The extent of organized crime activity, including links to Georgian authorities and involvement with or infiltration of UN agencies (1999) [GGA32782.E]

Since independence in 1991, Georgia has been faced with problems related to corruption and organized criminal activity (AP 20 Apr. 1998; The Economist 7 Feb. 1998; CIA Factbook 1998). Although the government embarked upon a major anti-crime campaign in 1995 and 1996, corruption remains widespread in many quarters (ibid.). However, no specific information could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate on current links between organized crime and Georgian authorities or on the criminal penetration of UN agencies.

According to a 1997 report by the United States Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (BINLEA), Georgian organized crime groups are engaged in a wide range of criminal activities, both within Georgia and in other countries (BINLEA 1998). At home, much of this activity centred around the smuggling of tobacco, alcohol and other goods, together with the laundering of criminal proceeds in the country's poorly developed banking sector (ibid.). While the authors of the BINLEA report did not consider Georgia to be a major conduit for the shipment of narcotics into western Europe, they suggested that its importance might grow in coming years, a product of its "geographical location and its ambition to be the focal point of a 'Eurasian transport corridor'" (ibid.). The Paris-based Geopolitical Drugs Monitor (Observatoire géopolitique des drogues or OGD) corroborated the BINLEA assessment in a 1997 country profile: "its geographical position makes Georgia a staging post for drugs" from Central Asia destined for both the Russian market and western Europe, despite the arrest of many organized crime leaders by Georgian authorities (OGD 1997). The same report noted that

the mafia's "business interests" are expanding, and more often than not with the state as an indirect partner. Campaigns to privatize state-owned enterprises allow the mob to launder money obtained from trafficking in drugs and other goods" (ibid., 3).

News reports in 1999 suggest that the Georgian government is continuing to crack down on those suspected of involvement with organized crime (RTN 19 Feb. 1999; AP 22 Feb. 1999), and in April it signed a protocol with the governments of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Russian Federation committing all parties to act jointly against organized crime, kidnapping and the smuggling of drugs and arms (ITAR-TASS 29 Apr. 1999).

Although no reports could be found on links between organized crime and Georgian authorities since the dismantling of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary group in 1996, there is continuing evidence of corruption among government officials and law enforcement officers (RFE 7 May 1999; Tbilisi Sakartvelos Republika 21 May 1999; Prime-News 2 Apr. 1999; ibid. 25 Mar. 1999). For example, roughly 400 police, customs and tax officials are reported to have been dismissed for various crimes in the first four months of 1999 alone (RFE 7 May 1999). However, since 1995, the Georgian government has adopted a series of measures in an effort to crack down on corrupt state agents, for example by replacing the majority of the country's judges (IHT 10 Apr. 1999) and reorganizing the army and Ministry of Defence (Tbilisi Sakartvelos Republika 21 May 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Associated Press (AP). 22 February 1999. "Suspected Arrested in 1995 Assassination Try Against Georgian Leader." (NEXIS)

_____. 20 April 1998. "Georgian President Declares War on Corruption." (NEXIS)

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (BINLEA). 1998.

International Country Strategy Report 1997. Washington, DC: United States Department of State. [Accessed 7 Sept. 1999]

CIA Factbook: Georgia. 1998. publications/factbook [Accessed 7 Sept. 1999]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998, 1999. United States Department

of State. Washington, DC.

The Economist [New York]. 7 February 1998. "Put Your House in Order (Survey 6 of 8)" (NEXIS)

International Herald Tribune (IHT) [Neuilly-sur-Seine, France]. 10 April 1999. Stephen Kinzer. "Georgia Ousts Most Judges of the Soviet Era." (NEXIS)

ITAR-TASS (Moscow, in Russian(. 29 April 1999. "Interior Ministers Back Anti-Crime Program." (FBIS-SOV-1999-0429 30 Apr. 1999/WNC)

Observatoire géopolitique des drogues (OGD). 1997. Géorgie. Paris: Observatoire géopolitique des drogues.[Accessed 3 Sept. 1999]

Prime-News Agency. 2 April 1999. "Zhvania Worried with the Scale of Corruption in

Georgia." (Central Eurasia Project Daily Digest (Tbilisi( 7 May 1999)[Accessed 8 Sept. 1999]

_____. 25 March 1999. "Georgian forces are patrolling only the Poti..."

(Central Eurasia Project Daily Digest (Tbilisi( 7 May 1999)[Accessed 8 Sept. 1999]

Prism [Washington, DC]. 8 September 1995. "The Caucasus."[Accessed 8 Sept. 1999]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 7 May 1999. " Georgian President Calls for

Crackdown on Economic Crime." (Central Eurasia Project Daily Digest (Tbilisi( 7 May 1999)[Accessed 8 Sept. 1999]

Radio Tbilisi Network (RTN). 19 February 1999. "Georgian Officials Hold Government Meeting." (FBIS-SOV-1999-0219 22 Feb. 1999/WNC)

Tbilisi Sakartvelos Republika (Tbilisi, in Georgian(. 21 May 1999. "Georgian Defense Ministry Against Reform." (FBIS-SOV-1999-0523 27 May 1999/WNC)