Intelligence service report warns of growing mafia influence

Last week the Czech Republic's intelligence service BIS released a new report warning that the Russian mafia was still alive and well in the Czech Republic. According to the report illegal activities include everything from money laundering to human trafficking, to extortion to fraud. And, what's worse: gangs have become better organised and more inter-connected than in the past - making it increasingly difficult to crack down - and eventually root out - criminal activities at their source.

The country's intelligence service, the BIS, is vigilant but increasingly wary of alleged mafia operations in the Czech Republic, operations that cut across borders, thousands of kilometres away. The dominant position in the Czech underworld today: still held by Russian gang members, followed by Ukrainians and - to a lesser degree -Chechnyans and Dagestanis. To make matters worse, they are learning to co-operate...

In the report the BIS has indicated that a key role has been played by gang members who have either infiltrated - or have connections to - corrupt officials in the Czech state sector, presumably offering fronts and blinds for criminal operations in return for bribes. Also a matter of focus: suspects in legitimate areas, who invest legally or work, for various legitimate firms. The intelligence service report indicates that special police units have been formed in the hopes of uncovering more beneath the surface. But, the going must be difficult: according to the BIS report - foreign gangs in the Czech Republic have learned to work together, benefiting in an increase in influence and power, and presumably, wealth.

The report sites that one of the most influential gangs in the Czech Republic is the Solnecev organisation, one of the most powerful within the Russian Federation, whose success at home has been viewed by Czechs as a warning. Officials here say the gang will now attempt to repeat its dominance not only in the Czech Republic but also further abroad in the European Union.

Finally, Czech intelligence warns, the threat of organised crime represented by current mafia gangs, goes deeper than just illegal business: there is a new added element in money laundering and financial crime: allegedly helping finance international terror, whose impact is potentially more devastating than fraud and extortion could ever be.