‘Operation Skhodka’: the Italian-led operation against Georgian gangsters in Europe

I am indebted to Antonio de Bonis, a senior analyst at the Italian Carabinieri’s ROS Special Operational Detachment, for this short and authoritative summary of Operation Skhodka, the recent and effective international blitz on Georgian gangsters in Europe.

OPERATION SKHODKA

In Italy, Georgian organised crime has been characterised by the commission of property crimes, in more prosperous areas throughout the country. However, in the recent past, an evolution has been identified towards more structured forms of crime, which resulted in violent competition between Georgian clans for dominance and control of illegal activities committed by their compatriots in Italy.

This is the context for OPERATION SKHODKA, which was carried out by Italian police forces on 18 June 2013, leading to the arrest of 29 suspects of Georgian origin, in various Italian cities, as well as in Hungary, Portugal, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation, all belonging to the KUTAISI and TBILISI-RUSTAVI clans, responsible for, inter alia, thefts in apartments, extortion, money laundering, corruption, and use of false documents, operating across Europe and in Italy, crimes aggravating by their very transnationality.

The investigation activity started after Revaz TCHURADZE ‘s murder. Kvicha KAKALASHVILI was identified as the perpetrator, assisted in the action by Zurab JINORIA, named “Poti”, Zurab COKOEV, named “Tantora”, Vakho GUDADZE and Maka KATIBASHVILI, highlighting the violent conflict, against the backdrop of the Italian territory, between the KUTAISI clan, to which the victim belonged, and the rival TBILISI-RUSTAVI gang.

It was thus established that the mafia war, underway in Russia, involving the highest levels of the Russian-Georgian criminal community, with the armed opposition of two factions headed by Tariel ONIANI, leader of the KUTAISKAYA clan, and Aslan USOYAN, leader of the TBILISI clan, had implications in other European countries including Italy.

In this general context, outbreaks of violence in Italy were analysed as part of the struggle for dominance over economic offences and control of the management of the so-called “obshchak”, the common fund, in which were collected the proceedings of illicit activities in Italy.

It should be noted that the judge who issued the arrest warrants, unlike the public prosecutors, considered the criminal structure to be a simple criminal association and not a mafia-type organization, but characterised by its transnationality. In essence, the judge argues that it is possible to define this illegal framework as “organised crime that operates by committing crimes in several European countries”, devoid of the requirement of intimidating force required for an organization to be considered to have mafia characteristics, as defined by the Italian Penal Code.

M.A.s.U.P.S Antonio DE BONIS

Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale Carabinieri

Servizio Centrale – III° Reparto – 1^ Sezione

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