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Organized Crime in Ukraine: Challenge and Response

NCJ Number
Date Published
78 pages
After explaining why Ukraine, along with other states of the former Soviet Union, has experienced a major organized crime problem during the 1990's, this paper profiles organized crime in Ukraine and assesses current efforts to combat it, concluding with recommendations for an improved response.
Between 1995 and 2000, the number of organized-crime members who were prosecuted increased from 2,980 to 4,074. The origins of organized crime in Ukraine, as elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, can be traced back to the Soviet period itself. The Soviet Union repressed any legitimate economic enterprise, coupled with a tacit condoning of various forms of illegal economic activity, particularly in the later years of the Soviet Union. This combination meant that the post-Soviet states were unprepared for the development of free-market economies as manifested in legitimate entrepreneurship; whereas, corrupt and criminal enterprises were already in place ready to exploit the new conditions. Many members of the political and administrative elite remained in their privileged positions and found new and even more lucrative opportunities to enrich themselves. Organized crime developed new facets, such as linkages to immigrant communities and criminal organizations outside Ukraine, and penetration of the economy. Violence also increased as a means of protecting and controlling lucrative enterprises. While organized criminal groups have been prepared and innovative in their criminal enterprises, Ukraine lacks the expertise and institutions required to mount investigations and the prosecution of organized crime, due to the centralization of criminal justice institutions in Russia. Ukraine thus has had little experience in drafting laws that would be relevant to countering organized crime. Ukraine must develop a comprehensive strategy for fighting organized crime. It is crucial to develop a broad approach that simultaneously targets organized-crime leaders, organizational structures, overall profits, and the connections between criminals and elites. This effort must include the implementation of adequate measures against money laundering. Ukraine criminal justice personnel must receive further training and instruction in both simple and advanced techniques for combating organized crime. This must include training in intelligence gathering pertinent to organized crime methods and operations. Although Ukraine has made great strides in reforming and strengthening its legal system, further efforts are required to bring Ukraine up to international norms and standards. International cooperation and guidance is necessary in this endeavor. 86 references

Date Published: January 1, 2002