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Russian Mafia Moving into Busan

Posted April. 18, 2003 22:16,   


Mushrooming crime by Russian mafia

The Busan Police Department busted a narcotics ring last February. The ring members included 22 foreign English instructors and South Koreas. They purchased marijuana from the ring and recreationally used the drug.

In September of 2001, eight members of the Russian "Baso Family" were arrested. According to the police, they settled in the red-light district of Choryang Dong, Busan, and sold narcotics such as heroin and hashish mainly to foreign sailors. The Russian Mafia groups started their illegal operations in South Korea first in 1998. Now, they are engaged in various "businesses" in addition to drug trafficking. For example, they smuggle Middle Eastern Asians illegal staying in South Korea into Japan on board Russian ships.

In July, 1999, a senior Russian mafia member was apprehended by the Busan Police for assault and battery. A creditor who wished to collect on a loan hired him to have the debtor pay his dues. During investigation, the authorities found that huge amounts of dollars were flowing in and out of the ring`s bank accounts, with some of the money wired to a bank in New York. Now, authorities suspect that Russian mafia groups use South Korea as an Asian "base camp" and money-laundering haven.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., recently published a report on Russian crime syndicates. The report says that Russia has some 8,000 crime syndicates and 200 of them have connections with South Korean, Italian, Japanese and Chinese gangs.

Smuggling of firearms

The police estimate that Russian gangs and crewmen smuggle a considerable number of firearms into South Korea. The gun used this time was Russian made and smuggled in without inspection.

In Busan, especially around the red-light district, money is all that is needed to buy a gun, and South Korean crime syndicates are said to have already armed themselves. Thus, authorities see it only a matter of time before fierce gun battles take place between South Korean gangs.

For instance, a Russian sailor smuggled a gun through the port and made a scene in downtown Busan in October of 2001. Again in February of 2002, a Yugoslav sailor was nabbed by authorities, while trying to stealthily carry 1,750 rounds of live ammunition into Busan.

Kamchun Port and 19 repair decks scattered across Busan serve Russian sailors as a channel of firearms smuggling due to lax security measures. A gun is said to cost somewhere between 100 to 400 dollars. South Korean authorities have failed thus far to cut the supply line.

Lax patrolling and control

At ports and repair decks in Busan, 70 to 80 Russian ships are always at anchor, with 30 to 40 Russian crewmen onboard each on of them.

The crewmen with their seaman`s book can obtain a 30-day entry permit from the South Korean immigration office. Under the heavy workload, the immigration officers do not conduct on-site inspections, and grant permits upon examination of documents.

Taking advantage of this loophole, Russian gangsters easily enter South Korea, and hole up for a long time.

Once they succeed in "landing," they are free of any tracking or other control systems of the South Korean government.

Some Russian gangsters are said to consider Busan a "liberated area."