Euroichkeria. Western Europe fears of ‘Chechen mafia’

Euroichkeria. Western Europe fears of ‘Chechen mafia’
Chechen natives unite into gangs abroad Photo: The CrimeRussia

In the 2000s, Western Europe had welcomed refugees from Chechnya. In 2018, it has finally realized the criminal potential of dozens of thousands of mountain dwellers who had left their native land because of reprisals and economic disorder. Many of those who had fought against the Russian army in the first and second Chechen wars and their grown-up children skilled in weapons and practicing martial arts have united into street gangs. The CrimeRussia was figuring out why the Germans and Austrians don’t feel themselves comfortable in their countries anymore.

In late December 2018, the District Court of Dresden started examining four criminal cases against so-called “Chechen mafia clan” involving 15 Russian-born persons – mostly, natives of Chechnya. The defendants are charged with extortion of money from their fellow countrymen in exchange for ‘protection’. In the course of the arrests and searches, numerous firearms, machetes, and even Caucasian sabres were seized from the gang members.

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From left to right: Adam Z. (30-year-old), Ibragim C. (30-year-old), Aslanbek U. (28-year-old), Isa. S. (31-year-old), and Sergei R. (28-year-old)

According to Tag24, the trial is obviously stalled because witnesses are afraid to testify in court. The list of defenders includes some Isa. S.; the first inquest against him was launched back in October 2017 on suspicion of racketeering. Now another, more grievous, charge has been laid against him: according to the investigation, the 31-year-old Chechen had ordered to kill a witness while being in detention. Operatives of the Saxon Police Force prevented that crime because the telephone conversation between Isa and his wife was wiretapped; now the 29-year-old woman is also under investigation as an accomplice. Another defendant, 49-year-old Khadzhimurat F. charged with attempted murder of his wife, managed to escape and has been put on the wanted list.

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Initially, only four suspects ended up in the dock. A court session in 2017: four defendants, four lawyers, and three interpreters

The trial in Dresden is not the first case against ‘Chechen mafia’ in Germany. The murder of 43-year-old Mesut T., a German citizen of Turkish descent, in March 2016 has sparked a massive public outcry. The victim’s Volkswagen was blown during the rush hour on Bismarckstraße in Charlottenburg, Berlin.

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Blasted car of the Turkish drug dealer

According to the media, the murder was a result of a drug deal: the victim had sold a consignment of cocaine to Chechen natives. 

Guerilla Nation Vaynakh 

In August 2016, unknown persons have gunned down 28-year-old Dirk S., an active member of Guerilla Nation Motorcycle Club, riding his bike in front of the club in Lichtenberg.

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Scene of the murder of the biker

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‘Arabian mafia’ was suspected of this crime; the bikers have sworn to avenge the murder of their comrade – but it is still unknown who had killed him.

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Shortly after the murder of Dirk S., Berliner Kurier wrote that this is how ‘Chechen mafia’ has drawn a line under the redistribution of influence spheres with Guerilla Nation bikers. The Chechen natives seized illegal businesses earlier controlled by the bikers and assumed their name with minimal changes reflecting the ethnic identity. This is how Guerilla Nation Vaynakh street gang was born, the newspaper claims.

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The name “Guerilla Nation Vaynakh” includes “Vaynakh” ethnonym. It means “our people” in the Chechen language and refers also to the Ingush nation constituting, together with the Chechens, the Vainakh ethnos   

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According to another version, the Vainakhs became successors to Guerilla Nation after the destruction of the motorcycle club in the course of fierce street wars with larger Hells Angels gang (the third version claims that Guerilla Nation and Hells Angels were allies). Based on the materials of a journalistic investigation jointly carried out by Der Spiegel and MDR TV Channel, Hells Angels had closely ‘collaborated’ in Thuringia with Armenian ‘mafia clans’ formed in 2014, after the disbandment of Joker and United Tribunes ethnic street gangs consisting of North Caucasus natives, in relation to arms and drug trafficking and ‘covering up’ brothels. The above gang had reportedly involved Chechens as well.

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Joker street gang in 2010

Member of Guerilla Nation Vaynakh and Joker exchanged motorcycles to expensive cars – but retained the strict hierarchy, uniform, and symbolic of the bikers.

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Guerilla Nation Vaynakh hit the headlines in May 2017 – after a shootout in Weddinger cafe on Groninger Straße, Berlin.

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Chechens arrived in the cafe in three cars and stormed into it to kill the owner – a businessman of Albanian descents. One of the assailants had a Kalashnikov submachine gun – but it misfired – and his partner opened ragged fire with a small submachine gun. The owner of Weddinger fired back with a pistol and escaped through the back floor. None of the cafe patrons were injured in this short but intense shootout – although the operatives later found 17 bullet holes in its glass windows and doors.

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Shortly after the incident, three Chechens and three Albanians aged 27 to 40 years have been charged with attempted murder and violation of the Law On Weapons. In the course of the investigation, it became known that the Chechen thugs have arrived to dispatch the cafe owner over a large consignment of marijuana – he had taken the weed from them but refused to pay because of its poor quality.

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Participants of the shootout in court

According to the German police, the suspects detained for participation in the shootout on Groninger Straße were members of Guerilla Nation Vaynakh. In the course of the investigation, the German police have delivered a serious blow to the gang’s bases in Berlin by searching 9 apartments and a cafe in Charlottenburg and arresting several people. However, later, all of them have been released.

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During the searches, doors were smashed with a ram

Since then, Guerilla Nation Vaynakh hadn’t shown much activity – although the group still exists: according to the law enforcement authorities, it currently involves some 20 members. 

In August 2018, Chechen criminal groups had a shootout in a Chechen Cultural Center in Märkisches Viertel, Berlin. Two persons were severely injured; the police arrested several people.

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Chechen Cultural Center

Following that skirmish, the police have carried out a special operation in Berlin and Brandenburg federal state encircling it: 19 establishments supposedly affiliated with Chechen criminal structures were searched.

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An arrest of a suspect after the shootout in Märkisches Viertel

According to Focus magazine, the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) is currently monitoring some 250 natives of Chechnya involved into various criminal groups. These gangs have already seized control over some profitable spheres of the criminal business in Berlin, including drug dealing. 

Sharia Police 

In addition, the German secret services suspect some 500 Chechen refugees of radical Islamism. Several suspects, including those who had fought for the ISIS in Syria, have been arrested. Munitions and extremist literature were seized from them during searches. 

Christian Osthold, a German expert on Chechnya and Islamism and author of monographs based on his researches carried out in the North Caucasus, notes that the Chechen ethnic crime in Europe is often linked with Islamism.

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Christian Osthold in the Chechen Republic

“This does not mean that each Chechen criminal is a Wahhabi – but pretty often, Chechen Wahhabis have criminal experience,” – the expert notes.

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According to Der Tagesspiegel newspaper, politically-charged attacks of natives of the North Caucasus against Christian refugees from Syria have been registered since the mid-2010s. In August 2014, more than 100 Chechen natives have attacked Syrian refugees in a Berlin neighborhood; some 30 Syrians were injured. 

According to the German law enforcement authorities, Chechen Salaphites pose an increasing danger in Berlin in recent times.

In spring 2017, Sharia Police group has come into the spotlight in Germany.

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In early May, a video was disseminated through WhatsApp channels of the Chechen diaspora in Germany. It showed a photo of a masked many with a pistol aiming at the camera; a man’s voice has warned “some Chechen women and men looking like women, who follow a wrong path and lost the ‘nochkhalla’ (national identity – The CrimeRussia)”, that some 80 people have sworn on Quran and are coming to the streets to punish the kuffar. Der Tagesspiegel wrote that members of that group harass women publishing intimate photos on social networks or having friendly ties with non-Muslims and representatives of other nations.

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According to Meduza.io portal, Sharia Police involves over 100 persons. The group was founded by former Chechen separatists – comrades of Dzhokhar Dudayev. Shortly after the video address, members of Sharia Police have beaten several girls and sent notes of infamy to their relatives using contacts from their cell phones. A young man – not a Chechen native – who had dared to walk home a Chechen girl was also cruelly battered. According to the media, the assailants have knocked out all his teeth. Several Chechen women had to leave Berlin in fear of their lives.

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The growing activity of the Chechen ethnic crime, reluctance of many refugees from the North Caucasus to integrate into the German society, and negative response reaction of local residents reflect the Europe-wide trend. Based on publications in European media outlets, Europe – that had warmly welcomed Chechen refugees several years ago – becomes increasingly concerned about the current situation and the future.

Our
notes

The numerous Chechen diaspora in Europe has been formed after the first and second Chechen wars – thousands of Chechen natives have arrived to European countries as political refugees. For many years, Poland had actively supported Chechen refugees; by 2013, 18–20 thousand natives of Chechnya had lived there. Many of them used Poland for transit to Germany, the USA, and other countries with more developed economies. According to the European media, many Chechens have arrived to Poland illegally via Belarus with the help of Polish human traffickers. The Chechen diaspora in Europe currently consists of more than 250 thousand people, including 55 thousand living in Austria, 49 thousands in Belgium, 45 thousand in Germany (according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees of Germany (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF), natives of Chechnya constitute 82% of the Russian citizens seeking asylum in the country), 38 thousand in Norway, 29 thousand in France, 16 thousand in Denmark, and 9 thousand in Sweden. In 2017, BAMF has registered 4166 refugee claims submitted by Chechen natives; this is almost 60% less in comparison with the previous year (9850 refugee claims). Only 7.6% of the asylum applications have been approved.

On November 8, 2018, a conference entitled “Zwischen Ankunft und Abschiebung. Tschetschenische Geflüchtete in Europa” (Between arrival and expulsion. Chechen refugees in Europe) has been held in Berlin following an initiative of several human rights organization. In addition to the criticism of the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, repressions, tortures, and arbitrary executions allegedly committed in prisons of the Chechen Republic, the rights activists have paid great attention to the “distressful and rightless state” of Chechen refugees in European countries, refusals to grant them asylum, and their deportations as per requests of the Russian authorities. 

In fact, the attitude to refugees from Chechnya in the EU countries is currently suspicious and sometimes outright negative. But there are strong grounds for that – the adaptation of Chechen natives to the European lifestyle is constrained by their national traditions and mentality, including some belligerence, patriarchal family structure, and conservatism. 

The Chechen refugees have demonstrated their mentality to Europe back in the early 2000s. For instance, in March 2000, several dozens of Chechen asylum seekers have seized the UN building in Prague, Czech Republic and demanded asylum in the USA or West-European countries. After several days of negotiations, the Chechen natives have ‘agreed’ to the Czech Republic.

In August 2003, Chechen natives committed a massacre in Traiskirchen Refugee Camp located near Vienna, Austria. According to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, they were displeased with the noise made by Moldavian children and keeping them awake. One person was killed and 32 wounded in the skirmish. A police task force consisting of more than 100 officers was dispatched to subdue the refugees. After the brawl, the Austrian Minister of Internal Affairs has ordered to remove Chechen natives from Traiskirchen and evenly distribute them among all Austrian states (except for Vienna) “to prevent them from uniting into groups”. 

In January 2004, a large group of Chechen refugees decided to relocate from a camp in Carinthia region to a center located in adjacent Styria state under the pretext that local TV’s cannot receive Russian channels – although the Austrian legislation had prohibited them from unauthorized travels within the country. They seized a commuter bus and ‘welcomed’ the immigration officers with insults and spits. But the most surprising is not the behavior of refugees – but a reaction of the Austrian authorities who have ultimately permitted them to relocate. 

In September–October 2005, officers of a refugee center in Nordbibraten, Norway, had to call police at least ten times due to the aggressive behavior of Chechen natives. Twelve Chechens had demanded other refugees and the personnel to obey Muslim rules – pray to Allah, let the Chechen go first, and not wear shorts. The officers were afraid to stay alone in the center fearing attacks from the Chechen refugees.

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An incident involving Chechen natives that had occurred in Belgium in 2006 hit the lines. On August 19, a group of Chechen immigrants attacked a disco club in Ostend. Some 30 young Chechens armed with baseball bats, golf clubs, sticks, metal rods, and knives have stormed into the nightclub, battered security guards, robbed the patrons, and broken the furniture. After the incident, the police arrested 16 assailants aged 19 to 27 years. Six persons were injured during the attack. Later, it became known that the security guards were the primary targets of the hooligans – a few days before the incident, the security had refused access to the establishment for two Chechen natives. They have called for reinforcements from Antwerp, Nieuwpoort, and other places and unleashed revenge on the insulters. One of the assailants has even come from France. 

It is necessary to note that in the early 2000s, the French authorities had purposively invited stern Chechen guys to the country to settle them in criminal neighborhoods occupied mostly by natives of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Xavier Raufer, Director of Studies and Research in the Research Department on the Contemporary Criminal Menace and Professor at the Paris Institute of Criminology, told about this in an interview. The Chechen natives – officially employed with private security companies – have quickly seized control over dance halls and entertainment establishments in some southern cities of Provence and maintained order there. 

Then Chechen immigrants started laying hands on other spheres as well. For instance, the Chechen diaspora in Nice, Côte d'Azur consisting of some 300 families had ‘covered up’ real estate deals involving wealthy Russian buyers. In 2013, young Chechen natives were arrested there for assaults on resort guards with the purpose to redistribute the spheres of influence. 

In May 2018, 21-year-old naturalized Chechen immigrant Khamzan Akimov has carried out a massacre in Paris, France yelling “Allahu Akbar!”; he killed one person, wounded four others, and then was shot dead by the French police. 

In June 2017, the Chechen and Turkish communities of Strasbourg have wreaked havoc in a neighborhood inhabited by Arabian and African immigrants for the beating of Arabian language teacher Bislam Dadaev by them. In 2018, Chechen natives had a skirmish with immigrants from Guiana in Reims; Chechen Magomed Umarov was killed in the brawl. 

In October, the French media wrote that the police have detained in Seine-Saint-Denis 23 Chechen natives suspected of extortion of €200 from East-European truck drivers for entrance to the French capital. According to the police, the criminals could collect up to €200 thousand per month. However, later it became known that 23 suspects were natives of Ukraine, Pakistan, Moldova, France, and Russia arrested accidentally – they just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The four remaining Chechen natives have been criminally charged. One of them, Rustam Ustarkhanov, had a criminal record and was listed in Dossier S – a register of persons potentially posing threats to the country.

Austria accommodates the largest Chechen diaspora in Europe and suffers from the ethnic organized crime more than other EU countries. According to sociological polls, the Chechens currently are the most unpopular ethnic group in Austria. Local people are afraid of violence inherent in many young Chechen men. The Austrian media claim that this is a mass phenomenon. The Chechen youth unite into gangs; the majority of them are practicing martial arts; they attack young people threatening with cold weapons, rob them, and beat, including infliction of severe injuries.

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Chechen street gang in the Vienna subway

Sometimes, violence is committed just for the sake of violence – i.e. not for purpose of robbery. The Austrians have noted this for the first time in 2014 – a gang of Chechen teenagers were attacking their peers and trying to push them to the rails. They have beaten at least three persons, one of the victims was maimed for life.    

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The Austrian police are looking for a Chechen street gang that had robbed several stores in 2018. Stills from security cameras

Street gangs are pretty common in Austria. In addition to ethnic ones – Albanian, Chechen, Turkish, etc. – some of these gangs are international. 

One of such criminal groups was famous Goldenberg gang operating in Vienna – in April 2015, the Vienna Police Directorate has reported its destruction.

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The gang involved natives of Kosovo, Russians, Afghans, and even native Austrians – but Chechens had constituted its core. The gang leader, Magomed M., was also a Chechen native; for some reason, he has assumed nickname “Max Goldenberg”.

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Max Goldenberg

The Vienna Police Directorate had suspected the ‘Goldenbergs’ of a series of crimes committed in 2013–2015, including group attacks on people, robberies, and frauds. In total, 106 criminal cases were instituted against the gang involving more than 150 persons. 33 gang members have been criminally prosecuted; according to Die Presse, its leader was sentenced to three years behind bars in 2016.

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‘Goldenbergs’ in court

In spring 2016, the Department against Organized Crime of the Austrian Federal Police has announced the defeat of another Chechen youth gang known as Wölfe (Wolves). Unlike the ‘Goldenbergs’ – who had no political or religious complexion, Wölfe had a strongly pronounced Islamism ideology; its members demonstrated weapons and flags of Ichkeria on photos posted on social networks.

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The wolf (borz) shown on the flag of Ichkeria represents the pride, bravery, and freedom of the Chechen people, while the crescent (bettasa) – their devotion to Islam

In their Facebook community, Wölfe had demonstrated the aggressiveness and zero tolerance to the society using slogans like: “There is a thousand of reasons why I should kill you, but the main reason is how stupid are you looking”. Concurrently, they had tried to seize control over illegal sources of revenues near big trade centers in Vienna. According to the police, the gang consisted of more than 20 members.

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Wölfe

Similarly to Sharia Police in Germany, Wölfe had dictated behavioral standards to their fellow countrymen; some of them have been ultimately sentenced to prison terms for this. For instance, four gang members were convicted in May 2016 for battering a father of a family in a trade center in Brigittenau, Vienna. The man has arrived after receiving a call from his daughter. A 16-year-old Chechen girl was sitting with her mother in a restaurant in the trade center. Members of Wölfe approached them and demanded to go home immediately because “it was too late for right Chechen women”. The girl called her father. The 44-year-old man arrived and was cruelly beaten, including a severe eye injury.

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In spring, the trial of the assailants has commenced. The fourth suspect, who was at liberty before the trial, has been detained during a court session for threats to a television cameraman. In May, a similar story has occurred. Three Chechen natives were arrested in the same trade center for battering a topless male entertainer giving roses to female visitors in celebration of the Mother’s Day. The Chechens approached him and demanded to put the clothes on because “their faith does not permit such appearance in public”. They pulled their knives, and the entertainer was wounded in the brawl. 

In recent years, Chechen gangs in Austria have expanded their operations beyond the ‘traditional’ racketeering and street robberies. According to the police, their spheres of interest now encompass drug trafficking and arms trade as well. In 2017, the Federal Criminal Police Office of Austria and Interpol have reported attempts of Chechen organized criminal groups to seize control over small brothels by demanding money from them for ‘protection’.

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Concurrently, the Chechen natives increasingly become a nuisance for the Austrian police. The CrimeRussia wrote earlier about the arrest of 22 Chechens aged 25 to 50 years in Floridsdorf, Vienna in February. The local residents have noticed a suspicious ‘congregation’ and called the police.

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The ‘congregation’ in February

The Chechens told the police that they have come to congratulate their fellow countryman on the marriage – but thrown away firearms were found in the snow nearby: two handguns and a Uzi submachine gun.    

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Sixteen detained Chechen natives had the refugee status; four others were in the course of gaining it. According to the Minister, two of them were denied that status after the arrest because “they were not supposed to trespass on the country’s hospitality and violate its laws”. 

In August 2017, the ‘February congregation’ was remembered again. After it, the police managed to track down an ethnic organized criminal group and charge nine Chechen natives for the creation of a criminal group, extortion, blackmailing, illegal possession of firearms, and drug dealing.

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The case file

In addition, they have been charged with the arson of a pizza parlor in Hollabrunn in May 2017. The fire has led to an explosion in the residential building accommodating the pizza parlor; luckily, there were no victims.

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Knife attacks with fatalities, resistance to the police (in 2017 alone, three officers were wounded in skirmishes with Chechen natives), and the atrocious murder of 7-year-old Chechen girl Khadishat that has shocked the entire country (her neighbor, 16-year-old Chechen Robert K., cut her throat just to lash out his hatred to others and confessed to this after the arrest) make more and more Austrians call for the deportation of Chechen natives involved in crimes.

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Teenager charged with the murder of a 7-year-old Chechen girl

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The slain girl and her mother

Herbert Kickl, the new Austria's Minister of the Interior, has already announced a tougher approach taken by the Federal Ministry of Interior towards Chechen refugees. According to the Austrian media, he had inter alia discussed this issue with his Russian colleague Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

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Many ministers and parliamentarians in other European countries support the stance of Kickl. The appeals of human rights activists for clemency and reminders that the Chechen refugees had fled from the two most atrocious wars of our time and were severely traumatized have no effect on Europeans anymore.

The Chechen diaspora in Europe is seriously concerned about that situation. Many political immigrants from the Chechen Republic fear reprisals from its current authorities. In 2016, Ramzan Kadyrov has sent a clear message to the “European bums”: “the way home will be long and difficult”.

Therefore, the leaders of the Chechen community in Europe continue fighting off the criticism. Ekkehard Maaß, Chairman of the German Caucasus Society, believes that Russia has imposed to Europe “a stereotype image of a Chechen native as a person inclined to violence and terrorism”, while, in reality, the majority of Chechen natives living in Germany are successfully integrating in the new society; and only a small marginalized part of the immigrant community causes some problems. Of course, this is not the case. According to the Austrian state employment service, Chechen natives are one of the most troubled groups on the labor market. The majority of them don’t learn the German language and have plenty of religious and cultural reasons to psychologically resist the integration. 

On the other hand, Christian Osthold notes that Chechens have unique ethnic ties and even a small group of them can generate unbelievable criminal energy. 

Vacant position 

Sooner or later, the huge potential of the Chechen community in Europe will attract the attention of thieves-in-law who, in accordance with their criminal elite status, establish control over criminal structures – similarly with Georgian thieves’ clans in Europe. 

But in order to influence such a closed and ultraconservative diaspora as Chechens, one must be a Chechen native himself. There are only a few of them among the crowned thieves. According to Russian criminal experts, thief-in-law Khusein Akhmadov (Khusein Slepoi (Khusein the Blind)) had tried to consolidate Chechen criminal groups in Europe. However, the sources in the Russian law enforcement authorities believe that Khusein Slepoi and other ‘old school’ Chechen criminals – Gilani Aliev (Gilani Sedoi (Gilani the Silver-Haired)), Aziz Batukaev (Aziz), and Islam Edil’gireev (Islam Bol’shoi (Islam the Big)) – have not enough influence to lead the people. In addition, Khusein Slepoi and Aziz suffer from severe drug addiction, while the sportive Chechen youth disapprove this. In addition, young Chechens put the belief in Allah above the thieves’ code. Chechen political expert Abdulla Istamulov, ex-First Deputy Director of the Department for Liaison with Religious and Public Organizations of the Government of the Chechen Republic, believes that even the collaboration between Chechen criminal groups and other gangs is religiously motivated.

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Thief-in-law Khusein Slepoi

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Thief-in-law Akhmed Shalinsky

Therefore, there is only one real candidate to become the leader of Chechen criminal circles in Europe – crowned thief Akhmed Dombaev (Akhmed Shalinsky) who should be released from a Russian penal colony in 2019. After spending almost 10 years in detention, Dombaev has proven himself a true criminal leader – both in penitentiary institutions and at liberty. For instance, in a penal colony in the Lipetsk region, he came out victorious in a conflict with Tariel Oniani (Taro). Being in detention, Dombaev actively communicates with the outer world and has already started the creation of his own clan. In addition, Akhmed Shalinsky actively practices sports and is a faithful Muslim. These features may definitely inspire respect and trust in his fellow countrymen living abroad.

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