US targets 'Thieves-in-Law,' Russian mafia royalty


Washington (AFP)

US authorities moved Friday to blacklist one of Russia's oldest and most notorious organized criminal gangs, the so-called "Vory v Zakone" or "Thieves-in-Law."

The Thieves-in-Law, a group born in the Soviet Union's prisons, are kingpins in an underworld network that has spread beyond Russia to the world's great financial centers.

Authorities have targeted the Thieves before, but the Treasury's designation of the entire network as a "Transnational Criminal Organization" is the first measure that treats them as a single group.

"The Thieves-in-Law is a Eurasian crime syndicate that has been linked to a long list of illicit activity across the globe," said John Smith, director of Office of Foreign Assets control.

"Treasury is designating the Thieves-in-Law as part of a broader strategy to disrupt the financial infrastructure of transnational criminal organizations that pose a threat to the United States and our allies."

Under the designation, US individuals and firms are banned from doing business with the group or designated persons linked to it, and any assets held by the Thieves on US soil can be frozen.

In addition to listing the group, the Treasury also named four members of the shadowy group -- alleged veteran mobsters whose addresses and multiple identity papers span Russia, Central Asia, Israel, Belgium and Italy.

A luxury spa hotel in the Russian resort of Sochi is listed as a front organization and a Moscow publishing house and public relations agency is said to be owned by a Dubai-based suspect.