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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FBI Plans Moscow Office to Combat Mafia

The FBI, concerned about growing organized crime links between the United States and Russia, intends to place a permanent representative in Moscow, the visiting chief of the FBI's organized crime department said Thursday.

Jim Moody, organized crime chief for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said during a press conference that recent shoot-outs and grenade attacks in Russia's capital indicate that organized crime here is at the stage the United States faced in the gangster days of Al Capone.

"A lot of them are very violent - they will stick a gun in your mouth and say, 'I'm your business partner', stuff like that", Moody said.

He said that although the Russian Mafia is in its infancy, the influence of the international underworld is rapidly educating Russian criminals in a more sophisticated form of organized crime.

"I feel that they are networking and developing much faster than any group I've seen in the United States", he said.

Waves of Russian immigration have meant that fighting organized crime both here and abroad requires cooperation between agencies that have traditionally operated within their own borders, Moody said at the joint press conference of German, American and Russian organized crime investigators.

The FBI now has two permanent representatives in Berlin, Moody said, one of whom works full time on crimes involving Russians. He expects that agent to move to Moscow soon, he said.

Last month, two suspects from Russia who were involved in a Philadelphia-based fuel-oil tax fraud scam were successfully extradited, the first payoff from the new cooperation, he said.

"I personally believe that the return of those fugitives to the U. S. was a truly historic moment in international law enforcement", Moody said. "Because of cases like that we need to cooperate even further. That is why we're here".

In the United States, about 15 Russian Mafia groups are operating, he said. Interior Minister Viktor Yerin said last month that 3, 000 organized crime groups were operating in Russia.

Joint investigations have resulted in the confiscation of an opium cache in St. Petersburg and the disarmament of an illegal alcohol-running gang near Moscow, said Mikhail Yegorov, director of the organized crime department in the Russian Interior Ministry.

Russian emigres have been arrested for ties to Colombian drug cartels and La Cosa Nostra, the U. S. -based mob conglomerate, and Chinese and Korean gangs.

"We have information about 21 criminal groups that have ties with foreign countries, with 2, 500 people involved", Yegorov said. "We are working on concrete measures to conduct future operations".

German, U. S. and Russian investigators will meet until Saturday to discuss cooperation on drug and weapon-running investigations, and to share information on crime solving practices.

Some of the greatest difficulties for joint investigations concern the different legal frameworks of the two countries, Moody said. For example, phone taps and other forms of electronic surveillance are legal in the United States, illegal in France and an open question in Russia.

And without an extradition agreement between the two countries, exchanging criminals can be complicated and highly political, Yegorov said. He said that in Moscow this year, there have already been 197 shoot-outs, an average of six per week. He said that most were fights over turf, or the result of unpaid debts and extortion.

Moody said that Russia is in a critical stage in the development of crime structures here.

"Once this process of survival of the fittest ends, then you have the organized crime groups evolving into more sophisticated activity", he said. "I am very envious of Yegorov being able to address organized crime at this stage rather than the later stages".