Changing Lenses: Striving for Sharper Focus on the Nature of the 'Russian Mafia' and its Impact on the Computer Realm
Russian organized criminals 'have not managed to institutionalize themselves in America. Big organizations like Cosa Nostra don't exist. It has not taken off the way that many feared.' (The New York Times, 19 August 2002, cited in the newsletter of the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime at http://www.iasoc.net/news.htm.) So states Raymond Kerr, the chief of the FBI's Russian Organized Crime Squad in New York, with a palpable sigh of relief. For much of the 1990s tales of the bloody and ruthless 'Russian mafia' filled newspapers and television screens around the globe, giving cause for alarm. Indeed, in the former Soviet Union extortion, kidnapping, murder, fraud and corruption have been extensive if not rampant. However, using the label 'Russian mafia' to describe what was occurring created an expectation that the threat would resemble the traditional, western style organized crime phenomenon. First, this article will look at the various ways in which the term 'mafia' has been perceived in the former Soviet Union, bringing greater focus to the nature of the threat. A discussion will follow examining the ways in which the computer crime threat in the virtual world will mimic the modes of operation of criminal groups in the real world.