BRITISH police chiefs, concerned that the Russian mafia has started to penetrate Britain, plan joint operations with the Russian police following talks in Moscow this week. 'We hope it won't just be a question of talking. We are seeking on both sides to achieve a working relationship,' Albert Pacey, director-general of the United Kingdom National Criminal Intelligence Service, told a news conference at the end of the British visit.
Although Russian gangsters are far more active in Eastern Europe and Germany than in the UK at present, British police are anxious to protect Britain from the crime wave emanating from Moscow.
Mr Pacey said: 'We have noted large quantities of money being laundered through the City . . . rather than wait until this becomes too serious, we thought we should come to Russia and learn about the situation.'
Mr Pacey declined to discuss specific cases of money laundering but said that last year, of 13,000 reported instances of 'suspicious financial transactions' in London, 200 had involved Russians.
'That is not a large number, but what distinguished them (the Russian cases) were the amounts involved - from half-a-million pounds to several millions.' Police and customs were still investigating, he said.
Some of the money could have come from drugs trading, which is increasing in Russia. But many of Russia's black-marketeers have made their fortunes by selling their country's valuable raw materials and arms through the back door.
David Veness, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that Britain, with its largely unarmed police force, would be very vulnerable to an influx of weapons, and was doing all it could to stop guns flowing to the West.
The Russian mafia has already spilt blood in Britain. Earlier this year a woman in Woking was shot dead by gunmen from the Chechnya region, who mistook her for a relative of an Armenian jailed in Britain for having assassinated two Chechens in London.
Mr Veness said police inquiries into this case were continuing and that there were 'indicators of concern surrounding Chechen activity in southern England'. But he stressed that British police were no more worried about Chechens than any other Russian ethnic groups involved in crime.
According to Mr Pacey, Britain can congratulate itself that its officials are above any attempts criminals may make to corrupt them. 'There is not even a low level of corruption among officials in the UK,' he told a Russian journalist.
'We enjoy very high ethical standards in Britain which we all seek to maintain but we are not complacent,' Mr Pacey added.
Government corruption is half the problem in Russia. 'We will never be able to beat crime as long as there is a group of people whom the police are not allowed to touch,' Tass news agency quoted Ivan Voloshenko, a senior Russian police officer, as saying yesterday. He meant the bureaucrats in President Boris Yelstin's administration, who take bribes to allow the mafia to work unhindered.
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