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At least 69 alleged Russian mafia arrested in European crackdown

A crackdown on the Russian mafia continued with at least 69 total arrests across Europe. 'We're going to find big mansions and enormous amounts of money,' a Spanish officer said.

By Jonathan AdamsCorrespondent / March 16, 2010



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A Europe-wide crackdown on alleged mobsters from the former Soviet Union continued Monday, with arrests now totaling at least 69. The suspects are accused of robbery, drug smuggling, money laundering, and other crimes.

The crackdown, dubbed "Operation Java," has exposed the global reach of the Russian mafia, who some experts claim now dominate the criminal underworld in several European countries and are active as far away as Australia and Singapore.

The Associated Press reported Monday that the crackdown started as a probe into the Russian mob by Spanish authorities. Spain arrested 24 suspects over the weekend, with more arrests in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, Reuters said.

The Guardian reported that the mob had targeted Spanish real estate investments for money laundering. 

Police have carried out a series of operations against the Russian mafia and its money-laundering operations in Spain's corruption-riddled property sector over the past four years.

Among those to have been detained in recent years is Zakhar Kalashov, accused of being a senior mafia boss. Kalashov is on bail, awaiting sentence in a money-laundering trial that was carried out under tight security and that ended in December.

Armenians, Russians, and Georgians were arrested. Criminals from former Soviet states are often lumped together as the "Russian mob," despite varying origins.

Video at Spanish newspaper El Pais' website showed authorities hustling suspects into police cars, and carrying evidence away from raided buildings.

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