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Contract Killings


Saturday, 30 October 2010

Vassily Krivets, 22, was also fined $767,000 US in damages and payments to the families of his victims.

court on Thursday sentenced a young Russian nationalist to life in prison for committing 15 racist murders, the Interfax news agency reported.

Vassily Krivets, 22, was also fined $767,000 US in damages and payments to the families of his victims. One of his accomplices, Dmitry Ufimtsev, 23, who was found guilty of five murders, was sentenced to 22 years in a hard labour camp.

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gunmen near the border city of Ciudad Juárez opened fire early Thursday on two buses carrying employees of a U.S.-owned factory, killing four people

In the first attack of its kind in more than three years of gangland terror, gunmen near the border city of Ciudad Juárez opened fire early Thursday on two buses carrying employees of a U.S.-owned factory, killing four people and wounding 14.
The employees were heading home after their evening shift about 1 a.m. when the killers struck near the small village of Caseta, near the Rio Grande southeast of Juárez.

The assailants forced a man off one of the buses and then opened fire on the other occupants, investigators said.

Killed were three women and a man, all employees of Eagle Ottawa Leather, a company headquartered in a Detroit suburb that makes leather upholstery for automobiles.

State investigators and the trade group representing Juárez's 324 foreign-owned factories — called maquiladoras — said the attack appeared to target the man who was kidnapped rather than Eagle Ottawa or its employees in general.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Criminal mastermind and fallen political aide Yury Shutov is taking the government to court for a rigged trial and a hefty sentence to life

Criminal mastermind and fallen political aide Yury Shutov is taking the government to court for a rigged trial and a hefty sentence to life in a penal colony.
And his case has been accepted by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where Shutov believes it has “great chances”.

Jekyll and Hyde
Shutov was an adviser to Anatoly Sobchak, first democratically elected mayor of St. Petersburg and mentor to Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin.
But as well as an establishment role, he was known in St. Petersburg criminal circles as The Pope and is currently serving a life sentence for heading an underworld gang and coordinating the murders of lawyer Igor Dubovkin, banker and oil high-flyer Dmitry Filippov, and a gang member guilty of ‘indiscipline.’
He and members of his gang were found not guilty of murdering Defence Research Institute Istochnik chairman Nikolai Bolotovsky, Consumer Market Authority Committee deputy head Evgeny Agarev, and of conspiracy to murder journalist Alexander Nevzorov and North-West deputy presidential envoy Andrei Stepanov

Government in the dock
Shutov’s lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky told Kommersant that his client’s case had “great chances” at Strasbourg. “I am certain that the European court will take the side of Shutov… the successful acquittal of the ex-deputy will require a fresh examination of his case before the jury.”
He cited a violation of article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees a fair trial.
Shutov was convicted in 2006 and launched his application for an appeal the same year. He was informed the other day that the European court would consider his appeal, reported.

An unfair trial
The Strasbourg court sent a letter to the Russian government asking it to clarify certain aspects of the proceedings against Shutov. In particular, the presence of lay judges at the trial, despite their abolition before the case came to court, removing defendants from the courtroom during the hearing, and questions over the trial’s transparency. Answers must be back by Jan. 18, 2011.
Shutov’s trial was one of the first organised crime cases in St. Petersburg and amid tensions over security the trial was held in prison, over several years. Shutov’s lawyers repeatedly said that their client’s health could not stand the rigours of the proceedings against him.
Despite being in prison he was re-elected to the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly and ran for Duma elections. He was removed from the courtroom after a series of demonstrations. He says that his prosecution and conviction are because of his “struggle with the thieves who stole our motherland.”
Shutov was sentences with 14 of his gang. Some were Afghanistan and Chechen veterans and all received prison sentences. Four of them, including Shutov, received life sentences. He is now serving his term at the Bely Lebed (White Swan) penal colony in the Urals

convoy of seven lorries rumbled past, armed police in the cabs and radioactive warning signs stuck on the shipping containers they carried

Frantic policemen, some wearing ski masks and all armed with submachineguns, flashed their headlights and leant out of their patrol car windows, shouting and waving to make the traffic pull over and stop at the side of the road as helicopters clattered overhead.Then a convoy of seven lorries rumbled past, armed police in the cabs and radioactive warning signs stuck on the shipping containers they carried.
The frightened-looking motorists and their families didn't know it but this convoy two weeks ago wasn't an emergency; it was no exercise though, and the cargo being moved through the Warsaw suburbs in a top secret operation was the stuff of nightmares.
The lorries carried enough bomb-grade uranium for terrorists to build eight nuclear devices, sealed inside thick metal flasks weighing five tons each to stop radiation leaking.
The shipment, at the beginning of a 3,500 mile journey to a Russian reprocessing plant where it will be made safe, was part of an effort to secure hundreds of tons of highly enriched uranium worldwide before terrorists can acquire it.
"The world is a safer place because of this shipment," said Andrew Bieniawski, a senior official with the US government's Global Threat Reduction Initiative, as the convoy and its sinister-looking escort of Polish special forces police started off.
American intelligence officials believe that if al Qaeda could get its hands on a piece of highly enriched uranium (HEU) the size of a grapefruit, let alone a consignment as big as the Polish one, the destruction of a city like London, New York or Washington would follow.
So far, such a nightmare has been confined to Hollywood thrillers. But the US government is so concerned at the threat of nuclear terrorism that next year the budget for making bomb-grade material secure worldwide will be increased by 67 per cent to $558 million dollars (£352 million).
The American effort, constantly expanded since the attacks of September 11th 2001, is intended to deal with weapons-grade uranium in 28 nations around the world, most of it the Cold War legacy of the Atoms for Peace programmes when America and Russia shared nuclear secrets with their allies.
In the 1950s they helped spread civilian nuclear power plants and research reactors around the world, to win friends and help mankind benefit from cheap electricity and medical isotopes; but the unforeseen result has been a stockpile of deadly spent fuel - HEU - which can be used as the raw material for the type of atom bomb used at Hiroshima.
Most of the HEU in Eastern Europe has been stored since Soviet times, often in badly maintained and poorly guarded facilities where for years underpaid staff were potentially vulnerable to bribery by well-funded terrorists
Last year a massive new effort to dramatically reduce the amount of civilian HEU worldwide was announced by President Barack Obama in a high-profile speech in Prague, his first major foreign policy speech delivered abroad.
The President has made countering nuclear terrorism a top priority and described it as "the greatest danger we face". He has committed the United States to secure the world's vulnerable civilian bomb-grade material by the end of 2013.
He has taken the threat so seriously that over the next three years the President wants to spend $7.9 billion on nuclear nonproliferation programmes, including homeland security to detect nuclear bombs or material being smuggled into America, as well as programmes like the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
The shipment in Poland was the biggest the Americans have organised anywhere.
It started its journey at a nuclear research reactor in a forest outside Warsaw, where HEU had been stored in cooling ponds for years. The convoy, escorted by more than 100 policemen, moved rapidly to a railway yard on the outskirts of the capital where it was loaded onto a goods train for the overnight journey 200 miles north to the port of Gdansk. The route took it past villages and towns whose sleeping inhabitants had no idea of the deadly cargo passing so close to them. At every stage technicians checked that radioactivity was not leaking.
On arrival in Gdansk it was loaded onto a specially converted ship, with thick metal radiation-proof plates installed, for a sea voyage to the Russian Arctic port of Murmansk. The consequences of spreading radiation in a crash ruled out air transport.
In Murmansk it was loaded on to another train for the last stage of the journey, hundreds of miles across Russia to a reprocessing plant beyond the Ural mountains, deep in Siberia.
In the past year this journey, lasting three weeks, has been repeated five times, moving 1,000 lbs of Polish HEU in total - enough to make 18 atom bombs - at a cost to the US taxpayer of $60 million.
The Global Threat Reduction Initiative decided to forgo its usual secrecy rules and invite The Sunday Telegraph to observe the final shipment, in order to make its work in Poland public; details can now be revealed after it arrived safely at its destination.
Intelligence agencies will not reveal their reasons for being so frightened now about what for years seemed a remote and unlikely risk.
But it may be because of the deeply troubling cases of smuggling that surface from time to time in Eastern Europe, hinting at the existence of a nuclear black market.
Such attempts at illicit nuclear sales have been made at least twice this year, once in Moldova, when a gang attempted to sell a small amount of nuclear material, and once in Georgia where several smugglers were arrested with an undisclosed amount of uranium. That was a far more disturbing case, according to investigators who said it showed a worrying level of organisation.
Since the end of the Cold War the International Atomic Energy Authority, the UN's nuclear watchdog, has logged 800 incidents of radioactive material going missing or being seized by smugglers. A handful of cases have involved weapons-grade material.
Nobody knows whether gangsters or corrupt officials really could deliver enough material for a home-made bomb to terrorists or rogue states. US officials fear that anyone trying to acquire HEU on a nuclear black market will want it to destroy an American city.
"We know that terrorists are actively seeking to acquire this material to target the United States," Mr Bieniawski said. "If they acquire it, they have basically overcome the main hurdle to getting a bomb. The risk is low but we can't just trust to luck when we are talking about the catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon." Since work started in 2004 HEU has been removed from 18 nations, including five in the past year - Romania, Libya, Taiwan, Turkey, and Chile, where the shipment was briefly delayed by February's earthquake.
Until the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was little concern about the estimated 2000 tons of HEU stockpiled around the world, much lying around half-forgotten in badly-guarded facilities in poor countries with corruption problems.
Facilities often lacked armed guards, secure fences, even locks that worked properly.
American efforts which had begun in the chaos of Russia in the 1990s to secure vulnerable nuclear material were stepped up worldwide after 2001; as long ago as 1998 Osama bin Laden spoke of his determination to acquire the bomb "to terrorise the enemies of God".
Frank Barnaby, an author and former Aldermaston nuclear physicist, said: "The really frightening thing about HEU is that it is so easy to make an atom bomb out of it. You only need a couple of PhD students and a small amount of material.
"I think we should be very frightened about the possibility of nuclear terrorism; I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet." The American experts hope their work with 130 nations will make that nightmare less likely.
In some cases they have strengthened defences at plants judged vulnerable to theft.
But their preferred method is to remove HEU for reprocessing. "That way it is made safe, permanently," Mr Bieniawski said.
Poland, like many nations with HEU stockpiles, has to send the material abroad because it has no reprocessing plant of its own.
The American officials were at pains to stress that they have complete trust in Russia to keep to its end of the deal and reprocess the uranium sent inside its borders in US-funded shipments.
Under an agreement between Mr Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last year, the USA and Russia each take back uranium they supplied to friendly countries. So Romania and Poland sent theirs to Russia, while that of Chile and Turkey has been reprocessed in the United States.
There are, however, glaring omissions in President Obama's plan; the Global Threat Reduction Initiative cannot make HEU safe in a few nuclear nations, most notably Pakistan and North Korea, which are judged to pose the greatest risk of terrorists obtaining the raw material for a bomb.
As a Polish member of the team working on the operation said: "This shipment makes nuclear nightmares less likely."

Police in Spain said they had arrested overnight six people suspected of money laundering and criminal conspiracy in an operation media reports

Police in Spain said they had arrested overnight six people suspected of money laundering and criminal conspiracy in an operation media reports said was linked to the Russian mafia.
“This operation has resulted so far in six arrests,” a spokeswoman for the regional police in the northeastern region of Catalonia told AFP.
The six are suspected of conspiracy, forgery and money laundering, she said but refused to confirm if the arrests were related or not to the activities of the Russian mafia.
According to the online edition of daily newspaper El Pais, the six people arrested are prominent members of the Russian mafia. They were arrested in several cities in Catalonia, including Barcelona and Tarragona, it added.
The arrests were coordinated by the anti-corruption prosecutors in Barcelona and Madrid.
In March 69 people, including 24 in Spain, were arrested in several European countries in an operation against the Russian mafia.

former Soviet Union now dominate their national criminal worlds

After avoiding any use of the term “Russian mafia” in the last few years, law enforcement personnel in Europe and elsewhere are now speaking about it again, noting that it includes “up to 300,000 people” and dominates the criminal world in many countries around the world, according to a Moscow investigative journalist.
In Monday’s Versiya, Ruslan Gorevoy says law enforcement personnel in many countries — including Spain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, France, Mexico “and even the United States” — have been surprised by how “confidently” criminal groups consisting of people from the former Soviet Union now dominate their national criminal worlds.
Indeed, the Versiya report continues, the Russian groups, which include “up to 300,000 of our compatriots,” have succeeded in pushing aside local groups and establishing their own “spheres of influence” to the point that they no longer need to “clarify relations with the help of arms.”
Gorevoy describes some of the most notorious cases involving Russian organized criminal groups abroad before using interviews with Russian officials to suggest some more general conclusions. He recalls the discovery that drug traffickers were using submarines to move their product from South America to Mexico.
These submarines, he points out, “were purchased as scrap metal” from a Ukrainian firm that was involved in decommissioning Soviet diesel subs, then repapered in the Romania city of Konstanza before sailing across the Atlantic. While they were ultimately discovered, it is impossible to say how many tons of drugs they carried or even what the situation is today.
The U.S. Navy, he notes, has taken great pride in reporting its interdiction efforts in this regard, but knowing the abilities of Russian criminal groups, Gorvey continues, “it is possible” that such vessels may still be playing a role. The tone of his article suggests that he personally would not bet against these groups.
In Spain, he explains, Russian criminal groups control 90 percent of the drugs and illegal arms flows and were involved in the murder of Paddy Doyle, a leading Irish criminal who was operating there. His death and the ensuing trial led to the publication of numerous articles about Russian organized crime.
Russian officials have been dismissive of much of that coverage. Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of the Duma’s legal affairs committee, told Gorevoy that “certain groups may have an ethnic character [there], but this still does not provide the foundation for claims about the presence of a specific national mafia of this or that country.”
Poland, Gorevoy continues, was “the first country of Europe into which organized crime from Russia began to penetrate,” pushing out — together with criminals from Ukraine and Belarus — Romanian and Albanian criminal organizations that had dominated the situation there before the Russians arrived.
The Polish police have not been able to “liquidate” Russian organized crime, and “according to certain data, at the present time” there are as many as 20,000 Russian criminals operating in that country, making it, in numerical terms at least, “the largest Russian criminal diaspora in the world.”
But it would be a mistake to focus only on Poland or Eastern European countries like Romania and Hungary, where the Russian criminal presence is large. Over the last decade, the Russian mafia has reached around the world, including Australia ,where it has been involved in electronic crime, Singapore, London and various countries in the Western hemisphere.
Interpol, the international police agency, does not maintain the kind of files that allow for an even approximate assessment of the number of Russian criminals operating abroad. But last year, the National Prosecutor of Italy concluded that there are “up to 300,000” criminals from Russia operating in other countries.
One of the largest or at least most profitable activities of Russian criminals abroad, the Italians said, is money laundering, with the Russian mafia “laundering” funds in the United States, Marianas and Guam. In addition, they added, Russian criminals are charging Mexican drug lords 30 percent for laundering drug profits from sales in the United States.
In Italy itself, prosecutors reported, “representatives of the Russian mafia in 2008 formed an alliance with local [criminal groups, including the Cosa Nostra]” and took under joint control “practically 100 percent of the agricultural enterprises of Italy and at the same time practically all shippers, both international and domestic.”
The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reports, citing sources official and otherwise, that there are approximately 160,000 Russian criminals in Europe, compared to 70,000 of Italian origin, 40,000 of American background and 37,000 from Asian countries. The Russians have corrupted at least some officials in order to cover their tracks, the paper said
The Munich paper’s Rudolph Himelli said that “Russian mafiosi are better organized and permit themselves to commit the boldest crimes, remaining in practice unpunished,” crimes that are “of a completely different order of magnitude than those committed by Turkish immigrants or criminals from countries in Eastern Europe,” including illegal arms sales to Libya and Iraq.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the flamboyant head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and vice speaker of the Duma, says that none of this information justifies any suggestion that there is a Russian mafia operating abroad let alone implying that Moscow is somehow responsible for it.
“Yes,” Zhirinovsky acknowledges, “people from the republics of the former USSR really occupy an important position in the international criminal community, and in recent years this position can even be called a dominant one. But here is one ‘but’: Many of these people already have been living abroad for a long time” and have exchanged Russian passports for foreign ones.
Consequently, he continues, they are now “more the representatives of Western and not our culture.” Indeed, the LDPR leader insists, “the fact that these people left Russia may testify only that our law enforcement organs do not allow them to make their way” in their homeland, while the police in other countries are not as successful.
That argument may convince some Russians or provide a justification to some in the West who would like to ignore this issue, but Gorevoy’s article suggests that Zhirinovsky’s claims will not be persuasive to justice officials in Europe or elsewhere who on a daily basis have to combat a larger and more active Russian mafia.

There is no organized Russian criminal community abroad

There is no organized Russian criminal community abroad, said Timur Lakhonin, the head of the Russian National Central Bureau of Interpol.

Russian Mafia

“The notion of mafia implies connections with political and government structures. I believe there is no Russian mafia abroad in this sense,” Lakhonin said at a press conference at the Interfax main office on Tuesday.
“Certainly, there is crime involving our former compatriots abroad,” but there is no data suggesting that an organized structure of criminal groups comprising former Russians exists abroad, Lakhonin said.
“Statistically, this looks like this: for instance, Russians accounted for less than 1% of crimes in Germany, most often not in an organized form,” he said.

double murder in Moscow on Sunday has raised fears in the Russian capital that fresh mafia strife may be on the way.

double murder in Moscow on Sunday has raised fears in the Russian capital that fresh mafia strife may be on the way.
There was no sign of the killer who shot the men, from Armenia and the republic of Abkhazia, in a street at close range from behind, the Interfax news agency quoted police as saying.
Investigators believe it was a contract killing with links to the mafia. A high-ranking clan leader and his bodyguard were recently shot by an unidentified sniper in the centre of Moscow, sustaining life-threatening injuries.
Authorities suspect that different criminal groups are competing for control over the gambling industry.
The run-up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was plagued by clan battles that led to numerous contract killings, especially in the capital.
Some observers had feared that the recent firing of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkhov over corruption and abuse of authority charges would again lead to instability, given that he had ruled the capital for 18 years with an iron fist.

The Oddessian Mafia, the Chechnyan Mafia, Albanian Mobsters, and Bulgarian gangsters all have played their role in arms sales in EUrope

It wouldn't be accurate to say one criminal organization controls the illegal arms trade im Europe .The Oddessian Mafia, the Chechnyan Mafia, Albanian Mobsters, and Bulgarian gangsters all have played their role in arms sales in EUrope across the world , and I would say they have a better hold on it than the Ndrangheta .Russia produces and manufactures 18% of the total firearms in the world , so by default the leakage of arms russian gangsters receive would be more than enough compared to other European OC. I'm sure arms importation is not limited to the port of gioia tauro. They are many routes and supply lines for arms dealing in Europe. On that same note, were not just talking about European weapons supplies to Europe alone, we are speaking about illegal arms suupply to the rest of the world, to countries like Colombia ,Honduras ,or anywhere else.

Eastern European Mobsters like Alexandre Gaydamak and Leonid Minin made are notable figures who profited in this criminal enterprising. they supplied arms to countries like Liberia,Ivory Coast, and Burkini Faso added to the fact they didn't just sell firearms, they sold tanks and missiles as well.

diary chronicling the alleged wrong-doings of Moscow’s riot police

diary chronicling the alleged wrong-doings of Moscow’s riot police has surfaced – even as cops pursue a libel suit against the magazine which first criticised them.
“The diary of a lieutenant” drags conditions in the OMON back into the spotlight a few months after the New Times published a damning expose of institutionalised exploitation and extravagant corruption in the force.
And February’s report – which drew angry denials and legal action from top cops – has now apparently been backed up by Monday’s edition of the magazine, which ran detailed evidence from the diary to support the original “Slaves of the OMON” feature.

OMON officers forced to work 20-hour shifts and arrest at least three people a day were ordered to guard businessmen and gangsters who paid off their bosses, according to February’s original New Times article.
The force responded with a libel action and stormed the publication’s offices last month, prompting a furious response from editor Yevgeniya Albatz.
The diary, published on Monday, adds extra weight to the New Times’ claims as it details a roster of the illegal extra hours the magazine originally brought to the public eye in “Slaves of the OMON”.

Causing a stir
The police have remained tight lipped. Their press service declined to comment beyond, “Presnensky Moscow Court is currently considering a lawsuit against this magazine over defamation contained in the previous article,” Interfax reported.
The magazine say that the diary was given to them by an unknown source, the police say it was stolen from police lieutenant Sergey Morkovin.
If the diary is returned then OMON will not launch criminal proceedings, according to the magazine. Police also claim that a laptop was stolen along with the diary and that the correspondent “would be involved as a partner in crime,” New Times reported.
Law enforcement agents have sent a request to the prosecutor’s office requesting that the facts in “Slaves of the Omon” be looked into.

leader of the "Mexican Mafia" prison gang.

24-year-old Toni L. Morris failed to show up for the hearing, prompting Henry Circuit Court 1 Judge Mary Willis to issue a warrant for her arrest.

Authorities said Morris had the phone hidden in her bra last March 2 when she showed up for a planned visit with inmate Joseph Uvalle, a convicted sex offender and bandit from Lake County described in court documents as leader of the "Mexican Mafia" prison gang.

That case is one of scores related to the NCCF filed by Henry County Prosecutor Kit Crane's office since the prison opened in 2002 at the site of a former state hospital.

Not that Crane is upset about the additional burden those cases put on his staff.

So long as the prison's population exceeds 1,500 inmates -- and state Department of Correction records indicate the NCCF had an average daily population of more than 2,400 in 2009 -- state government picks up the tab for the salary and benefits for two of Crane's six deputy prosecutors.

(Should the prison population fall to below 1,500 inmates, the state would provide the funding for a single deputy prosecutor.)

"This help has been financially beneficial to the county," Crane said Monday. "I didn't hire additional deputy prosecutors, but instead moved county-paid deputy prosecutors off of the county payroll and onto the state payroll."

The state puts no restrictions on what types of cases the state-funded deputies handle, Crane said.

The Henry County prosecutor said he couldn't immediately produce statistics showing how many cases his office had handled related to the NCCF.

Over those past eight years, those cases have included:

Twenty-eight inmates facing charges stemming from an April 2007 riot at the NCCF.

Two inmates being convicted of murder in a fellow prisoner's June 2006 slaying.

Inmates being charged with attacks on staff members, ranging in severity from savage beatings to thrown feces.
There have also been numerous prosecutions stemming from failed attempts to smuggle contraband to inmates -- most commonly tobacco, marijuana and cell phones -- with defendants that have included both visitors, like Morris, and NCCF staff members.

Perhaps the most persistent of those defendants was Cynthia Ann Angel, now 45, of Centerville, who in July 2009 was arrested after she tossed a package containing five cell phones and tobacco over a NCCF fence.

That arrest came about seven months after Angel had pleaded guilty to an unrelated count of trafficking with an inmate, receiving a suspended sentence.

The Wayne County woman wasn't so fortunate the second time around, drawing a four-year prison term.

indictment alleged Vigil and three other men chased Ramirez into an alley and stabbed and bludgeoned him with rocks and concrete

The fourth and final defendant indicted for a May 1998 gang-related murder was sentenced in Sonoma County Superior Court this afternoon to a year in county jail and eight years’ probation. Ambrosio Vigil, 31, pleaded no contest on July 1, 2009, to the voluntary manslaughter of 23-year-old Juan Carlos Ramirez on May 6, 1998. Vigil also admitted the murder was in furtherance of a street gang and that he used a rock. Vigil faced a 15-year prison term under the sentencing laws that were in effect at the time of the murder. Penalties for gang-related crimes and weapons enhancements now carry substantially higher sentences. The 2003 indictment alleged Vigil and three other men chased Ramirez into an alley and stabbed and bludgeoned him with rocks and concrete near Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. Vigil’s attorney George Boisseau asked Judge Lawrence Antolini for probation and no prison time, claiming Vigil had turned his life around since the slaying. Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner said the seriousness of the crime merited some state prison time. The Sonoma County Probation Department recommended a 15-year term. Waner said Vigil will serve about 30 days in the county jail because of credit for time served. Among the others indicted, Tony John James, 32, of Santa Rosa, was tried and convicted of gang-related murder with the use of a screwdriver or knife. He was sentenced in August 2006 to 25 years to life in prison. Carlos Raul Alvarez, 31, of Healdsburg, pleaded no contest to gang-related voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced in August 2006 to 10 years in prison. Gabriel Jose Miranda, 29, pleaded no contest to being an accessory and was sentenced in June 2008 to three years’ probation.

Vasquez is charged with five murders and three other shootings between 2002 and 2005

Seated between his two lawyers in a Downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Tuesday for the first day of a trial that could result in the death penalty against him, William Vasquez, wearing a blue dress shirt with a tie hanging awkwardly past his waistline, looked nothing like the man in the mug shot that prosecutors repeatedly projected on a screen for the jury.

In the picture, taken five years ago on the day of his arrest, Vasquez was shown shirtless, the word "Eighteen" tattooed across his chest — a testament, prosecutors said, to his loyalty to the 18th Street gang, one of Los Angeles' most notorious.

Vasquez is charged with five murders and three other shootings between 2002 and 2005, including the killing of two Santa Monica men during a party at the Moose Lodge on Ocean Park Boulevard in March of 2005.

The two men who were killed in that incident — Jonathan Hernandez, 19, and Hector Bonilla, 25 — were allegedly Santa Monica gang members, as was a third alleged Vasquez victim, Jesse Becerra, who was shot 20 times outside of house party near 21st Street and La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, apparently for crossing into the 18th Street gang's territory, prosecutors said.

On Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim described Vasquez as a killer who sought to win respect and spread fear through the brutality of his crimes. In the Moose Lodge murders, the two victims were shot a total of 25 times, including several times in the back as they lay dying on the floor, she said. Becerra was shot nine times in the head from as close a range as two feet.

"That fear will be pervasive in this trial," Kim told the jury, "and it will manifest itself in different ways."

robbing vehicles, murdering the owners and discreetly disposing of their bodies after burning them.

chilling details have emerged on how a gang of hard-core criminals has over five years been robbing vehicles, murdering the owners and discreetly disposing of their bodies after burning them.

The Police have recovered five bodies of victims suspected to have been killed by suspects recently arrested in connection with a series of car robberies and murders.

Investigations have also unearthed the tricks the gang has been using to lure the victims. The tricks included using the victim’s wife or girlfriend, who would easily convince their partner to trust the gang in any transaction.

The Police suspect that the group has been active over the last five years but had managed to keep their activities secret.

Arrested over a week ago in Makindye, a city suburb, the gangsters had stolen or robbed vehicles and murdered the owners. In some cases, they set the bodies ablaze to conceal evidence.

Kajjansi Police boss Francis Kabera yesterday said the bodies were recovered in various parts of the country.

Some of the suspects, according to the Police, confessed to being involved in the crimes and led the detectives to the murder spots.

The investigations are being handled jointly by the Special Investigations Unit and the Rapid Response Unit.

The gang, it emerged, set up a company to sell stolen vehicles, often passing them off as vehicles of loan defaulters.

Kajjansi criminal investigations department boss Daniel Batte yesterday said the bodies recovered included that of Claude Ndeezi, Constantine Ssempala and of two others only identified as Kafuluma and Mubarak. One other body was not identified.

Ndeezi’s body was recovered from Nkozi, Kafuluma’s from Buwama, Mubaraka’s on Masaka Road and Sempala’s from Bweya.

The Police said the arms of Nkata, another victim, were tightly tied behind his back, coupled with strangulation. His remains were burnt.

The Police, who believed he was a mob justice victim, took the body to the city mortuary.

It was later buried in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery in Lusaze, Kampala.

Eight members of the group are in Police custody.

The Police told New Vision that some of the bodies were recovered after the suspects confessed and led them to the places where they were dumped.

Batte said the group would pounce on their victims, strangle them before setting the bodies on fire to disguise the cause of death.

The gang, the Police said, would at times pose as passengers, but would murder the driver on the way.

On other occasions, the wives and girlfriends of the victims were reportedly used to lure them into their traps.

The Police suspect that the group has been active for the last five years but managed to keep their activities under wraps.

The Police said the lid was blown off the gang when they disagreed with a potential customer.

The thugs, who were selling a Toyota Ipsum had finally accepted to trade it with a Toyota Corona, on condition that the owner of the Corona topped up the difference with some money, which he did. “It turned out that the other party had already sold the car to another person. A wrangle ensued and the aggrieved party reported the matter to the Police,” Kabera said.

The gang allegedly also use trickery to acquire vehicles.

“They would claim that they want a car for self-drive for two weeks or more, then pay some sum of money and drive off with the car. They would immediately forge car documents and mortgage it,” Kabera said.

Over 10 vehicles have so far been recovered in the ongoing investigations.

Anh The Duong's wave of violence and how it has affected their lives

Anh The Duong's wave of violence and how it has affected their lives. A jury last month convicted the 35-year-old Duong of 29 racketeering charges, making him eligible for the death penalty.
Duong's trial marks just the second time in at least 50 years that a defendant has faced the death penalty in a Bay Area federal courtroom, and the first such trial in Silicon Valley history. Duong is already on California's death row for the 1999 murders of four people in an El Monte pool hall, but the U.S. Justice Department decided to push for a death sentence for his federal crimes, which include murders during robberies in San Jose, Cupertino and Fremont.
One of those victims was 66-year-old Chau Quach, fatally shot during a 1997 robbery of a San Jose grocery store. Triem Chiem, Quach's son-in-law, told the jury that the murder devastated Quach's widow, daughter and the rest of his family.
"Everybody was very sad in the family," Chiem said through a Vietnamese interpreter. "At that time, I was out of my mind, crazy."
Duong would likely face a much swifter path to execution if he receives the death penalty in the federal system. In California, death row inmates typically spend two decades or more in San Quentin before they face an execution date.

Russia’s army, notorious for its brutal hazing rituals

He ignored their letters, refused to answer their calls, and finally resorted to a medical report. The draft board was unconvinced, and eventually declared him fit to serve.
“I’d rather do time in jail, than in the army,” says Anton Trukhochov, 23, who spent four months in the Russian military before gathering enough paperwork to prove that he does not meet the minimal health requirements to serve.
“From the start, I had the paperwork with a stamp on it, confirming I had a heart condition,” claims Trukhochov. “They still made me join the army. Less than halfway through my time, I managed to get out.”
His battle to escape the draft is far from unique.
Many young men enroll in universities, bribe military officials or forge documents to avoid serving in Russia’s army, notorious for its brutal hazing rituals. Some even go as far as moving overseas to avoid the one-year compulsory military service.
“I paid $5,000 dollars for a piece of paper that says I served,” claimed Roman (who chose not to give his last name), 24, whose medical condition was not severe enough to deceive the draft board. “That’s not even that expensive. I know people in Moscow who paid $10,000.”
With fall recruitment underway, in theory about 300,000 young Russian men should serve. But General Vasily Smirnov, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army, says he expects half of the recruits to evade the draft.
“It is ridiculous what people will do,” says Dmitry Pislar, a representative of the For Human Rights movement and an expert on military conditions in the Russian army.
“People come into my office every day, asking how I can help them avoid conscription,” he says.
So, if the country once considered itself a nation of Soviet patriots, ready to give their life in the line of duty, why aren’t its modern-day men ready to serve the Motherland?
“The army is a ghetto,” says Pislar. “That’s the problem. It is a real ghetto, where the people don’t have any rights.”
Hazing became a high-profile issue in Russia after an incident involving Private Andrei Sychyov, who had both legs amputated after being beaten and tortured on New Year's Eve 2005 by fellow soldiers in the south Urals city of Chelyabinsk.
The soldier’s struggle is far from an isolated case. The Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committee has estimated that around 1,000 soldiers die every year as a result of non-combat situations. A significant minority of these are murders and suicides.
Some servicemen want Russia to have a professional military, with men who actually desire to serve their country.
“If a person wants to serve, they should. I just don’t understand why we all have to do it,” says Roman. “I don’t see a future for myself in the army. I would just lose a year of my life there.”
The head of the defense committee announced this year that the number of professional soldiers in the Russian army should be increased. To date, officers account for about 15 percent of the armed personnel, while 25 percent are professional servicemen. The rest are conscripts.
But experts say the switchover is not so simple.
“The state cannot simply support the transition to a professional army,” head of the main directorate for morale in the Russian Armed Forces, Yuri Dashkin, told RIA Novosti in May. “Our Armed Forces, while accomplishing a great number of tasks, have to rely on conscription due to the current economic situation in the country and limited resources,” he said.
The discussion on whether the country’s army should mostly consist of conscripts or professional servicemen has been held in Russia since the mid-2000s, when large-scale military reforms were launched in the country.
Since then, the discussion has been put on hold.
“They tried to make a professional army, but just like everything else in this country, it self-destructed,” says Pislar. “The salary was low, the conditions were bad. Why would anyone want to serve?”

Sergei Naryshkin, Head of the Administration of the President of Russia was fiercely critical of the Belarusian regime.

Sergei Naryshkin, Head of the Administration of the President of Russia was fiercely critical of the Belarusian regime.

Belarusian journalists were invited to the press-conference in the Kremlin on October 13. For the first time website has been invited to the press conference of the leadership of Russia as well.

At the beginning of the press-conference Sergei Naryshkin, Head of the Administration of the President of Russia, noted that he had been forced to organize the event “by a concern over the Belarusian-Russian relations.”

“We still think Belarus is our most reliable partner and ally, and count upon deepening and development of cooperation. But it is important for the cooperation have mutually beneficial and partner character.” It is especially painful for us to state that unsubstantiated accusations against Russia are heard from Minsk, and they have intensified in the period of the election campaign. The Belarusian authorities are charging Russia with termination of the union building, though many large tasks in the framework of the union state have not been completed because of an undue approach of the Belarusian side. This year we have decided to transit to a universal economic principle in the relations with Russia, though Russia continued to help Belarus by preferential prices for energy resources. As a result, reproaches turned into a real invectives and even insults. An example of that is the last press-conference of Lukashenka for Russian mass media. It is not only a question of deteriorating the atmosphere of cooperation. These are attempts to rupture the ties that had been created to years, and to drive a wedge between our countries. In such a way in the run-up to the presidential elections the Belarusian authorities are trying to justify their own economic mistakes,” Sergei Naryshkin stated.

The head of Dmitry Medvedev’s administration has enumerated these economic blunders of the Belarusian authorities: despite of the general growth of the GDP, about one forth of Belarusian enterprises are working “for stock”; the competitive environment is not developed; the private sector of economy remains too narrow.

To the question of website: “It is obvious to everyone today, both for Belarusians and for the rest of the world, that Lukashenka, who has lost the support of the nation, would go the length of rigging the upcoming presidential election’s results. How Russia is set to respond to that?” – Sergei Naryshkin stated:

“Undoubtedly, we are not indifferent to who will become the president of Belarus, as such an event as the presidential election is a crucial one. At the same time, it is a purely internal affair of Belarus, which choice would be done by the Belarusian nation. Our attitude is to not to depend on who would be chosen by the Belarusian nation, but by the degree of conformity of the election campaign and the elections to the standards of the Belarusian and international law.”

The head of Dmitry Medvedev’s administration has also stated that the Russian authorities are concerned by abductions and murders of opposition leaders and independent journalists in Belarus.

“If Russia had not brought up this issue before, it does not mean that we are not concerned by this question. We were concerned by it always, and we are greatly concern by it now,” Naryshkin said.

Speaking about the Belarusian opposition, the head of Medvedev’s administration stated that “any government, including the leadership of Belarus, should reckon with opposition.” The politician noted that contacts of the Kremlin with Belarusian democrats are possible.

The politician has also noted that he saw parts of the much talked-of film by NTV channel, “Godbatka”:

“Journalists’ patience has snapped, and they decided to conduct their own journalistic investigation.”

Answering to the question whether the point of no-return in the relations between Belarus and Russia had been passed, Syarhei Naryshkin answered:

“It is important for us to make the Belarusian leadership understand harmfulness of this anti-Russian policy, and also realized harmfulness and lameness of their policy towards the county and people of Belarus. Out mutual relations have always been channeled by the interests of the Belarusian nation.”

The Head of the Administration of the President of Russia has stated that he knows about all presidential aspirants in Belarus and is convinced that “most Belarusian electors would vote not only for a concrete candidate, but also for his political course aimed at cooperation between Belarus and Russia.”

Answering the question of whether Russia is ready to build new relations of partnership with a new president of Belarus, Sergei Naryshkin said:

“Russia is ready for the widest cooperation with a new president of Belarus in the spirit of partnership and openness.”
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