Archive for August 3rd, 2017

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UK National Crime Agency – Ukraine

August 3, 2017

The UK National Crime Agency, a body tasked with tackling organised criminality, and the Ukrainian National Police have held a working meeting in Kyiv.

One of the outcomes is a decision to share experience of organised criminality.

Another is to cooperate more.

Advisory note – This entry simply seethes with cynicism until further notice!

A reader perhaps would expect two very different perspectives to emerge during that sharing of experience – with one organisation traditionally well versed in tackling complex and ingenious organised criminality, and the other historically well versed in partaking in, and ably assisting organised criminality.

No differently to the UK parliament and Foreign Office invitations to Ukrainian political parties and parliamentarians to visit Westminster, or the UK judiciary historically playing host to its Ukrainian peers – the results of which have simply made zero difference to how the Ukrainian parliament and its parliamentarians behave, nor improving the quality and integrity of the Ukrainian judiciary – the UK NCA has invited its Ukrainian colleagues to the UK.

Perhaps 3rd time lucky when it comes to results of these exchange jollies manifesting in Ukraine?

The NCA made very clear that its interest in Ukraine relate purely to what falls within its own scope organised crime.

Fair enough.

The NCA defines an organised crime group as “Organised crime group structures vary. Successful organised crime groups often consist of a durable core of key individuals. Around them is a cluster of subordinates, specialists, and other more transient members, plus an extended network of associates.”

It goes on to define organised crime as “Organised crime can be defined as serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a continuing basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain. Organised criminals working together for a particular criminal activity or activities are called an organised crime group.”

A cynical reader may now be visualising whomever comprises the current presidential circle (no differently to past presidential circles) plus a few “in favour” oligarchs and their associated circles (notwithstanding parliamentary deputies, senior institutional personnel and local authorities all of whom are no less organised lower down the food chain).  Nobody would blame following such cynical thinking when looking at the aforementioned NCA definitions and the fact that nobody within the Ukrainian higher echelons goes to jail.

There are of course the identifiable hardcore criminal and :business” networks that do not pretend to hard to be anything else, that are no less organised-(and seeming no less immune to prosecution as their political peers (and associates and/or enablers).

But do any of their activities actually meet the scope the NCA?

The NCA concentrates upon child sexual exploitation, counterfeit currency, cyber crime, drugs, illegal firearms, fraud, modern slavery and human trafficking, people smuggling, identity crime, intellectual property crime, kidnapping and extortion, organised theft and lastly money laundering.

To be sure there are certainly those within the current political class and with a current political mandate that have a history of cyber crime, and/or kidnapping, and/or extortion, and/or gun running, and/or organised theft and/or money laundering – albeit there is not one current politician that can claim the full house.

Nevertheless, the most common, and clearly on-going issues of organised theft and money laundering by the Ukrainian political, senior civil servant, judicial and institutional class continues and thus presents a national priority in tackling it.

The UK NCA states that “Organised theft poses a threat to the safety, well being and the economic prosperity of communities.”  

Undoubtedly so.

It breaks down organised theft into four categories – Commodity related theft – covers a range of commodities, metal, gold and wildlife crime that offer the greatest profit for the lowest risk. Criminals target areas with perceived low levels of security.  

It would have to include amber, oil, gas, scrap metal, grain etc for Ukraine.

Organised vehicle theft – Stealing cars and other vehicles offers large profits at relatively low risk. Some organised criminals are involved in organised vehicle crime principally to profit from reselling stolen vehicles (cars, motorcycles, commercial vehicles and plant) and parts. Some of the profits fund other crime. Stolen vehicles are also used to commit other crimes, for example armed robberies and cash machine raids. 

Personal theft – Most personal theft is opportunistic in nature. However there is an increasing trend of this being used as a means of exploiting the rise in the UK smart phone market, with activity focused on London and at music events and other areas of night time economy.

Business theft – Organised criminals continue to target a range of commercial interests including museums, art galleries, cash holding facilities and ATM machines. Target hardening at some sites has led to more complex and well organised attacks, and increased levels of violence used in commercial robberies.

With regard to “Business theft” and Ukraine, it would have to add the theft of the entire business – bricks, mortar and all other assets included.  Corporate raiding continues apace and can be measured in the thousands of incidents per annum when including everything from choice commercial and industrial assets to innumerable small farms.  Systematic VAT fraud in huge numbers is a very Ukrainian specialty too.

There is of course money laundering to consider, for keeping illicitly acquired cash within Ukraine (unless literally in cash under the bed – as many e-declarations of officials show to be fairly popular) requires taking to safer havens if in huge quantities.

The NCA identifies to types of money laundering – The first, cash-based money laundering, which can involve the physical movement of currency over national borders, as well as the use of companies with high cash throughput as a cover, with payments being broken down into smaller amounts to avoid detection.

The second, “High-End” money laundering, which is specialist, usually involves transactions of substantial value, and involves the abuse of the financial sector and so-called ‘professional enablers’.

It is the latter where the NCA concentrates its efforts.

The Ukrainian elites and organised criminals (when an occasional difference can be identified) operate and dwell in both categories – when not dwelling in London property bought with cash of exceptionally dubious provenance and which in many instances result in some form of organised theft from the Ukrainian taxpayer at the very least.

Yet of all of the major Ukrainian organised criminals living in the UK, or of all the highly dubiously financed London properties owned by the Ukrainian elite, or of all the highly questionable (mis)use of UK (and Scottish) companies and UK banking facilities, when was the last time the UCA and UK authorities actually prosecuted anybody from Ukraine for serious and organised crime?

Now, eventually putting cynicism aside, the only public threat to go after any Ukrainian in recent memory was made by the UK Ambassador to Ukraine with regard to Roman Nasirov – who holds UK citizenship anyway.   Nevertheless, bravo Ambassador Gough, some much needed prickly public diplomacy relating to that case.

In all seriousness however, a reader is left to ponder whether the priorities of the UK NCA will equate to the priorities of their Ukrainian colleagues when it comes to organised crime – for there will assuredly be priorities by way limited budgets and personnel limitations/capacities on both sides of this agreement.

From the UK NCA perspective it is perhaps human trafficking, cyber crime and intellectual property crime emanating from, or passing through Ukraine entering and/or victimising the UK that would be the priorities.  From a Ukrainian perspective the continuing very large sums subject to organised theft and money maundering, at least in the nearest term, should probably be the priority.

T’will be interesting to see what organised criminality, and which organised criminals, are targeted if or when existing cooperation steps up a gear as is apparently intended.

 

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