Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two of a kind

1920s Chicago was dominated by two organised crime gangs, one of which was the 'Southside Outfit' run by Al Capone.  Capone's gang focused on the distribution of liquor (illegal at the time) but also had a number of other shady operations.  Capone ordered many killings during his time in the Outfit, including the seven members of the opposing Northside gang who died in the Valentine's day massacre.

Curiously, Capone was never convicted for any of the killings.  Potential witnesses had a tendency to clam up or disappear entirely.  In the end it was the 'untouchable' Eliot Ness who managed to get Capone locked up using a  tax evasion charge, and the gangster ended his days at the infamous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay.

Chisinau 2001-2008 was not unlike Capone's Chicago, minus a few of the murders.  The President's son, Oleg Voronin, appears to have been able to operate with impunity, gathering to himself immense wealth (estimated at up to EUR 2bn) while officially earning only several hundred thousand Euro per annum.  Stories abound of 'spontaneous' privatisations and of successful business owners being intimidated into handing over their assets at a fraction of their real value.  There are rumours of a Maybach and other expensive cars, as well as a castle in the English countryside (a necessary accessory for every aspiring Russian oligarch).

As in Capone's case, not a single charge has been laid against 'Oleshka' for fraud, theft, racketeering etc.  Not a single investigation has been undertaken by the Prosecutor General.

Until now.  Under pressure from the newspaper 'Timpul' the authorities have finally begun a criminal investigation into Oleg Voronin's affairs.  Timpul raised the issue by pointing out that the income declared by Voronin jr. on his tax declarations was far below the astronomical amounts that were hitting his credit card on overseas shopping trips.  And so, reluctantly, the prosecutor has begun an investigation into potential tax evasion and money laundering, although they have avoided naming Mr Voronin as a suspect.

Let's hope that the people in the Prosecutor's office are just as 'untouchable' as Eliot Ness.  Mr Voronin should note, however, that no views of the Golden Gate bridge are on offer from Penitenciary nr.13.

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