(Photo courtesy of the OCCRP site)
Eastern European/Eurasian organized groups seem to have their hands in a wide variety of organized criminal activity. They are often mentioned when referring to anything from auction fraud to payment (credit/debit) card skimming and computer crimes.
eBay claims there are entire towns in Romania making a living via auction fraud on it's well known site.
A new site called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has been launched by a group of journalists to cover this activity, which seems to have to have a global reach.
In their own words, here is their vision:
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) is a joint program of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo, Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism, Bulgarian Investigative Journalism Center, Media Focus, the Caucasus Media Investigation Center, Novaya Gazeta and a network of investigative journalists in Montenegro, Albania, Moldova, Ukraine, Macedonia and Georgia.The site has been given financial support by the Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) and the United Nations Democracy Fund.
Our goal is to help the people of the region better understand how organized crime and corruption affect their lives. OCCRP seeks to provide in-depth investigative stories as well as the latest news pertaining to organized crime and corruption activities in the Eastern Europe and Eurasia. In addition to the stories, OCCRP is building an online resource center of documents related to organized crime including court records, laws, reports, studies, company records, etc that will be an invaluable resource center for the journalists and public alike.
Although many of the journalists aren't well known in Western Europe and North America, they have been recognized as putting out some award winning work:
Recently, the program’s first project on energy traders was awarded the Global Network of Investigative Journalists “Global Shining Light Award” for quality investigative journalism under adverse conditions. The project was done in cooperation with SCOOP.The site covers a wide variety of organized criminal activity (besides what I mentioned above) coming out the the area. Some of these activities include narcoterrorism, illegal arms sales, shell companies and even tobacco smuggling.
Journalists who have participated in projects published on this website have included Stanimir Vaglenov, Alison Knezevich, Boris Mrkela, Sorin Ozon, Eldina Pleho, Beth Kampschror, Stefan Candea, Roman Shleynov, Mirsad Brkić, Michael Mehen, Mubarek Asani, Paul Cristian Radu, Milorad Ivanović, Vitalie Calugareanu, Vlad Lavrov, Michael Mehen and Altin Raxhimi. The Editors are Rosemary Armao, Paul Radu and Drew Sullivan.
Interestingly enough, by reading through the site, I discovered that organized crime even has it's hands in the energy business in the region.
This subject, or the underlying causes of it aren't covered in depth when we read about this phenomenon in the West. Normally, we hear rumors pointing to mysterious Eastern European gangs associated with a sophisticated scam that has surfaced in our own back yard.
In scam circles, some of these people are referred to as "Vlads," which refer to Vlad Tepes, who as the inspiration for the Dracula story. Recently, a person who goes by the name of "Vladuz" has given eBay and the authorities considerable grief when hacking into their system.
Given that this activity reaches far beyond Eastern Europe and Eurasia, this has always amazed me. If you live in any major city in North America or Western Europe, Eastern European/Eurasian organized crime groups are probably operating not very far from where you live.
As the site matures, my guess is that it will provide evidence to ties between these groups and terrorist organizations, also. In fact, if you read what is on the site, some of the evidence I mention is already being written about.
The OCCRP is an excellent and well-written resource for the lay person and professional writer to learn more about a problem, which has become International in nature. Furthermore, since it is written by journalists from the Region, it is a great research tool for anyone interested in the subject.
OCCRP site, here.