decision to cease running the Museum Security Network, I
am pleased to inform you that I have this week passed the moderation of the
Museum Security Network Google Group to Dr Tom Flynn, a London-based art
historian, writer on museums and cultural heritage, and a long-time subscriber
to the previous list.
As a result, the list has been re-launched at http://groups.google.com/group/
museum_security_network and is now open for new members. Tom has plans to
develop the Museum Security Network and list over the coming weeks and months,
including launching a news digest and an associated website, and can be
contacted at email@example.com.
I'm also happy to confirm that Jonathan Sazonoff has kindly agreed to continue
as the Museum Security Network's North American contributing editor.
YOU NEED TO RESUBSCRIBE IF YOU WANT TO JOIN THIS RESTART OF THE MUSEUM
SECURITY NETWORK MAILING LIST.
Here is the group's description:
Dedicated to all aspects of cultural property security and safety matters, and
to the collection and dissemination of information about incidents in cultural
property institutions. Founded 1996 by firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
According to its launcher,Tom Flynn, it:
seeks a more comprehensive overview of the licit and illicit markets and their multiple interconnections. The service eschews attention to closed circuit television systems, fire blankets and other physical security technologies in favour of a clearer focus on the underlying commercial structures of the international art and antiquities markets. Please join.
Fortunately, according to Time, Italy's sweet life has returned:
Despite the morning's drama, life was back to normal at the famed café by early afternoon. Marcello Scofano, the assistant manager, who has worked there for 26 years, said the current owner appeared to be an upstanding businessman. "This has already been a bad year," Scofano said, citing the economic crisis' impact on tourism. "But I've seen good times and bad times here. We serve it all: espresso and cappuccino, dinner or snack, $1,000 bottles of wine and $40 bottles." But investigators are alleging that Scofano wasn't the only one keeping tab.
And why should not Italy's sweet life return? The mob is ready, willing, and able to finance it.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
According to Goldfarb, the first known looting occured in 1158 BC, when the conquering Elamites seized an Akkadian victory stele. The Romans glorified pillaging as a symbol of imperial splendor, but the Middle Ages saw pillaging revert to mere piracy. Napoleon revived the Roman tradition, while the Nazis, in the 20th century, turned pillaging into some sort of fetish. The Iraq War has seen all sorts of looting going on.
Regrettably, Goldfarb overlooks Indiana Jones.
Nevertheless, for a grand overview of this ancient tradition, read her article.
If Pakistan were a bankster rather than a failing state, Congress would be giving it trillions, not billions - no questions asked.
Pakistan needs to hire some K Street lobbyists and to start making campaign donations - with the military aid money it gets from us, of course.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Min. 00:00:00-Four suspected drug boats. Min. 0:10:25- Suspected drug boat with two suspects aboard. Min. 0:31:29-Suspected drug boat and infrared heat signature from the CGC Bertholf while in pursuit. Min. 1:10:02-CGC Bertholf boarding team approaches a suspected drug boat with two suspects aboard. Min. 1:18:15-Three suspected drug boats. Min. 1:25:11-Infrared heat signature from the CGC Bertholf. Min. 1:36:08-Suspected drug boat. Min 1:42:04-CGC Bertholf boarding team approaches suspected drug boat. CGC Bertholf boarding team member handcuffs suspected drug smuggler. (Coast Guard video/CGC Bertholf)
Visions of Count Dracula began to dance in my head. I half-expected the grand piano in the hall outside my room to start playing by itself.
Here's what I discovered, when I booked in:
1, The room rate is at least 30% over that quoted in the guides—now 139 euros. This happens, of course. Not necessarily sinister. Though quite a jump in one year...a year of recession...especially, with swine flu, in the travel business...
2. I seemed to be the only guest. In peak season, on a Friday night, during the Plovdiv Folklore Festival. Other hotels seemed to be full or close to full. This was downright eerie, especially given the top billing Hebros is given by all the big-name guides. Even eerier was the fact that
3. There was nobody at the front desk. Nobody when I arrived, and nobody for six or seven hours of periodic checking. I did get checked in; once I rang the front door bell, a woman appeared from the restaurant outside and showed me to my room.
4. The check-in procedure was very strange. She did not ask for a name; she just took my passport and ushered me to a room, saying they had been expecting me. This was creepy to the max, and suggested they were not anticipating any other guests.
5. To make things worse, the woman who checked me in did not return my passport. She disappeared with it. This was especially troublesome because it is actually illegal to be on the streets of Bulgaria without some form of official ID. I was then trapped in the hotel, for some hours, in a strange city, with no services, no sources of information, and no apparent way of contacting hotel staff.
You have to read the rest of what happened. It is incredible. The writer concludes:
It is sheer speculation, but I know something of the hotel business, and have a guess at what has happened to the Hebros. The same thing has happened to many hotels even in Canada, where organized crime is much less of a problem than in the Balkans.
My hunch is that its great reputation—not just the hotel, but the restaurant--made it overwhelmingly attractive to local individuals lacking just that particular commodity. It may serve as a respectable front for laundering large sums of money the provenance of which might otherwise be awkward to explain. The restaurant, which I did not have the opportunity to sample, may well still be legit—harder to disguise that, since locals probably patronize it. But a hotel that reports itself as always full can claim a lot of revenue; so long as real guests do not too often foul up the accounting.
Of course, if things in Romania work anything like they are working in Italy, then organized crime also is providing financing.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
However, if the cocaine originates in Peru, it need not transit Chile but rather may proceed directly:
The police found the drugs in a container that arrived at the port of Constanta [Romania] from Peru last week. The cocaine was bound to Hungary.
Along these lines, a report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body focused on anti-money laundering and combating terror finance, found that while financing any singular attack may be relatively inexpensive compared to the damage incurred, “maintaining a terrorist network, or a specific cell, to provide for recruitment, planning, and procurement between attacks represents a significant drain on resources. A significant infrastructure is required to sustain international terrorist networks and promote their goals over time.” Creating and maintaining such support and facilitation networks, FATF concluded, requires significant funds.
This FATF study, Terrorism Financing,” Financial Action Task Force, February 28, 2008, available online at http://www.fatfgafi.
Basically, what Levitt and the FATF are stating is that terrorist networks, in addition to their direct costs of such items as setting of IADs, also have substantial overhead: bribery costs, smuggling expenses, money laundering depletion, propaganda expenses, and so forth.
Overhead is a well known part of cost accounting. When, for example, you purchase a shirt from a department store, its cost involves more than just the cost to get it from the Chinese sweat shop that made it. It also includes the rent for the store, its heating and electricity, its property tax, the janitor's minimum wage ( assuming he is not an illegal immigrant working for less ), and so forth.
One of the true marvels of modern capitalism, perhaps even more than derivatives and other "complex financial instruments," is cost accounting - which basically is the ability to squeeze these overhead costs to a minimum. Which explains why your department store does not actually hire the janitor, but rather has outsourced janitorial services to a third party. So it doesn't have to pay the janitor benefits and can disclaim responsibility when the immigration authorities stage a raid.
So we should realize that terrorist networks, although more abstract and disembodied, are like department stores in that they have to maintain and market themselves and so forth.
Terrorists, drug kingpins, and the like enjoy full access to accounting services. Accordingly, we should conclude that their cost accounting exploits at least match your department stores'.
The resulting permutations should be interesting.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Perhaps the gangs in Brazil are beginning to take a step in that direction:
Rio drug traffickers are operating makeshift medical clinics in the slums they control so wounded gang members don’t have to risk arrest by seeking treatment at hospitals, police said Thursday.
Say what you will about these clinics, there aren't any of the evil bureaucrats involved.
According to the head of Italy's employers' federation:
it was necessary to avoid a situation in which "the only way to find credit is by way of usury". He said there was a danger of "organised crime replacing the banking system". Confindustria is pressing for measures to ensure that Italian business gets continued access to credit.
The article reports:
Central bank figures show that the flow of loans to business has fallen drastically in the past 18 months. By May, the volume of credit made available to companies of all sizes had shrunk to less than a quarter of what it had been in December 2007.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Last week’s Archdruid Report post built on one of E.F. Schumacher’s more trenchant insights to propose a controversial way of making sense of modern economics. Schumacher, in Small Is Beautiful, drew a distinction between primary goods produced by natural processes, and secondary goods produced by human labor, and pointed out that secondary goods can’t be produced at all unless you have the necessary primary goods on hand.
This is quite true, though it’s a point often missed by today’s economists. There is at least an equal difference, though, between either of these classes of goods and a third class produced neither by nature nor by labor. These are tertiary or, more descriptively, financial goods; they form the largest single class of goods in the world today, in terms of dollar value, and the markets in which they are bought and sold dominate the economies of the industrial nations. To call this unfortunate is a drastic understatement, because the biases imposed on our societies by the domination of financial goods are among the most potent forces dragging the world to ruin.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
In ancient societies that I studied, for example the Roman Empire, the great problem that they faced was when they would have to incur very high costs just to maintain the status quo. Invest very high amounts in solving problems that don't yield a net positive return, but instead simply allowed them to maintain what they already got. This decreases the net benefit of being a complex society.
This describes the present situation in healthcare.
Healthcare reform may or may not be possible. Congress' legislation may or may not solve the problem. But let me speak plainly: if you favor the status quo, you are living in a fool's paradise, because for precisely the same reasons Rome fell, the current healthcare system is going to fall apart.
According to Ryan Grim, in The Drug Czar's High Math: How phony statistics about cocaine prices hide the truth about the war on drugs, so far as the drug trade is concerned, that has already occurred:
The euro has replaced the dollar in the Western Hemisphere as the currency of choice among these traffickers, which is an extraordinary shift,” Karen Tandy, head of the DEA, told an antinarcotics conference in Spain in April 2007. “As cocaine use has declined in the U.S. dramatically, in the European market it has risen.
Copies of the full reports can be found at:
Reportedly, the 'Ndrangheta has been purchasing a string of restaurants, pizzerias, trattorias, bars and supermarkets in Rome's historic center to serve as fronts for money laundering.
Up to 70 per cent of Serbian residents are feelings the effects of the global economic crisis, and the same number of people expect the worst is yet to come, according to a Medium Gallup poll.
Less than 15 per cent of people in Serbia said they live well, while every second citizen reported that their lives were either bad or unbearable.
If the regular economy does not serve them, they will turn elsewhere, such as smuggling cocaine, etc..
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
In addition to Italy's 'Ndrangheta, others arrested were from Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Romania, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro. Reportedly, the drug trafficking ring included groups from Spain, Albania and Greece, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Once again we seek cocaine flowing from Bolivia through Chile to the Balkans and hence to Europe, in this case Italy.
When I asked the pair of gangsters about their bosses, their faces went blank. “There are probably 10 or 12 top guys in Kosovo moving this stuff into Europe,” Blacksy said. “But we don’t know them. It is not good to know the top guys, if you know what I mean.” The conversation turned to violence. Blacksy and Rambo claim to have seen deals devolve into beatings and murders. And though they wouldn’t go into details, I’d heard stories. Albanian crime gangs are notoriously brutal and secretive; authorities have found them impossible to infiltrate. “The police are a joke in Kosovo,” Blacksy told me. “You just need to know how to handle them.” Because Kosovo is a tiny region, its families are large, and everyone knows everyone else, few dare to testify in court. The act is considered a death sentence for a family: witness protection is weak, and relocation agreements are either nonexistent or impractical, as extended families are considered legitimate targets for revenge killings. The internationals fare no better than the local police.
“The term ‘camorra’ indicates a mental attitude, the principal characteristics of which are the result of bullying and coercion which enforces ‘omertà’ (loyalty to the criminal code). The difference between belonging to a camorra clan, and being subjected to its rules, is so finely drawn in areas where the camorra mentality is diffuse that it is almost impossible to see where legality ends, and where criminality starts. Camorristic behavior influences the whole social spectrum, involving businessmen, ‘respectable’ professionals, public administrators, and all those people who play a role in the organization and the day-to-day ‘administration’ of crime. Indeed, the criminals themselves now call this ‘the system.”’
Monday, July 20, 2009
Whatever skills, say, Henry Okah, the brains behing Nigeria's MEND, may have, or whatever skills the legendary Pink Panther might have, the typical art thief apparently is no such superman, according to Art Theft Central:
This case highlights how art thieves are not the Thomas Crown Affair playboy businessmen, who steal for the sheer pleasure and rush of excitement associated with art theft. Rather, as Dr. Simon Mackenzie discusses in 'Criminal and Victim Profiles in Art Theft: Motive, Opportunity and Repeat Victimisation,' in Art Antiquity and Law (Vol. X, No. 4, pp. 353-370, 2005), 'Most criminals are not specialists in one particular crime, rather they are opportunists. If they are career criminals, they may have a bank of core skills, but these can be adapted to different criminal activities (356).'
United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sources said even large drug shipments pass through the Dominican Republic, arriving by air and sea prior to their later transfer to the U.S., despite the efforts by Dominican antinarcotics authorities.
Reportedly, irregular airplane flights effect much of this new smuggling, often dropping the drugs at sea.
Of course, if drug cartels were to use drones, this type of smuggling could get even trickier.
Regime in Guinea-Bissau, Built on Coke, Looking for New President:
Quite in a distant from these oligarchic politics, the youth and especially young men of the country spend most of their time with fruitless attempts in order to get access to the networks which distribute resources, explicates Henrik Vigh who published a study about one youth militia entitled Navigating Terrains of War in 2006. ‘Even getting exploited is considered something to aspire towards as it at least holds the possibility of future reciprocal returns.’ Moreover, the catastrophic situation in Guinea-Bissau, says Vigh, can not be apprehended without an understanding of regional lines of conflict that stretch to Gambia and Senegal (especially the Casamance) and of the marginal global position of the country.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Of course, Kindle-type technology would make this possible.
How to avoid a 1984 result?
One solution would be artificial memory, an ancient, medieval, and Renaissance technique to cultivate a photographic memory. Frances Yates was a leading scholar about this, focusing heavily upon the Renaissance philosopher, Giordano Bruno. Other scholars, including notably Mary Carruthers, have expanded on her work.
Relying upon external records is a modern device. Michael T. Clanchy, in From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 - 1307, explores the lengthy and uncertain process by which England evolved from relying upon human memory to upon written records instead.
The sacred word: visa by Hajrudin Somun explores the complexities of this.
Besides Slovenia, Greece is the only Balkan country that is a member of both the EU and the Schengen area. Greeks, however, support the process of ending visa restriction for all other Balkan states, but they are also skeptical, worrying that it would increase economic migration and organized crime in their country.
Obviously, visa free travel will facilitate smuggling.
Complexities will abound:
That is why Serbia may join the EU before Bosnia and Herzegovina, continue the EU accession process without recognizing Kosovo's independence and see its citizens travel without a visa to Europe before the children of Srebrenica victims get the opportunity to do the same. The Bosnian case even becomes ironic when one considers what will happen once Serbia is rewarded with visa-free travel to Europe. Bosnian Croats already have the opportunity to enjoy visa-free travel to Europe with their Croatian passports, which they use more frequently than their Bosnian ones, even participating in Croatian elections. Now that Serbia is close to receiving the same treatment as Croatia, Bosnian Serbs will have the same privilege because they have the right to get Serbian passports. Only Bosniaks will be incapable of traveling without a visa to Europe in the foreseeable future. It will then be easy to recognize the people waiting from dawn in front of the German and Austrian embassies in Sarajevo to get a visa. They will only be Bosniaks -- Bosnian Muslims. This gives the image an even broader meaning.
Kosovo has still not been considered for any EU recommendation in regard to visa liberalization as it was not recognized by all EU countries nor accepted to the UN. Furthermore, its ethnic makeup differs from the Bosnian case. It is quite normal for the minority of Kosovo Serbs -- only 5 percent of the population -- to keep their Serbian passports because, at the end of the day, Kosovo is still formally considered by Belgrade as part of Serbia. It is, however, unusual that many Kosovo Albanians are taking out Serbian travel documents as well. There are around half a million Kosovars who live in Europe and come to visit relatives in Kosovo via Serbia, which does not recognize their Kosovo passports, forcing them to take out Serbian ones.
This sort of dumping is part of how West Africa is being exploited organized crime, according to a recent United Nations report.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Montenegrin narco mafia “plays” on quality while Albanian narco bosses 'play' on quantity, lower prices and high mortality rate of costumers....
A major Ethnic Albanian Criminal Group involved in extensive trafficking of heroin from the Balkans into Europe has been dismantled after a year-long investigation. Assisted by INTERPOL and Europol, the operation was co-ordinated by Italian and Slovenian law enforcement authorities.
The operation led to the arrest of more than 30 suspects and the seizure of 64 kg of heroin, 5 kg of ephedrine, 1 kg of hashish and 0.5 kg of cocaine. A considerable quantity of weapons, ammunitions and other crime assets were also confiscated.
The arrests were based on extensive international police co-operation and information sharing, the exchange and subsequent analysis of investigative details and co-ordination both at police and judicial level.
Known as Operation GASOLINE, the investigation was initiated by the Italian R.O.S. Carabinieri from Udine, co-ordinated by the Central Directorate for Anti-Drug Services in Rome and under the Direction of the Anti-Mafia National Directorate of Trieste. Simultaneous investigations were activated both in Slovenia and Austria with the aim of dismantling all branches of this criminal syndicate.
Providing a boost to the case was the ‘COSPOL – WBOC initiative’. COSPOL (Comprehensive, Operational, Strategical Planning for the Police) and WBOC (Western Balkans Organised Crime) are multilateral law enforcement instruments under the guidance, support and direction of the European Police Chiefs Taskforce (EPCTF).
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
He the State is seen only as an unpunished cronyism machine, where the PLD and PRD parties have a made a pact on impunity to let corruption pass, a situation which in his view could become unmanageable and land in the hands of drug trafficking, even penetrating the political parties’ campaigns.
And the price markups through their respective distribution chains are as follows:
Given the overall situation in neighboring Guatemala and Mexico, we can well imagine that those "other means" would include an insurgency.
Many commentators have - quite properly - criticized the coup that ousted Zelaya as a military abuse. But - unfortunately - the situation in Central America is such that the real significance of current events in Honduras is that drug cartels will exploit the unrest to transform it into a narco state.
And the Honduran military can huff and it can puff - but it ain't no match for the Zetas.
And as the Obama administration cracks down on smuggling into Mexico, Jamaicans fear even more firearms will reach the gangs whose turf wars intimidate the island of 2.8 million people.
'It's going to push a lot of that trade back toward the Caribbean like it was back in the '80s,' said Vance Callender, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attache at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Despite the large area involved, there are few places to hide. That's because you need water down here, and there are a limited number of places to get that.
The map provides the most detailed picture possible of the cartels and their links, and reveals that organised crime now reaches the corners of all 43 police force areas in England and Wales.
"What we now have with our crime mapping of these groups is a comprehensive picture of serious and organised crime, of who these people are, where they live and where outside of their own area their reach extends to. Now we can better co-ordinate our efforts and I believe we can do something about all these gangs," said Murphy.
Guinea's army has been placed on alert because - allegedly - drug smugglers are plotting a coup de tat.
Whether such a plot exists has not been confirmed.
The epicentre of the operation in which importers bring in items ranging from top-of-the-line household goods to vehicle spare parts – all tax free – is Eastleigh, the bustling business centre just east of Nairobi’s central business district that has become notorious for illicit trade and huge cash transfers.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Much of Greece's organized crime hails from Albanian gangs, who speak to one another in Albanian. Since almost no one besides Albanians understands their language, efforts to wiretap them generally have been futile.
Bulgaria has been plagued with corruption and organized crime. Borisov was elected on a pledge to clean it up.
However, as Stoyadinova notes, not only is Borisov inexperienced but he also is alleged to have ties to organized crime himself.
With its porous borders and slack security making West Africa an easy target for criminal networks smuggling cocaine, guns, cigarettes and other illegal goods, the head of the United Nations anti-crime agency announced today a joint initiative that would integrate the expertise of regional actors with the global reach of INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) to tackle the threats posed by organized crime in the subregion.
At a Headquarters press conference ahead of today’s launch of the West Africa Coast Initiative, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the strategy built on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Plan of Action aimed at strengthening national capacities and cross-border cooperation to tackle the organized crime and drug trafficking undermining peace and development in the fragile subregion.
Accompanying Mr. Costa were representatives of the Initiative’s other key partners, including Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA); Andrew Hughes, Police Adviser in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations; and Harper Boucher, Special Representative of INTERPOL to the United Nations.
Mr. Costa, who is also Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna, said the multi-agency Initiative established the existence of a real threat and set the parameters under which the partnership would address it. To start with, the Initiative would focus on illicit trafficking in post-conflict countries ‑‑ Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire ‑‑ and perhaps later in Guinea. It would cover law enforcement, intelligence gathering, border management and corruption, among other areas.
Responding to questions, he acknowledged that there had been fewer drugs flowing into Europe from West Africa over the past year or so but pointed out that organized criminal networks were threatening the subregion through illicit trafficking in small arms, cigarettes, toxic waste and human beings. UNODC’s just-released threat assessment on West Africa also listed the trafficking of counterfeit medicines, oil and other natural resources.
As for the rise of organized crime in West Africa, he said that, beyond the region’s weak institutional and judicial frameworks, perhaps the global financial crises were offering criminal networks a “unique opportunity”. Indeed, avenues shut off as a result of anti-corruption mechanisms set up in the late 1990s and the implementation of measures to monitor terrorist financing after 11 September 2001 were now opening up again because banks and other institutions desperately needed cash, which criminal networks had in great supply.
Mr. Djinnit, who joined Mr. Costa in briefing the Security Council on the situation in West Africa yesterday, said the Secretary-General’s latest report acknowledged the great strides taken towards consolidating peace, democracy and good governance in the subregion. Yet it was still fragile because the root causes of those problems, including poverty, political instability and high unemployment, remained.
While the impact of those ills was exacerbated by the recent resurgence of unconstitutional changes of Government in the subregion, UNOWA was especially troubled by the rise in organized crime and drug trafficking, he said. The Office had been playing an important role in sensitizing the region, including at the leadership level, to the impact that such widespread criminal activity could have on security and stability.
Mr. Hughes continued in that vein, describing organized crime as “a major spoiler” of peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts in West Africa and citing the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ experience, which showed that the best way to combat criminal networks was to use equally organized anti-crime networks. To that end, the joint West Africa Coast Initiative would develop specialized transnational crime units to carry out and coordinate action on the ground across the subregion. They would be headed by local law-enforcement agents and include police, customs officials and immigration officers. They would all be vetted by United Nations police and mentored by international experts. “So this is going to be regionally coordinated and internationally mentored, but locally owned,” he said, emphasizing that local ownership had been shown to have a tremendous effect on reigning in and ultimately stamping out criminal networks.
Mr. Boucher said INTERPOL was prepared to assist by, among other ways, providing expertise in such key areas as global communication networks and criminal database services, as well as training and providing operational support for investigations. While mechanisms were in place to address some security threats, they would need to be greatly enhanced if the countries of West Africa were to keep up a sustained fight against transnational organized crime.
In responding to other questions, Mr. Costa said that, while the drop in cocaine trafficking had caught many by surprise, it was due to several well-known factors, chiefly that stakeholders across the globe were becoming more aware illegal drugs were fuelling criminal networks and undercutting legitimate institutions in an already fragile region. Meanwhile, the global cocaine market was in a “state of flux” due mainly to the falling production and cultivation in Colombia. Also, consumption had declined significantly in key markets, especially North America.
He said UNODC had seen some countries institute marginally better border controls, and air and sea route monitors, as well as measures to deter corruption, warning, however, that traffickers always sought the path of least resistance. There were indications that they were moving their enterprises further south along Africa’s Atlantic coast, and even to remote areas of the Balkans, for the shipment of illegal goods to Europe.
Mr. Costa acknowledged that, while UNODC had always received great financial support and cooperation from the European Union, even greater commitment was needed from the bloc to help stem the tide of drugs by staunching demand, thorough effective law enforcement or other means. The European Union was the origin of a number of other tragedies playing out in West Africa, especially the environmental and health risks posed by the dumping and “storing” of Europe’s toxic and e-waste ‑‑ 8.7 million tons of old computers, mobile phones and the like annually ‑‑ in some West African countries, often with the complicity of their leaders.
He said UNODC was not in the business of “naming and shaming” specific leaders, but a chapter of the threat assessment report highlighted the smuggling of oil ‑‑ a legal commodity ‑‑ as one of the greatest threats to the rule of law in West Africa. Oil theft, or “bunkering”, in the Niger Delta was a key driver of pollution, as well as instability, and UNODC would provide technical assistance to address it.
Friday, July 10, 2009
The Journal of Art Crime, published by ARCA, is the first peer-reviewed academic journal in the study of art crime. This biannual publication welcomes interdisciplinary articles from both academics and professionals, related to art crime, its history, and its repercussions. Relevant fields include criminology, law, art history, history, sociology, policing, security, archaeology, and conservation.
The first issue of the Journal of Art Crime came out in the Spring of 2009, with the second the following Fall. You may subscribe to a full-color electronic (PDF) version of the Journal, a quality printed and bound black and white edition, or both. If subscribing to a printed edition, be sure to include your shipping address, as well as email. Each subscription is for 2 issues. You may pay with a credit card using Paypal in any currency. All income from subscriptions supports ARCA’s non-profit activities.
Gangsters launch fire bomb attack on Liverpool's Altcourse Prison.
CITY gangsters declared war on prison guards by fire-bombing a security van and attacking their cars with petrol.
Two masked thugs on a scrambler bike rode up to the prison van and smashed its windscreen before pouring petrol inside and lighting it.
They also covered the private cars of five staff members with petrol and aimed a threatening ‘gun salute’ at workers who were changing shift at Altcourse Prison on Wednesday night.
The attack is believed to be a stark warning to prison officers trying to clamp down on mobile phone use by inmates.
“It takes a lot to scare prison staff but when they’re going after your car it’s personal.
“They’re probably doing it because there’s a big surge on mobile phones in prison at the moment. They’re saying ‘You leave us alone and we’ll leave your cars alone’.”
While it is very good style to drive a two-seater roadster, you do not - I repeat DO NOT - confine your top down driving to summer months. That is disgustingly middle class American and makes you look like some jerk in a Viagra ad.
No, you continue to drive top down when the temperature is down into the 40's - and even the 30's if you have gumption.
Of course, you would invite pneumonia should you drive top down exposed. You substitute clothing for cover. Essentially, you are driving in an open cockpit.
The solution is to wear a leather flight jacket. While you could choose from several good styles, a good solution - arguably the best - would be to choose the traditional WWII Army Air Corps A-2. Think Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Think Colonel Hogan of Hogan's Heroes.
Go to The Type A-2 Flight Jacket Web Page for details both about the A-2 and how to get one.
The illustration in this post comes from Wikipedia.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Of course, the Somali pirates are important precisely because they threaten the Suez chokepoint.
Monday morning the Presidency’s Advisor on Drugs affirmed that the region’s drug traffickers fear only being extradited to the U.S. where they may face life sentences.
Marino Vinicio Castillo said the drug traffickers in their own country feel safe and have the money and power to enjoy a life of impunity. “Drug traffickers here and in other countries of the region have the silver to enjoy their lives and the lead to impose fear.”
In return, Europe ships toxic waste to West Africa:
The report provides this diagram to illustrate how the waste trade works:
“(The funds) help take a little bit of weight off the shoulders during a budget (crisis). ... I can’t say enough about the (Drug Enforcement Administration) and what they’ve done for our residents,” the sheriff noted.
As usual, to make sense of things, follow the money.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
According to NetCarShow.com:
The original Aston Martin V8 Vantage was hailed at the time of its 1977 introduction as "Britain's Supercar" for its 170 mph (274 km/h) top speed. Its engine was shared with the Aston Martin Lagonda, but the Vantage used high-performance camshafts and bigger carburettors for increased output.
The Vantage name had previously been used on a number of high-performance versions of Aston Martin cars, but this was a separate model. Although based on the Aston Martin V8, numerous detail changes added up to a unique driving experience. One of the most noticeable features was the closed-off hood bulge rather than the open scoop found on the normal V8. The grille area was also closed off for Series I cars.
The Series II cars, introduced in 1978, featured an integrated spoiler and smoother lines in the body. One obvious exterior clue is the square turn signal lights on the front fenders between the wheel opening and the headlights. Inside, wood replaced some of the vinyl padding giving a more luxurious appearance. This line was produced, with some changes, through 1986.
The 1986 through 1989 Series III V8 Vantage was more of a mechanical update. 16 inch (406 mm) wheels were now fitted, as was the more powerful V8 from the limited-edition Aston Martin V8 Zagato. This car was changed somewhat for the United States market - it lacked the powerful Vantage engine but retained the Vantage name, and the look was changed with a flattened hood.
A Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante convertible version was also produced.
Spanish police discovered the ring’s existence when its members tried to bribe a customs agent by offering him about 10,000 euros ($14,000) for each kilogram of cocaine they could smuggle into Spain with his cooperation.
After 10 months of investigation, law enforcement agents were able to arrest 13 people and seize 7 kilos of coke, 12,000 euros ($17,000) in cash, a starter’s pistol and jewelry valued at 85,000 euros ($119,000) which they obtained from several clients as payment for the drugs.
As long as European officials are this scrupulous, smuggling drugs through their airports will remain a challenge. How long their scruples will last in the current economy is another question.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
"They planned to use a 13 foot long remote-controlled airship to deliver night vision goggles, climbing gear and camouflage paint to the Italian convict who would then use the equipment to escape from prison."
7 July 2009 - Trafficking in persons, drugs, oil, cigarettes, counterfeit medicines, toxic waste and electronic waste ("e-waste") is posing a serious threat to security and development in West Africa.
[View the Report]
A UNODC report issued today in New York shows that in the past few years, West Africa has become a hub not only for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe but also for other trafficking flows. West Africa suffers from a combination of factors that make it vulnerable to organized crime, such as weak governance, and criminals are exploiting those conditions to traffic products through the region.
In 2006, roughly a quarter of the total quantity of cocaine that entered Europe (some 40 tons) transited Africa. The threat appears to be subsiding; in the past 18 months, a lower volume of seizures and a drop in the number of air couriers coming from West Africa to Europe has been detected. "Fewer drugs are flowing through West Africa. We must ensure that this downward trend continues", said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa.
However, the report "Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa: a Threat Assessment" shows that the threat of trafficking flows remains real. In some cases, the value of those flows through the region surpasses the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the West African States, which are among the world's poorest countries. The value of 45 million counterfeit antimalarial tablets ($438 million) is greater than the GDP of Guinea-Bissau. Revenue from cigarette smuggling (around $775 million) is greater than the gross national product (GNP) of Gambia. Illicit income generated from illegal oil bunkering or cocaine trafficking (approximately $1 billion each) rivals the GNP of Cape Verde or Sierra Leone.
According to Mr. Costa, "West Africa has everything that criminals need: resources, a strategic location, weak governance and an endless source of foot soldiers who see few viable alternatives to a life of crime."
The Report examines the various trafficking flows, the nature, size and value of the markets concerned, trafficking methods and routes and profiles of the traffickers.
Its key findings include the following:
* Cocaine trafficking through the region is decreasing, although flows of 20 tons (valued at $1 billion at destination) still have a destabilizing impact on regional security;
* In Nigeria, 55 million barrels of oil a year (a tenth of production) are lost through theft and smuggling ("bunkering"). Illegal oil bunkering, particularly in the Niger Delta, is a source of pollution, corruption and revenue for insurgents and criminal groups;
* As much as 80 per cent of the cigarette market in some West and North African countries is illicit, meaning that cigarette sales in those countries chiefly profit criminals;
* 50-60 per cent of all medications used in West Africa may be substandard or counterfeit. This increases health risks in a region where there is high demand for anti-infective and antimalarial drugs, and promotes the development of drug-resistant strains which are a hazard to the entire world;
* West Africa is a major destination for electronic waste (including old computers and mobile phones), also known as "e-waste", which contains heavy metals and other toxins. The European Union alone produces 8.7 million tons of e-waste each year.
"Organized crime is plundering West Africa - destroying governments, the environment, human rights and health", warned the UNODC Executive Director. "This makes West Africa more prone to political instability and less able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals."
"A powerful minority, all the way to the top, is profiting from crime in West Africa, at the expense of the many", he added, warning that, left unchecked, "democracy and development will falter, while crime and corruption will flourish."
Addressing a Security Council meeting on the situation in West Africa, Mr. Costa stressed that "most illicit trafficking is transiting West Africa, not originating there. Most contraband is heading north." He called on rich countries to "take their share of responsibility by curbing their appetite for the drugs, cheap labour and exotic goods that are being smuggled via the region, and by stopping the use of West Africa as a dumping ground for weapons, waste and fake medicines."
Citing the success of the Kimberly Process against the trade in conflict diamonds, the Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa and also the Praia Process against drug trafficking, he called for international action against illegal oil bunkering, counterfeit medicines, e-waste and the smuggling of migrants and cigarettes. "We must act before more lives are lost, more countries looted and more States infiltrated by gangsters", he warned
The Sofia City Prosecutor, Nikolay Kokinov, announced Monday that there was no reason to put Bulgaria’s notorious Galevi brothers back in jail.
In mid-June, alleged crime bosses, Plamen Galev and Angel Hristov aka the “Galevi brothers”, walked out of jail after both were allowed to run for parliamentary seats and thus receiving immunity from prosecution.
Monday, July 6, 2009
James Moss-Solomon, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer of Grace, Kennedy & Company Limited, predicts that henceforth, money will be laundered by selling goods below cost:
The worldwide assault on money laundering, racketeering, and confiscation under the proceeds of crime acts brought in new oversight and investigative mechanisms to the business of illegal drugs. The more recent move to remove the veil of secrecy from these tax havens is presenting the owners of illegal cash with severe problems. The no-questions-asked regime has ended, worldwide.
The question still to be answered is: Where will that money go? It cannot be circulated with impunity in and out of tax havens, as this must draw significant scrutiny. The only current solution is to import readily saleable goods, convert the sale at cost or below cost into Jamaican dollars and then either open a legitimate business, or buy government paper. The applicable discount for laundering is an extremely arbitrary figure as the profits have been much larger than normal margins, and so selling goods below cost is an attractive cleansing methodology. No doubt, they will try to sell themselves as an alternative to the IMF and World Bank.
If I am correct, we should see increased domestic cargo activities at our ports and a proliferation of foreign goods on our shelves. This could be great news for the consumer at this time of depression, but potentially damaging to the legitimate manufacturers and traders. It is not an element which will lead to sustainable development. It will also reopen the pressure on our bureaucrats to accept bribes and other forms of corruption. Finally, it will once again find its way into financing the production of ganja for export. And the cycle will begin again.
In particular, the cash-rich 'Ndrangheta is capitalizing upon the recession tomove into Milan, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"Claudio De Albertis, president of Assimpredil, the organisation representing construction companies, said the pending recession would make it easier for 'Ndrangheta gangs to buy their way into legitimate firms, as such businesses would be finding it harder to get bank credit."
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Eighteen months after East Africa's island of stability was brought to the brink of civil war by the fallout from a stolen election, there is a temptation to assume that if the country is not burning, it must be healing. That would be wrong, according to the annual index of failed states, issued yesterday, which put Kenya in the critically failed group, one place below Burma.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Jamacian Minister of National Security: Organised Crime Threatening Sovereignty of Caribbean Region - Jamaica Information Service
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The value of drugs being trafficked through these countries has been estimated in the billions.
As pressure against them in Latin America increases, the line of least resistance would be to set up shop elsewhere.