RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AS A FORM OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME IN THE NORTHERN CAUCASUS
Imam Iaraliev, Public prosecutor, Republic of Daghestan, state councilor of justice, 2nd class (Makhachkala, Russia)
During the last decade the law enforcement bodies of the Northern Caucasus have been confronted with a new problem: religious extremism as part of international terrorism.
A careful analysis of its causes shows that in the Soviet past, when the state borders remained under strict control and were virtually closed to all types of criminals from other countries, no criminal elements could penetrate the autonomous North Caucasian republics. After the Soviet Union fell apart into new independent states, after economic and social-political reforms were launched in the 1990s, and after Russia began to lose its foothold in the Northern Caucasus, the local republics were caught in the midst of all kinds of interregional and international criminal organizations, including terrorist groups.
Daghestan was their most attractive target, probably because of its geopolitical situation (Russia’s southern border and unstable neighbors—Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the Chechen Republic, its long Caspian coastline, rich natural resources ranging from oil and gas to uranium ores and a very specific infrastructure), and the Europe-Caucasus-Asia transportation routes.
Today, the republic’s operational structures have registered over 150 organized criminal groups, 20 of them connected with similar groups abroad, while 6 or 8 of them are purely terrorist organizations. The latter are engaged in all types of terror: social-political (assassination of prominent public and political figures—they have already murdered the minister of finance, the head of the ministry of national relations, and several deputies of different levels), nationalist (confrontations between ethnic groups accompanied by felonies), religious (clashes between the Wahhabis and common Muslims, assassination of a mufti), and criminal (contracted murders, criminal wars, abductions, etc.). The republican law enforcement bodies intercepted several coups and attempts to seize the building housing the State Council and the republic’s government.
Under Soviet power, terrorism was described as a product of Western ideology; the nation was told that the FBI and CIA were engaged in training international terrorists; one Soviet author went as far as including the U.S. police academies on this list. This suited the ruling party. Today, we are well aware of the real situation and know what produces terrorism, who supplies it with ideological pillars, and who pays for it. We also know where terrorists are trained.
In Russia, so-called religious extremism is the most dangerous manifestation of international terrorism; it unites criminals and other law offenders under the slogan of establishing an Islamic republic in Daghestan. In fact, to achieve their own political and mercenary aims, they are trying to impose the alien ideology of Wahhabism and the idea of struggle for so-called pure Islam on the North Caucasian peoples. It should be said that neither religious extremism, nor Islamic terrorism, nor Wahhabism have anything in common with true Islam: this world religion rejects violence and the use of force. These terms are applied to crimes committed under the banner of religion.
According to the Russian special services, Wahhabism came to the Northern Caucasus in the early 1990s when active and open propaganda of this religious trend was launched in some of the regions. The Wahhabis opened their mosques, published and distributed their reactionary writings free of charge, and set up illegal armed detachments allegedly to defend Islamic values. According to the Committee for Religious Affairs in the government of Daghestan, in 1992-1996 foreign sponsors (international Islamic organizations) spent about $1m to build about 40 and renovate 16 mosques and 5 madrasahs in the republic.
We are not worried about Islamic propaganda in our regions: in Daghestan and the Northern Caucasus as a whole, religion is regarded as part of everyday life of any democratic society. We are worried about the fact that the transnational nature of Islam, the wide-scale anti-Russian activities of the residents coming from traditional Muslim countries, their provision with money and arms, as well as the republic’s porous borders have allowed these people to join forces with the Chechen fighters and the emissaries in Chechnia to set up certain strong points in Daghestan.
Islamic extremism justifies terrorism as an instrument for achieving the main aim: an Islamic theocratic state, introducing the Shari‘a by force, and creating a united Muslim community. Terrorists used religion to attract law offenders, wanted criminals, and religious fanatics; they supplanted the legal authorities in the so-called Kadar zone of Daghestan with the Shari‘a, and cooperated with other criminal groups engaged in abductions, extortions and murders. The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Daghestan has uncontestable proof that the majority of the abducted people were kept in the Kadar zone before they were moved to Chechnia.
The reactionary (extremist) Islamic organizations used terror to achieve their own aim. Terrorist acts are expected to rivet public attention, no matter how shocked, to the organizations responsible for them. The criminals do not exclude the possibility that this will attract more discontented people to their ranks.
The “Islamic Call”
Over time the number of foreign mercenaries in the North Caucasian terrorist organizations have increased; according to the special services, there were about 3,000 foreign mercenaries from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, the Saudi Arabia and other countries fighting in Chechnia. Until his death, Habib Ali Mohammad Fathi, known as Paki, a U.S. citizen, was their ideological and military leader; he was trained in Israel and fought in Afghanistan.
In recent years his place was taken by the so-called “one-star” general of the armed forces of Chechnia, Emir ibn Khattab (also known as One-Armed Ahmed and Black Arab); he was born in Jordan and carried a Saudi Arabian passport. Foreign money paid for a wide network of terrorist bases and camps in Chechnia where foreign mercenaries trained fighters. It was through these foreigners that arms, uniforms, and money reached the illegal armed units.
Well-trained and well-armed extremists, who fought in Afghanistan, found themselves unemployed when the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from this country. They went back home being convinced of their invincibility. There is information that there were mojahedin among those who invaded Daghestan in August 1999, who fought in Afghanistan. Islamic fighters served one of the pillars of terrorism in the Northern Caucasus, and Chechnia as its part, in Tajikistan, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and the United States.
To achieve their aims terrorists planned and carried out a wide-scale project they themselves described as the “Islamic call.” They wanted to emulate the Taliban by setting up paramilitary units in the Northern Caucasus. Speaking in front of graduates from training camps he himself had helped to set up, Khattab put this aim in a nutshell: “It is your task to sow deadly fear among those who betrayed Allah, they should be aware of the cold hand of death every waking hour… Those who want to rally around the holy banner of the Prophet should be tied to it by blood.”
His camps developed into training centers for international terrorists: they have already trained over 10,000 people from the Northern Caucasus and from mainly unstable countries of other regions. Attempts on the lives of the presidents of Georgia and Uzbekistan were carried out by graduates from these camps—the best illustration of international terrorist activities of Khattab’s fighters.
In Daghestan, within a very short period, fighters attacked the military of the motor rifle brigade deployed in the city of Buynaksk and militia stations in the same city; they invaded the Tsumada, Botlikh, and Novolakskoe districts, blasted an apartment block in Buynaksk killing 64; took part in capturing hospitals and murdering civilians in Budennovsk, abducted and killed militiamen in Kizliar, and were present during an armed clash in the village of Pervomaiskoe.
Khattab went as far as recommending that “Chechen methods” be used in Daghestan—the Kadar zone was set up to serve this criminal aim. Young Daghestani men were trained in the well-equipped camps set up in this zone.
At the same time, charities, Islamic centers and cultural and educational organizations in Daghestan were used for reconnaissance, subversion, propaganda, and financial support of Wahhabism. In 1998 alone Saudi Arabia and the UAE allocated tens of millions of U.S. dollars to pay for the training of fighters and their armed actions. Wahhabism in the Northern Caucasus was financed through the religious charity “The Living Heritage of Islam” stationed in Kuwait; two other charities based in Saudi Arabia—the Saar Foundation and Salvation (Al-Igasa); the office of an international charity Benevolence, two more charities—Al-Hayria based in Sudan and Qatar from the state of Qatar, and Tablig, an international Islamic organization based in Pakistan. The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Daghestan took all the necessary measures to liquidate their offices in Russia as organizations violating Russian laws. Some of them had offices in the United States, which means that we should cooperate with it in checking to see whether they were acting within the law (especially in the financial sphere). In 1995-2000 the Federal Security Service for Daghestan alone instituted criminal proceedings against 57 foreign citizens detained for illegal crossing of Russia’s state border.
Possible growth in extremist activities is especially dangerous in view of the plans nurtured by the Islamic movement of Taliban, among other structures, to step up drug trafficking. There is intelligence that late in the 20th century there were over 30 mini drug processing plants operating close to the Russian borders. The agreement between the Taliban leaders and the Chechen fighters on their share in the profits from sending Asian heroin to Russia and further on to Europe will create new markets, on the one hand, and “quick money” to finance further military actions, on the other.
In August 1999 the religious extremists who invaded Daghestan tried to capture the areas bordering on Chechnia, impose the Shari‘a by force on those who lived there and create springboards for moving further. They hoped to rely on their supporters and find likeminded people among the local population, yet the absolute majority of Daghestanis rejected the alien ideology of Wahhabism. While readying for intervention and during their attack the terrorists widely promoted the idea of an Islamic rule established by force in the Northern Caucasus. One of their religious leaders even published in Daghestan a so-called “aid to the program of a world-wide Muslim uprising.”
The savage attack on Daghestan carried out from Chechen territory forced the Russian Federation to restore order and carry out an antiterrorist operation in Chechnia. This attack proved to be a painful experience for Daghestanis because they had categorically condemned the war of 1994-1996 in Chechnia, banned transit of Russia’s troops across their territory, and housed over 200 thousand refugees. They were “thanked” with abductions, subversions and, in the end, real aggression.
While the federal Center was waging an antiterrorist operation in the Northern Caucasus, the terrorists launched information warfare against Russia to rally international and domestic support for their criminal actions. Their leaders hoped, and are still hoping, that international extremist organizations and the leading Western powers will come to their aid.
This warfare was entrusted to a special unit set up by Movladi Udugov, the Chechen ideologist. The so-called Information Agency Kavkaz-Tsentr opened a site of the same name on the Internet to disseminate false information about the victories scored by the Chechen fighters and huge losses of the federal forces so as to plant a negative attitude toward Russia in the minds of the common people and political leaders. There are about 100 pro-Chechen sites in Russian, English, Arabic, French, and other languages opened by the Chechen diasporas in America, Britain, Finland, Lithuania, and Estonia. The Chechen separatists have organized their information centers in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Finland, Turkey, and Poland, spreading false information about “the atrocities of Russian soldiers toward civilians” and “a humanitarian catastrophe in the Northern Caucasus.” Many of the foreign media, being convinced that “vicious lies have responsive audiences,” used the information supplied by these centers without discrimination.
The provocative statement by Movladi Udugov that the Daghestani citizens who died in the Kursk disaster were responsible for the explosion aboard the nuclear-powered submarine served the same aim. Similar provocations were undertaken earlier, at the start of President Putin’s first election campaign. One of the German TV companies timed its broadcasts of videos about tortures of Chechen fighters and their burials by Russian soldiers to coincide with the visit by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to Russia. In fact, the video was made up of several unconnected subjects filmed in different seasons; none of the episodes showing bodies of Chechen fighters suggested that the Chechens had been tortured or executed.
In 1991-1994 Chechen terrorists were merely criminals: they abducted people, attacked coaches and hijacked planes, yet not once did they formulate any political demands. In 1994-1996, while criminal activities continued, new phenomena appeared: people were abducted in great numbers in neighboring territories; terror acquired dimensions of large-scale military operations (Budennovsk, Kizliar, Pervomaiskoe); journalists and missionaries became victims of abductors. Hostages were taken in other regions to be exchanged for captured fighters. Chechen terrorism was acquiring political hues; the leaders of the Chechen Republic were watching passively or even encouraged criminals. A carefully planned armed attack at Daghestan in August 1999 was the peak of these criminal terrorist activities. The Russian special services captured certain documents that irrefutably proved that the plans nurtured by the terrorists were far from purely criminal. I have already written that they were mainly of a political nature, which means that the terrorists wanted to violate the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity and establish a different form of power in the Northern Caucasus by force.
The Use of Force
The complaints by certain European political leaders about violations of human rights and freedoms in Chechnia are absolutely unfounded: the latter were destroyed there in the 1990s when Shari‘a courts functioned in the republic for three years, when executions were public, and when people were abducted from the streets. It was in “independent Chechnia” that the British and New Zealand engineers were first taken hostage with the hope of collecting a ransom and then beheaded. In Daghestan alone 590 people were abducted and taken to Chechnia (there were 157 women and 22 children among them). According to the RF Ministry of the Interior, fighters are still keeping about 800 people of various nationalities as guarantees of their safety.
Obviously, it is the task of the law enforcement bodies to complete the antiterrorist operation, therefore they should be keeping a keen watch over all the extremist organizations inside and outside the country. The specially organized investigation groups did a lot to identify terrorists and call them to account. In the course of investigation of these cases, however, when instituting international retrieval of terrorists, the investigative structures of the RF and the Republic of Daghestan discovered that it was hard to establish the terrorists’ true names; there was no information about their previous criminal activities, and nothing was known about them in their home countries or in the places from where they arrived.
Earlier, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Daghestan sanctioned arrests and instituted international retrieval of the main terrorists (Khattab, Shamil and Shirvani Basaev, Movladi Udugov, and others) who prepared attacks on towns and villages of Daghestan and personally carried them out.
Until 2000, the tax police instituted 35 criminal cases against the structures that financed Chechen bandits, and brought more than 20 people to trial. In the last three years 34 crimes in the financial sphere were committed in Daghestan, 24 of them were solved. Today, 27 terrorist acts have been exposed; 46 criminals were condemned (seven of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment). The following figures provide food for thought: in 2002 there were 294 acts of terrorism in the Southern Federal Okrug (Art 205 of the RF Criminal Code), 272 of which took place in Chechnia; 7 in Daghestan, and 5 in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, and the Stavropol Territory each. In Daghestan 89.9 percent of the crimes were exposed; the figure for the Russian Federation is 23.4 percent.
Resolution No. 1040 of Russian government of 15 September, 1999 On Measures to Prevent Terrorism suggested that the local self-administration structures should tighten security measures in housing estates, places of public gatherings, life-support facilities, etc. Later, public prosecutor’s offices discovered that in some places local self-administration structures neglected real measures and limited themselves to drawing up plans and approving decisions. For example, on 14 September, 2001, the administration head of the Buynaksk District issued a decision On Urgent Preventive Measures to Avert Terrorist Acts in the District followed on 29 December by another decision On Measures Designed to Prevent Biological and Chemical Terrorism in the District. Until recently, however, nothing was done to even identify which facilities fell into the category of “vitally important “and “life-support.” It was also discovered that in the region many of the religious organizations repeatedly violated the federal Law on the Freedom of Conscience, Religion and Religious Organizations. In particular, some of the educational establishments (the institutes named after Iusuf Hajji, Saidmuhammad-Hajji Abubakarov, and Hazan Hilmi in Khasaviurt among them) did not have state registration and licenses, or secular disciplines in their curricula; among the pupils were children under 15 with no secular secondary education, which creates fertile soil for extremist ideas. The local self-administration bodies that are expected to control religious education do nothing.
In the city of Derbent the public prosecutor established that there were 6 unregistered religious Islamic organizations in the city and 4 religious educational establishments, 2 of them unregistered. In the Derbent District there are 31 Muslim religious organizations, 21 of which have no registration; there are 2 madrasahs teaching minors who do not attend secular schools.
The administration heads of the cities Kiziliurt and Khasaviurt and the heads of three districts (Kazbek, Gergebil, Shamil) and the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Daghestan received documents dated 10 November, 2002 that demanded they remedy the violations discovered during inspections of educational religious organizations with respect to their stated aims and tasks. So far, none of the administrations, nor the Spiritual Administration, has reported back about any measures taken.
The recent monitoring of how the laws on opposing extremist activities were being implemented revealed that the violations have not been completely removed. In addition, in some of the religious educational establishments, the teachers themselves are uneducated: this applies to four out of six educational establishments in the Karabudakhkent District, where the directors have no special education; the same applies to the Burgimakmakhinskiy branch (the Akusha District) of the Imam Shafia Islamic University in Makhachkala, and others.
Religious zeal among the local people cannot go unnoticed—sometimes people become religious fanatics; in some cases the clergy tries to act, instead of the legal authorities, imposing their conditions on them, etc. This happened, for example, in the Karabudakhkent District. Early in 2002 the clergy from the village of Dorgeli tried to remove the head of administration and chairman of the Korkmasov collective farm. They demanded that a general meeting be convened to discuss his report about the farm’s production activities and listen to reports by the chairman and head of the village administration. The Federal Law on Opposing Extremist Activities describes such actions as extremist.
According to information received by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Daghestan, there are currently over 400 Daghestanis studying abroad, mainly in the Middle East. It should be added that, according to information obtained from different sources, and from local public prosecutor’s offices in particular, those who return after studying abroad do not betray extremist intentions. Still, law enforcement bodies and local self-administrations should monitor the problem.
The special services of Russia and Daghestan played an important role in the antiterrorist campaign: they are responsible for efficiently monitoring investigations and intercepting the illegal actions of bandits. The State Duma amnesty does not apply to the heads of bandit groups and those involved in the terrorist acts in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buynaksk. Obviously, the frequency of clashes between fighters and federal troops will diminish if the most active separatists are neutralized. The problem is how to do this and how to accomplish the task soon. The special services of Russia have hinted that the heads of bandit units will not escape them even if they manage to leave the Russian Federation. The heads of the special services of Russia count on the cooperation and understanding of their foreign colleagues.
Special services of various countries may exchange the so-called “non-typical experience” of neutralizing or, to put it plainly, liquidating terrorists. We all know, for example, that Israel never wavers when it comes to punishing terrorists: their crimes have no limitation period.
Today, cooperation among law enforcement bodies and special services of various countries does not meet the requirements, despite the mounting threat of worldwide terror. Religious extremists receive financial and every other type of support in the host country and from other states. They have the latest weapons, materiel, and enough money. For example, the search of a private house in Daghestan, the owner of which was suspected of contacts with Chechen fighters, revealed over 300,000 high-quality counterfeit U.S. dollars, foreign printing equipment, clichés, printer’s ink and paper.
Terrorist No. 1 Osama bin Laden, head of al-Qa’eda has a special role to play in everything the international terrorist organizations, including those acting under religious slogans, are doing. He looks at the United States and Israel as Islam’s main enemies. In one of his messages he said: “In the name of Allah, we call on each faithful Muslim wishing to receive Divine Blessing to heed His call and kill Americans and take their money everywhere and every time this can be done.” Bin Laden is responsible for the explosions at the American embassies in the capitals of Tanzania and Kenya that killed about 500; it was his money that paid for what Khattab (now dead), Abdulla Malik, Muhammed Sharif, Saleh ed-Din and other international terrorists were doing in Chechnia and Daghestan. Regional groups of the Muslim Brothers, Hezbollah, and Hamas are operating in Europe and America. Other terrorist organizations (Jamaat ul-Fukra, the Ramzi Iusef Group that blasted the Twin Towers) are also working in the United States.
The Islamist fighters are religious fanatics; they are highly disciplined and handle the latest weapons, transportation and communication means with professional skill—therefore they are threatening many lives. It should be stressed once again that states should pool their efforts in fighting international terrorist organizations. The dynamics and structure of crimes differ from country to country—so similar trends are hard to identify, yet there are several common features: terrorism, banditry, contracted murders, illegal trafficking of arms, drugs, money, and raw materials. They are an equal threat to America and Russia. While the United States has already accumulated a vast amount of experience with fighting these crimes, the Russian law enforcement bodies encountered them for the first time about ten years ago. They should learn from their American colleagues. The different legal systems and different socioeconomic and political situations in the two countries should not overshadow what is most important—our common problems and shared responsibilities in fighting crime and its most dangerous form: organized transnational crime.
In the post-Soviet period organized crime in Russia has not only established contacts with similar structures in other countries, criminals from Russia have managed to gain a firm foothold on the international arena and, in certain countries, acquired political and economic influence. According to World Bank experts, up to 50 percent of hard currency is still annually smuggled out of Russia, while the country does not have a clear dividing line between the legal and shadow economy.
The RF National Security Conception of 1997 responded to the fact that transnational crime came to the post-Soviet expanse by making “closer international cooperation in antiterrorist struggle and the struggle against transnational crime” one of the key elements of Russia’s foreign policy.
In the last twenty years Islamic extremism, in the form of terrorism, has made itself known across a vast expanse—from Indonesia and the Caucasus to the United States—in different forms (armed conflicts, demonstrative acts of terror, Islamic revolutions in Iran and Sudan, etc.). There are numerous examples of terrorist activities of quasi-religious organizations spreading outside the limits of one country to destabilize the situation in others. The Taliban officially declared a holy war against Russia to force it to stop the antiterrorist operation in Chechnia; on 16 January, 2000 the Taliban recognized “Independent Ichkeria” and opened its representative office in Kabul. Back in 1998 Vice-President of Chechnia Arsanov promised to execute all the leaders of the Russian Federation; he personally declared war on the United States (after missile strikes at the terrorist bases in Sudan and Afghanistan). Maskhadov, Udugov, and Basaev invested about $12 million in commercial structures and real estate in Pakistan.
Some 100 Chechen, Arab and Pakistani fighters trained in Afghanistan (at the town of Host) were ready to cross state borders to Chechnia: this is normally done under the guise of religious tourism via Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan on bin Laden’s money when fighters pass for teachers or clerics. In January 2000 bin Laden personally met Chechen emissaries in Kandahar to discuss the wider scope of this aid, a larger number of mercenaries was dispatched to the Caucasus, as well as a greater supply of weapons, ammunition, and medication.
In fact, this was an “International” of terrorists and extremists of sorts, which can destroy stability in the world in the very near future. Being aware of this threat, Russia counts on mutual understanding with its foreign partners in order to prevent these developments; it repeatedly calls for closer cooperation in the antiterrorist struggle so as to stem the proliferation of terrorism. The threat, so far underestimated by political leaders, is growing together with its destructive potential. Regrettably, democratic countries often limit themselves to idle talk: one of Russia’s top leaders, for example, recently described the armed Wahhabis in Daghestan as the “peaceful believers.” While we are trying to agree on terms, terrorists are freely moving around the world, and organizing terrorist acts using money that regimes hostile to particular states are prepared to pay.
Only a wide antiterrorist front can change the situation: all democratic countries should agree on a common strategy in crises and follow it no matter what; special services and law enforcement bodies of all countries should pool their efforts; the terrorists should be deprived of money and of the possibility to set up their bases. The media should be banned from lauding terrorists no matter what the reason. Terrorists should be outlawed across the world; they should be tracked down and exterminated like mad dogs. This requires concerted efforts to prevent any criminal from hiding anywhere: no country can cope with the task single-handedly.
This cooperation should not be limited to an antiterrorist struggle alone—there are other forms of international crime to be dealt with. I mean drugs, money laundering, crime detection, counterfeit money, car theft, etc. These crimes earn money that pays for acts of terror. I am convinced that Russian experts, including experts from Daghestan, should carefully study American experience and receive information and technical support from their American colleagues. For our part, we are also prepared to exchange information and experience with our colleagues abroad. Cooperation is especially advisable in the following spheres: undercover agents; controlled supplies; operational experiments; setting up decoy enterprises. Secret agents are very useful. Whereas instructions issued by the U.S. General Attorney on undercover operations fail to mention the possibility of “urging to commit offences and creating conditions conducive to such offences,” these measures are banned by the RF Law on Operational Search Actions.
The law enforcement bodies of Russia, and the Northern Caucasus as its part, can and want to cooperate with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Citizenship and Immigration Services, corresponding structures of the Ministry of Finance, etc. We would also like to learn more about the Witness Security Program. In some cases the law enforcement bodies of Daghestan fail to provide enough evidence to support criminal cases against terrorists in court. As a result of the events in the Kadar zone mentioned above, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Daghestan collected enough eyewitness accounts and information from the victims during the investigation, as well as other factual material, to institute criminal cases against over 130 Wahhabi fighters. In court, however, nearly all the eyewitnesses and victims refused to confirm their earlier testimonies. There is every reason to believe that they were either intimidated or bribed by the arrested fighters’ relatives.
The law enforcement bodies of Russia and the United States could cooperate to carry out investigatory and operational search measures related to specific criminal cases. I mean that the two states could set up joint operational groups to stay hot on the heels of criminals, and create and use a joint data bank about organized and professional criminal structures, their leaders, international contacts, etc. In the field of investigation, the time has come to set up a mechanism for carrying out urgent international investigation orders. I do not know much about the American procedure—in Russia such orders are controlled by the General Prosecutor’s Office, which treats them as an absolute priority. In February 2003 we sent such an order to the American law enforcement bodies with a request to find out who had received about $2m transferred to the U.S. by the Elmier Plant in Daghestan and received no reply.
All states, Russia and America among them, suffer from money being smuggled out of the country with the help of false customs documents; bank credits received under false contracts that find their way to foreign banks, and tax evasion. Taking advantage of the absence of working contacts and cooperation among the law enforcement bodies, private and legal persons who try to conceal their revenues enter into collusion with the citizens of other states and use the requisites of non-existing firms. The data on concealing money in the U.S., France and other countries can be found in the investigative documents of Daghestan’s law enforcement bodies.
The world market is feeling the impact of criminal foreign economic activities. As soon as smuggling certain commodities out of Russia via the Baltic states was stopped, the price of gasoline went up, together with metal prices at the London Metal Exchange. This confirms that the law enforcement bodies of all countries should work together.
Cooperation among the leading states in the antiterrorist struggle should be developed in the following fields:
real implementation of all agreements reached at the G8 summits in fighting transnational crime;
exchanging operational-search, crime-related, etc. information of mutual interest;
carrying out operational-search measures and individual pleadings on international orders;
exchanging experience at meetings, conferences and seminars;
planning coordinated measures, including carrying out “controlled deliveries” of firearms, drugs, etc. when necessary;
publishing a joint bulletin on current problems of antiterrorist struggle, positive experience in intercepting and investigating terrorist activities;
exchanging legal acts, methodological publications, textbooks and research publications on relevant issues;
helping to train and upgrade the skills of everyone involved in antiterrorist operations, including on-the-job-training in specialized antiterrorist units;
carrying out joint research of mutual interest;
rendering legal aid through official involvement of the sides concerned in investigating specific cases;
assisting in tracking money and properties of criminal origin abroad.
Today, our cooperation with the United States and other countries in the areas listed above is obviously inadequate. We must work even harder to achieve real cooperation, otherwise Russia will not be able to demand the extradition of members of organized criminal and terrorist groups in order to institute criminal proceedings against them, while the countries to which these people escape will have a lot of trouble with them.
We all know that the crime level in the United States has been on the constant decline since 1991; this is especially true of felonies, the number of which is diminishing faster than stealing of property. There are other positive trends created by consistent efforts and the implementation of corresponding national and regional programs. We should study this experience and think about applying it in Russia and in Daghestan.
Today, those who are fighting international crime mostly respond to the already committed offence—little is being done to prevent offences, to disrupt the international ties of criminal communities, and to liquidate them altogether.
What can the law enforcement bodies of Daghestan offer their American colleagues? First, we have information about crimes committed by terrorist groups and about their members. Second, we have information about the possible international activities of local criminal groups and individuals. Third, we have information about the planned purchase of equipment, goods, etc. outside Russia, in the United States in particular, for huge sums of money, the movement of which should be traced further. Fourth, we can offer detailed information about the 1999 events and the role international terrorists played in them. Fifth, we can offer maximum protection to American citizens arriving in Daghestan. Finally, we can protect valuable cargoes arriving from the United States.
The law enforcement bodies of the Russian Federation can offer more than that: setting up a data base on all aspects of organized crime; exchanging experience in training special units; carrying out antiterrorist operations; rendering legal aid in organizing direct contacts; establishing cooperation on the basis of the Interpol Central Bureau in Russia, etc.
It should be said that our republic does not need political patronage—it is part of the Russian Federation, its constituency, and the Daghestanis proved this when defending the republic’s borders. What we need is equal and mutually advantageous cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, and other spheres.
Finally, we should not expect any major decisions to ensue from the recent meeting of heads of the law enforcement bodies of Russia and America. We can build up our cooperation in accordance with the “most favored nation” principle—what we need is goodwill and the desire to help our colleagues.
Why did extremism spread in the Northern Caucasus and Daghestan as its part? The following factors played a key role: the drop in the population’s standard of living in recent years, and the widening gap between the very rich and the very poor. The ruined economy and reduction in the number of jobs left many people without employment. This is especially true of the youth, which turns to crime in search of a means of subsistence. Religious extremist ideologists exploited this situation: they dispensed lavish promises and petty handouts. Dissatisfied with their social status and hoping for a better future in a new Islamic state, young men commit crimes against the state and society: some of them do this for wrong ideological reasons, others, for money.