Category Archives: Organised Crime

Suspected of Corruption at Home, Powerful Foreigners Find Refuge in the U.S.

Kyra Gurney, Anjali Tsui, David Iaconangelo and Selina Cheng report for ProPublica:

Image result for Suspected of Corruption at Home, Powerful Foreigners Find Refuge in the U.S.Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shields them from arrest.

They have entered this country on a variety of visas, including one designed to encourage investment. Some have applied for asylum, which is intended to protect people fleeing oppression and political persecution.

The increasingly popular destination for people avoiding criminal charges is no pariah nation.

It’s the United States.

An investigation by ProPublica, in conjunction with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, has found that officials fleeing prosecution in Colombia, China, South Korea, Bolivia and Panama have found refuge for themselves and their wealth in this country, taking advantage of lax enforcement of U.S. laws and gaps in immigration and financial regulations. Many have concealed their assets and real-estate purchases by creating trusts and limited liability companies in the names of lawyers and relatives.

American authorities are supposed to vet visa applicants to make sure they are not under active investigation on criminal charges. But the ProPublica examination shows that this requirement has been routinely ignored.



The Making of Donald Trump: David Cay Johnston on Trump’s Ties to the Mob and Drug Traffickers

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speaks to David Cay Johnston who began covering Donald Trump in the 1980s when he was working as the Atlantic City reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Johnston’s new book, The Making of Donald Trump, looks at a side of Trump seldom covered in the press: his ties to the mob, drug traffickers and felons. (Democracy Now!)

Mafia Holds Rome Hostage—With Garbage

Barbie Latza Nadeau reports for The Daily Beast:

[…] Cleaning up the city’s catastrophic garbage crisis was supposed to be the priority for Rome’s new mayor, Virginia Raggi, when she was elected in June. But already, more than a month into her mandate, the neo-mayor is struggling against a wall of corruption that is as high as the piled-up trash. And what could make matters worse is growing concern that Paola Muraro, the woman Raggi just tapped as the garbage czar to manage the crisis, has been embroiled in the criminal scandal that caused the problem in the first place.

A few weeks ago, after a video went viral of children in one of the city’s leafy suburbs counting the rats scurrying from a dumpster (25 in five minutes), Raggi promised she would have the mess cleaned up by Aug. 20. But it will be nothing short of a miracle if she even comes close to reaching that goal.

At issue is the simple fact that organized crime syndicates have run the Italian capital’s waste management system AMA for so long it is apparently impossible to keep the city clean without them.


Mafia Expert: ‘Britain is Most Corrupt Country in the World’

Peter Yeung reports for The Independent:

roberto-saviano.jpgBritain is the most corrupt country in the world, according to journalist Roberto Saviano, who spent more than a decade exposing the criminal dealings of the Italian Mafia.

Mr Saviano, who wrote the best-selling exposés Gomorrah and ZeroZeroZero, made the comments at the Hay Literary Festival. The 36-year-old has been living under police protection since publishing revelations about members of the Camorra, a powerful Neapolitan branch of the mafia, in 2006.

He told an audience at Hay-on-Wye: “If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth you might tell me well it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy and I will tell you it’s the UK.

“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, it’s not the politics but what is corrupt is the financial capital. 90 per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore.

“Jersey and the Cayman’s are the access gates to criminal capital in Europe and the UK is the country that allows it. That is why it is important why it is so crucial for me to be here today and to talk to you because I want to tell you , this is about you, this is about your life, this is about your government.”


Mexican Military Runs Up Body Count in Drug War

Azam Ahmed and Eric Schmitt report for The New York Times:

In the history of modern war, fighters are much more likely to injure their enemies than kill them.

But in Mexico, the opposite is true.

According to the government’s own figures, Mexico’s armed forces are exceptionally efficient killers — stacking up bodies at extraordinary rates.

The Mexican authorities say the nation’s soldiers are simply better trained and more skilled than the cartels they battle.

But experts who study the issue say Mexico’s kill rate is practically unheard-of, arguing that the numbers reveal something more ominous.

“They are summary executions,” said Paul Chevigny, a retired New York University professor who pioneered the study of lethality among armed forces.


Donald Trump Set to Be GOP Nominee Despite Links to Organized Crime: Interview with Tom Robbins

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman talk to Tom Robbins, investigative journalist in residence at the CUNY Journalism School, who has reported on Trump’s history of close relationships with organized crime figures in the United States. This interview examines some of the characters and connections Robbins has helped expose as a reporter who covered politics, labor and organized crime for the Daily News and The Village Voice from 1985 to 2011. His recent article for The Marshall Project is ‘Trump and the Mob‘. Robbins also critiques the media’s coverage of Trump on the campaign trail. (Democracy Now!)

OCCRP’s 2015 Organized Crime and Corruption ‘Person of the Year’ Award: Milo Đukanović

OCCRP writes:

His first real job was as the Prime Minister of Montenegro. He has either been the President or Prime Minister for most of the nearly three decades of his career and the life of his country. While he casts himself as a progressive, pro-Western leader who recently helped his country join NATO and is on track to join the European Union, he has built one of the most dedicated kleptocracies and organized crime havens in the world.

For his work in creating an oppressive political atmosphere and an economy choked by corruption and money laundering, OCCRP honors Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister of Montenegro, as OCCRP’s Person of the Year for his work in promoting crime, corruption and uncivil society.

[…] Djukanovic has a long history of befriending organized crime figures, involving himself in corrupt practices and bribing voters. He has been one of the world’s worst caretakers of government, often giving public money to cronies including organized criminals. His actions have left Montenegro with massive debts.


TRAILER – Freeway: Crack in the System


Directed by Marc Levin, Freeway: Crack in the System tells the true story of Freeway Rick Ross and the players that tell how crack cocaine destroyed neighborhoods and lives through the CIA Contra connection featuring exclusive interviews with journalist Gary Webb, Jesse Katz, source Coral Baca, former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Robert Juarez, drug trafficker Julio Zavala and many others. (Al Jazeera America)

Devils, Deals and the DEA

David Epstein reports for ProPublica:

[…] The arrest of Javier Arellano Félix, the head of the AFO drug cartel, would be hailed by officials in the States as a decisive victory in what may have been the longest active case in the DEA’s history — a rare triumph in the War on Drugs. “We feel like we’ve taken the head off the snake,” the agency’s chief of operations announced. I can’t believe it actually fucking worked, Herrod recalls thinking.

But did it? Dave Herrod is 50 years old now and nearing the end of his career with the DEA. In the time he spent hunting the Arellanos, his hair and goatee went from black to salt-and-pepper to finally just plain salt. He’s proud of the audacity and perseverance it took to bring down the cartel, and he knows he helped prevent murders and kidnappings. But when he looks back, he doesn’t see the clear-cut triumph portrayed in press releases. Instead, he and other agents who worked the case say the experience left them disillusioned. And far from stopping the flow of drugs, taking out the AFO only cleared territory for Joaquín Guzmán Loera — aka “El Chapo” — and his now nearly unstoppable Sinaloa cartel. Guzmán even lent the DEA a hand.

This is the story of the investigation as the agents saw it, including accounts of alleged crimes that were never adjudicated in court. “Drug enforcement as we know it,” Herrod told me, “is not working.”


Italy’s Puppet Master: Licio Gelli Dies Aged 96

Eric Margolis writes:

The French, who know much about intrigue, have a very useful expression, “an Italian scandal.” This means a scandal or plot that is so complex or tangled it defies understanding, and never gets solved.

The death of 96-year old Masonic Grand Master Licio Gelli this week reopened the mystery of Italy’s greatest and most murky political scandals. I’ve been following this wonderful case since the 1980’s. Gelli, a lifelong Fascist, was what was known in the US as “one of our SOB’s.”

As US Republicans hysterically warn of “terrorism,” it’s useful to look back to the Cold War years and see who really had – and has – clean hands.

Gelli first appeared as an 18-year old volunteer Black Shirt fascist sent by Mussolini to Spain to fight the Communists.

Soon after World War II, Gelli was recruited by CIA to help build “Gladio,” a top secret underground organized in 14 Western European nations of former fascists and other right-wingers designed to combat an expected Soviet invasion.

The Soviet threat eventually subsided, but Gladio, its far right members and its arms caches remained. In the 1980’s and early 90’s, Gladio and Gelli would be involved in numerous plots and intrigues known as “the years of lead” aimed at blocking Communists from power and paving the way for fascist coups. CIA and Britain’s MI6 were implicated.


Corruption in Italy: a resilient equilibrium

Andrea Capussela and Vito Intini write for Open Democracy:

That corruption is widespread in Italy is a well-established fact. Its harmful effects on public finances, SMEs, the quality of public investments, productivity, and trust in the country’s institutions increases informality in the economy. This vicious cycle tends to keep corruption in Italy at a high level.

Nadia Fiorino, Emma Galli and Ilaria Petrarca have all shown that corruption in Italy is negatively correlated with economic growth for the period between 1980-2004. According to Fabio Monteduro, if Italy had corruption scores similar to those of relatively more virtuous countries, its economy would have grown two to three times faster than it has. In addition, citizens tend to show a lower level of satisfaction with democracy in countries where parties rely more heavily on clientelistic strategies.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, corruption in Italy does not seem to be a cultural issue. According to the latest survey by Eurobarometer, Italian respondents are consistently below the EU average in deeming corrupt practices acceptable.’


New Investigation Unravels Mexican Gov’t Account of How 43 Students Disappeared: Interview with Ryan Devereaux

‘An explosive new investigation published today by The Intercept reveals the untold story of how 43 students disappeared in Mexico on the night of September 26, 2014. It is based on more than two dozen interviews with survivors of the attacks and family members of the disappeared, as well as Mexican historians, human rights activists and journalists. The Intercept also reviewed official Mexican state and federal records including communication logs by security forces and sealed testimony from municipal police officers and gang members. The evidence shows repeated inconsistencies and omissions in the government’s account of what happened when the students went missing. We speak with Ryan Devereaux, staff reporter at The Intercept and author of the two-part investigation, “Ghosts of Iguala.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Relatives of 43 Missing Students: US-Backed Drug War Fights Organized People, Not Organized Crime

‘As protesters in Baltimore set fire to buildings and vehicles last Monday to protest the death of Freddie Gray, protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero drove a burning truck into the congressional building in the capital Chilpancingo. The protesters were marking seven months since the disappearance of 43 students. Relatives have continued to question the Mexican government’s claim the students were attacked by local police and turned over to members of a drug gang, who killed and incinerated them. We speak with three relatives of the missing students: María de Jesús Tlatempa Bello, mother of José Eduardo Bartolo Tlatempa; Clemente Rodríguez Moreno, father of Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre; and Cruz Bautista Salbador, uncle of Benjamín Ascencio Bautista. The relatives have criticized U.S. support for the drug war, saying Mexico is using the aid to kill innocent people. “If they were really fighting organized crime, as the United States government says, then the crime rates would have gone down,” Bautista Salbador says. “Apparently they are not fighting organized crime; they are fighting organized people.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

The Dark Side of Football Transfers

Oliver Brown reports for The Telegraph:

‘Even with only his workaday shoes and a scuffed football, Souleymane Oeudraogo exudes instinctive talent. Close control skills, keepy-uppy, volleys on the spin: all are effortless. This spartan municipal training pitch in southwest Paris is his habitual terrain. But something is amiss. Oeudraogo looks too gaunt to be a central defender, the position he plays. And the 21-year-old is wearing only a gilet to stave off the piercing late-afternoon chill. He tells me it is his only jacket.

Oeudraogo is a professional footballer who two years ago stood on the cusp of joining the Burkina Faso national team. He arrived in Paris eight weeks ago, after 24 months of moving between clubs and academies in Senegal, Portugal and Belgium.

He is one of thousands of young players hoping to catch a break this month. For January brings the absurd largesse of football’s midseason transfer window, when an estimated £150 million will be lavished by Premier League clubs across 31 chaotic days. In the final week of the last summer window, Argentina’s Angel di María joined Manchester United for a £59.7 million fee, a British record. The Colombian Radamel Falcao also moved to Old Trafford, from Monaco, for an eye-watering loan of £6 million a year.

Oeudraogo, however, belongs to a growing underclass for which the top European leagues are but a shimmering mirage. Enticed on false premises from West Africa, South America and parts of the Far East by unscrupulous agents, their transfers to Europe are less about chasing the dream than living through a nightmare. Oeudraogo has wound up in the French capital as a victim of football’s version of human trafficking. He has no contract, no connections, and couch-surfs between apartments in the Paris projects. “It’s really harder than I thought it would be,” he says quietly.’


Big Money Behind Dinosaur Bones

Secret mafia initiation society captured on camera for the first time

Hannah Roberts reports for the Mail Online:

Police in Italy have captured a secret initiation ritual by Italy’s most feared and powerful mafia on camera for the first time near an old farmhouse near Lake Como‘Police in Italy have captured a secret initiation ritual by Italy’s most feared and powerful mafia on camera for the first time.

In a scene seemingly straight out of the Godfather films, the ‘men of honour’ met at an old farmhouse near Lake Como to swear an oath of allegiance to a secret society within the mafia known as the ‘Santa’ .

In a separate ceremony recorded by police, the alleged mafiosi took oaths in the presence of a revolver and cyanide capsules to symbolise the penalty for betraying the clan.

The rituals were captured as part of an investigation which led to 38 arrests in the north of Italy this morning.

Three mafia clans based north of Milan, in the provinces of Como and Lecco in the Lombardy region were being investigated.’


FBI cut hotel Internet access, sent agents to “fix” it without warrants

David Kravets reports for Arstechnica:

‘When the FBI applied for warrants this summer to raid three $25,000-per-night villas at Caesar’s Palace Hotel and Casino, it omitted some key investigatory details that eventually resulted in the arrest of eight individuals, including an alleged leader of a well-known Chinese crime syndicate, defense lawyers maintained in Las Vegas federal court documents late Tuesday.

The authorities built, in part, a case for a search warrant (PDF) by turning off Internet access in three villas shared by the eight individuals arrested. At various points, an agent of the FBI and a Nevada gaming official posed as the cable guy, secretly filming while gathering evidence of what they allege was a bookmaking ring where “hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal bets” on World Cup soccer were taking place.’


The US Has Spent Tens of Millions of Dollars Fighting Pirates, and It Still Failed

Nick Turse writes for TomDispatch:

maritime operation‘[…] From 2012 to 2013, the US Office of Naval Intelligence found a 25 percent jump in incidents, including vessels being fired upon, boarded and hijacked, in the Gulf of Guinea, a vast maritime zone that curves along the west coast of Africa from Gabon to Liberia. Kidnappings are up, too. Earlier this year, Stephen Starr, writing for the CTC Sentinel, the official publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, asserted that in 2014 the number of attacks would rise again.

Today what most Americans know about piracy likely centers on an attraction at Walt Disney World and the Johnny Depp movies it inspired. If the Gulf of Guinea rings any bells at all, it’s probably because of the Ebola outbreak in, and upcoming US military “surge” into, Liberia, the nation on the northern edge of that body of water. But for those in the know, the Gulf itself is an intractable hotspot on a vast continent filled with them and yet another area where US military efforts have fallen short.

A recent investigation by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea has escalated” and that “armed robbery at sea, oil theft, and kidnapping is a persistent problem that continues to contribute to instability” there. Not only that, but as Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, recently noted, piracy in the Gulf has taken on a particularly violent character.’


EU crackdown on organised crime results in 1,000 arrests

The Associated Press reports:

Europol director Rob Wainwright‘Law enforcement agencies across the European Union have arrested more than 1,000 people in a closely coordinated nine-day sweep, in what a police chief has called the biggest organised crime crackdown in Europe.

Operation Archimedes targeted crimes ranging from drug trafficking to illegal immigration, tax fraud, counterfeiting and theft, Europol’s director, Rob Wainwright, told reporters.’


Immigrant America: Murder and Migration in Honduras

‘Last summer, Americans were stunned by images of children and families from Central America turning themselves in at the US-Mexico border. More migrants are now coming from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and surrounding areas than anywhere else in Central America. The society there has yet to recover from a 2009 coup that crippled the economy and unleashed extreme levels of violence and inequality… VICE News traveled to San Pedro Sula — the most violent and second largest city in Honduras — to find out why so many families and young people are risking it all to migrate illegally to the US.’ (VICE News)

Official report into horsemeat scandal ‘blocked’ amid new food safety fears

Felicity Lawrence reports for The Guardian:

Horsemeat scandal[…] The findings are likely to embarrass ministers. The Guardian understands they are similar to conclusions in the interim report submitted last year highlighting the impact of deep spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry. It said confusion reigned when the horsemeat scandal broke because the coalition had stripped the FSA of overall responsibility for the integrity of food.

The report concluded that the industry’s own audits were inadequate to protect the public and that unless audits were unannounced, they were of little value. He also told a conference of food experts in May he had been warned by a senior civil servant that his report into the horsemeat scandal was so hard-hitting the government might want to bury it. This week, he declined to comment other than to say he was still awaiting notification of the publication date.’


London gangs draw up lists of girls to rape as proxy attacks on rivals

Mark Townsend reports for the Guardian:

Gang‘London gangs are drawing up and disseminating lists of teenage girls whom they consider to be legitimate rape targets, as sexual violence is increasingly used to spread fear and antagonise rival groups.

The so-called sket lists (sket is street slang for “sluts”) have, according to youth workers, prompted attacks so brazen that girls have been dragged from school buses and sexually assaulted. Police and charities say they have recorded an increase in the use of sexual violence by gangs, including incidents of revenge rape, where the sisters and girlfriends of rival gang members are targeted. Claire Hubberstey, interim chief executive of Safer London Foundation, a charity working with young people to reduce crime, warns that gangs are using sexual violence in the same way that they use dangerous dogs to parade their masculinity.’


Andrew Jennings: Fifa’s structure is typical of organized crime

Mario Rodrigues writes for Live Mint:

Fifa’s structure is typical of organized crime: Andrew Jennings‘Despite a few decades of racket-busting, Scottish investigative reporter and author Andrew Jennings is still at it. He’s reported on a wide range of topics, but is most acclaimed for his investigations into the workings of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa).

Ahead of the World Cup, his latest salvo against Fifa is the e-book Omertà: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organised Crime Family, published by Transparency Books, which carries a foreword by Brazilian Congressman and 1994 World Cup winner Romário de Souza Faria.

It comes at an opportune time; football-crazy Brazilians are protesting against the alleged corruption that has gone into their country hosting the World Cup, and even Fifa’s long-time sponsors have asked for an investigation to see whether bribery was involved in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.’


Italy will include prostitution and illegal drug sales in their GDP calculations to boost stagnant economy

Andrew Frye and Chiara Vasarri report for Bloomberg:

Italy will include prostitution and illegal drug sales in the gross domestic product calculation this year, a boost for its chronically stagnant economy and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s effort to meet deficit targets.

Drugs, prostitution and smuggling will be part of GDP as of 2014 and prior-year figures will be adjusted to reflect the change in methodology, the Istat national statistics office said today. The revision was made to comply with European Union rules, it said.

Renzi, 39, is committed to narrowing Italy’s deficit to 2.6 percent of GDP this year, a task that’s easier if output is boosted by portions of the underground economy that previously went uncounted. Four recessions in the last 13 years left Italy’s GDP at 1.56 trillion euros ($2.13 trillion) last year, 2 percent lower than in 2001 after adjusting for inflation.’


How Times Square Evolved from a Sex Center to a Strip Mall

‘Times Square used to be a dangerous den of crime, drugs, prostitutes, and porn movie outlets. Now, it’s a strip mall devoid of any culture that reflects the uniqueness of New York City. I’m glad it’s safer, but is progress at the expense of culture and community always a good thing?’ (The Resident)

Japan’s Biggest Organized Crime Syndicate Now Has Its Own Web Site and Theme Song

Jake Adelstein and Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky write for Vice news:

Japan's Biggest Organized Crime Syndicate Now Has Its Own Web Site and Theme SongJapan’s largest organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, recently launched its own website. But if you’re hoping to see guys with crazy tattoos, dramatic gun battles, bloody sword fights, and fingers being chopped off — and who isn’t? — it may disappoint. For starters, the site looks like it was created in the late 1990s. Still, the criminal syndicate is hoping it’ll serve as a recruitment tool as the membership of yakuza organizations shrink and public support for them falls. And the branding reflects this; the site at first appears to be for an organization known as the Banish Drugs and Purify The Nation League — or Drug Expulsion of Land Purification Alliance, as Google translates it. The “purify the nation” thing is potentially unsettling, but it still doesn’t sound like a criminal organization.

But it was founded by one. The then-leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi founded it in 1963 as a group “dedicated to the eradication of amphetamine abuse.” Sources familiar with the syndicate told VICE News that the site was launched under the Banish Drugs… monicker to, one, remind Yamaguchi-gumi members to behave themselves, and two, to convince people that the Yamaguchi-gumi is not “an anti-social force,” as they’re called by police, and are instead a “humanitarian organization.” However, veteran police detective told us that they suspect the site may be a signal that the Yamaguchi-gumi plans to expand their operations. Japan has 21 designated organized crime-groups — the yakuza — each with their own corporate logo, office, and business cards. The groups are patriarchal pseudo-family organizations structured like a pyramid, with the top boss known as the oyabun [“father figure”] and those under him known as kobun [“children”]. They each control different regions of the country.


UK Gang Members Love Social Media Too

Joseph Cox writes for Vice:

The criminal underworld isn’t shy when it comes to using social media. Mexican drug cartels intimidate citizens over Twitter, British extremists document jihad holidays on Instagram, and Brazilian drug dealers flaunt their assault rifles and earnings on Facebook.

Those involved in the UK underworld are no different, flaunting pictures of gang tattoos, wads of cash, and sports cars publicly and on pretty much every online platform their phone’s coverage can reach.


Pope Francis tells mafia to repent or ‘end up in hell’

Lizzy Davies reports for The Guardian:

Pope Francis  has made his strongest attack to date on the mafia, telling organised crime bosses they will end up in hell if they do not “convert” and give up their lives of “bloodstained money [and] blood-stained power”. In an echo of John Paul II’s appeal to mafia dons to renounce their “culture of death”, the Argentinian urged mafiosi to “stop doing evil” as he held an unprecedented meeting with hundreds of victims’ relatives in Rome.

“I feel that I cannot conclude without saying a word to the protagonists who are absent today – the men and women mafiosi,” he said, quietly but forcefully. “Please change your lives. Convert yourselves. Stop doing evil.”

The meeting in a church near Vatican City was the first time a pontiff had taken part in events tied to a day of commemoration held annually by the anti-mafia organisation, Libera. During a prayer vigil, the names of 842 victims were read aloud.


Where Have Japan’s Yakuza Gone?

Jake Adelstein and Nathalie-Kyoko Stucky write for The Daily Beast:

The number of yakuza, Japan’s organized crime group members, hit its lowest record since the country’s first anti-organized crime laws passed in 1992, the National Police Agency announced this week. The number of yakuza had hovered around 80,000 for almost 18 years up to 2011 but the nationwide criminalization of paying the yakuza or doing business with them has dealt a blow to these quasi-legal organizations. However, like many things in Japan, the statistics and the reality are always slightly askew.

According to the National Police Agency, yakuza membership peaked in 1963, at approximately 184,100 members. Since the implementation of the anti-organized crime laws in 1992, the number of active members “has been approximately at the same level” of roughly 80,000. But by the end of 2011 membership was starting to seriously decline down to 70,300 members. (32,700 regular members and 37,600 associates.)


Italian police investigate Skype use for ‘porno blackmail’

Philip Willan reports for IDG News Service:

Italian police in Genoa have opened an investigation into the use of Skype to trap victims into online sexual indiscretions, which are recorded and used as a pretext for extortion. A first complaint was lodged with the police last September by a Genoese businessman, said Alessandra Belardini, a deputy police chief with the postal and communications police. Magistrates in the northwestern port city of Genoa are now investigating a total of 11 examples of a growing worldwide phenomenon that is rarely reported to the authorities.

The Genoa case involves four attractive young women who allegedly struck up online friendships using social media, such as Facebook, Badoo and Chatroulette, and then enticed their victims into increasingly explicit sexual behavior to be recorded by webcam on Skype. Police are investigating the possibility that the scam was organized by a male resident in another European country.