Real-life Rambo, mercenary Joseph Manuel Hunter, arrested over assassination plot, drug smuggling


September 29, 2013

Source: ABC News

A former soldier nicknamed Rambo has been arrested after leading a team of highly trained mercenaries across exotic locations in a plot to kill a US drug enforcement agent.

Real Rambo

A legal document lodged by the US attorney’s office in New York alleges Joseph Manuel Hunter, also known as Frank Robinson, Jim Riker and Rambo, plotted to carry out the contract killing for $US850,000, and also attempted to import cocaine into the US.

His fellow accused are nicknamed Tay, Nico, Paul and Gerald, the Grand Jury indictment reads.

Two of the team were arrested on Wednesday entering Liberia to allegedly carry out the contract hit, which was given to them by undercover sources for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Simultaneously, Hunter was also taken into custody at the Phuket Country Club by heavily armed Thai police and is expected to arrive in the United States tonight (AEST).

The US attorney’s office alleges he planned the hit and led the team of mercenaries.

Hunter made requests to the undercover sources for silenced weapons, a scoped rifle and the team was also provided with highly specialised latex masks to hide their identities.

Hunter – the central figure of the conspiracy – is a 21-year veteran of the US military who led air assault and airborne infantry squads, as well as trained snipers.

Since leaving the military in 2004 he has arranged for the “murders of multiple people”, the US attorney’s office alleges.

Nico and Paul had served in the armed forces of Germany, while Gerald was a member of Poland’s elite counter-terrorism unit. All three were snipers. Tay, whose real name is Timothy Vamvakias, is a former US Army sergeant and a military police officer who served with Hunter.

The indictment explains that this conspiracy began late last year when Hunter began recruiting members of his team. In January this year Hunter met two people in Thailand who portrayed themselves as Colombian drug dealers to whom Hunter gave his team’s resumes.

They were in fact sources for the US Drug Enforcement Agency and all their conversations on that day and at future meetings were secretly recorded.

Undercover agents offer Hunter ‘bonus jobs’

In March, Hunter met the fake drug dealers again. He was told that apart from being security for a drug running-organisation he could expect “bonus jobs”, or contract kills.

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Hunter told the DEA sources he had undertaken that sort of work before.

Authorities recorded Hunter’s conversation with his team later on the same day. He told the team what their new employers were expecting of them and that they would see “tons of cocaine and millions of dollars”.

He also said they would be doing “assassinations” and that most of the bonus work would be up-close killings because in the cities you do not get long-range shots. Hunter also divulged that he had arranged for two female real estate agents to be killed.

In April, the conspiracy moved to Mauritius where the team provided security for a real eastern European drug-trafficking organisation that had shipped over 200 kilograms of cocaine.

They also provided counter-surveillance on a weapons deal for the fake Colombian drug dealers.

In June they went to the Bahamas to provide surveillance of a massive cocaine haul being loaded onto a plane bound for the US. It was after this job they were offered a contract to kill a DEA agent and a boat captain in Liberia. He replied in an email: “They (the mercenary team) will handle both jobs they just need good tools”.

Items needed: Submachine guns, silenced pistols, latex masks

In July he sent a list of items he would need – two submachine guns with silencers, pistols with silencers, a .308 rifle with a scope and two concealment vests.

Later they would be provided with highly specialised latex masks, which can make the wearer appear from another race.

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Finally, in August, Hunter and teammate Vamvakias met up with the fake Colombian dealers to discuss the details of the assassinations, which were again recorded.

Vamvakias told them the team would “have to get up close” and that if his primary weapon malfunctioned he would need the pistols to “hit it hard, hit it fast, make sure it gets done and get the f*** out of there”.

They also asked about how to get into the country without having their passports stamped and they were told they would be flown out in a private plane.

Hunter said the extraction would be “the biggest headache” rather than the “job”.

In all it would take two weeks: one week for surveillance and one week to “make it happen”, he allegedly said.

By this stage two of the team – Paul and Gerald – had backed out of the job.

Hunter said he would arrange for Vamvakias and Nico to do the job together.

Nico is recorded as saying about the “bonus jobs” that “actually for me that’s fun, I love this work”.

On Wednesday this week they arrived in Liberia to allegedly commit the planned murders for hire and were arrested and sent to the US, where they have now been charged.

Paul and Gerald, who had pulled out of the mission, were arrested in Estonia.

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Country-by-Country Map of Drug Policy Positions in the Americas


August 9 , 2013

Source: insightcrime.org

This map breaks down every country’s stated position on legalisation and decriminalisation of drugs in the hemisphere. It is in this context that Uruguay is set to enact historic legislation and become the first country to legalise production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana.
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The interactive graphic (below and here) was prepared by InSight Crime for the 2012 Summit of the Americas and includes background information and links. It is also downloadable here (pdf) as a chart.

SEE ALSO: Gorilla in the Room: Legalization and Decriminalization in the Americas

The Summit put the issue on the table but achieved little else.

The Organization of American States (OAS) later issued a report outlining possible scenarios for the future of drug policy in the region. In one scenario, some governments in the region change their laws, while others maintain the status quo. The result is chaos and the formation of two blocks: one that is in favor of “legalization,” and one that is against it.

This appears to be the direction the region is headed. While some states in the United States, most notably Colorado, have passed laws that are similar to that of Uruguay, the US federal government remains firmly entrenched in its longtime position against the legalization of marijuana. Most governments in the region continue to follow the US lead.

There are similar contradictions in other countries as well, especially with regards to consumption versus production. While consumption is often “legalized” in small doses, production is outlawed. Uruguayan lawmakers in favor of marijuana legalization say they are addressing this contradiction in the legal code.

The Map Explained

The red countries in the map represent those who have publicly stated they are against both legalization and decriminalization of narcotics.

The yellow countries are those that either have partial decriminalization laws or have argued in favor of this, but have said they are against legalization.

The green countries are those who are open to debate on drug decriminalization and legalization.

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Brazil to Install Border Security Cameras


June 1, 2013

Source: Insightcrime.org

Brazil will install video surveillance cameras along the 17,000 kilometer border it shares with 10 other countries, as part of a national public security strategy aimed at combating organized crime along the frontier.

Border_Security_Brazil

Brazil’s National Public Security Secretariat will provide $13.9 million (29.5 million Brazilian reales) to 60 municipalities in 11 states that border other countries, for the purchase and installation of at least 624 security cameras, Folha reported. Funds will also be used for the transmission systems, video surveillance reception, and the training of system operators. Muncipal, state and federal authorities will work together to review the images

The cameras will be particularly heavily clustered along the border with Paraguay, in the Mato Grosso do Sul, Parana, and Santa Catarina departments, according to Folha’s map.

InSight Crime Analysis

Installing security cameras is part of a wider initiative focusing on Brazil’s border security. Since the implementation of the “Strategic Border Plan” in August 2011, Brazil has reportedly broken up 65 criminal organizations operating along the frontier. Brazil has also signed cooperation agreements with a number of countries, most recently Bolivia, in an attempt to help further secure its borders.

Rio-amazonas

As Latin America’s largest market for cocaine and a transhipment point for drugs going to Europe, border security is a major issue for Brazil. Bolivian and Peruvian cocaine is shipped from Bolivia or through Paraguay, along routes controlled by Brazilian gangs. Human trafficking is also a major problem, leading the government to recently invest in ten new control posts in border towns.

It is worth questioning whether the increased camera surveillance will significantly impact border crime, and whether the cost will be worth the investment. The US has had mixed results with its own expensive border strategy, which emphasized the use of technology. Geographical factors may make surveillance particularly difficult in some regions of Brazil, such as the Amazon. Moreover, evidence from the US has suggested that increased border security in certain zones simply shifts illegal crossings into different areas.

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Abductors free daughter, 10, of Bulgaria ‘drug lord’


April 29, 2013

Source: Krmagazine.com

Police said Monday that the kidnapped 10-year-old daughter of one of Bulgaria’s alleged cocaine-trafficking lords, Evelin “Brendo” Banev has been released after 47 days in captivity

Kidnap_Bulgaria

Abductors free daughter, 10, of Bulgaria ‘drug lord’

The kidnapped 10-year-old daughter of one of Bulgaria’s alleged cocaine-trafficking lords, Evelin “Brendo” Banev has been released after 47 days in captivity, police said Monday.

Lara Baneva was left at a parking lot in the capital around 10:00 pm (1900 GMT) Sunday and walked to a nearby police station, the interior ministry said. The girl was in good physical condition and was put under psychological care, it added.

State BNR radio reported that a ransom of 500,000 euros ($653,000) was paid for her release, but the information was not officially confirmed. According to private bTV television the kidnappers had initially demanded 2.0 million leva (1.0 million euros, $1.3 million) from the Banev family.

Lara Baneva was kidnapped on March 5 in the posh Boyana neighbourhood on Sofia’s outskirts while being driven to school. Witness reports said three masked men had opened fire on the car, wounding the driver and abducting her. The case was the first high-profile kidnapping of such a young child in Bulgaria.

The girl’s father, a 48-year-old former wrestler, was sentenced by a Sofia court on February 15 to seven and a half years in jail for laundering drug-dealing profits worth almost two million euros ($2.6 million).

The police operation against him and his accomplices was called “Cocaine Kingpins.”

Eastern_European_Mafia_Police

Banev was subsequently extradited to Italy, where he is now standing trial for allegedly trafficking 40 tonnes of cocaine from Latin America to Europe for the ‘Ndrangheta mafia between 2004 and 2007.

Lara Baneva’s kidnapping was the first in Bulgaria since 2009, when police broke up a nine-member gang nicknamed “The Bold” that carried out over a dozen abductions for ransom in 2008 and 2009.

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Europol : Mexican cartels gain ground in European drug trade


April 14, 2013

Source: LA Times

MEXICO CITY—Mexican drug cartels are striving to become “key players in the European drugs market,”  Europol officials said Friday.

Europol-Drug

Their statement, issued from Europol headquarters in the Hague, said that Mexican criminals have become “global market coordinators” in trafficking cocaine and synthetic drugs to Europe. Police officials also alleged that Mexicans were moving firearms from southeast Europe and trading them with cocaine dealers in the Americas. They also specifically cited the Zetas cartel–perhaps the most ruthless of the Mexican gangs—for reportedly trafficking human beings “for sexual exploitation” from northeast Europe to Mexico.

Concerns about the presence of Mexican cartels in Europe are not new, but the statement by theEuropean Union’s top crime-fighting agency underscores a growing worry about the Mexican criminal groups’ ambitious plans for global expansion. Fears have spread across the Mexican border to nearby Texas, and as far away as Southeast Africa.

Last month, Texas’ public safety department declared that Mexican cartels were the “the most significant organized crime threat” to the Lone Star State. Along with other criminal groups, the cartels are suspected not only to be deeply involved in the Texas drug trade, but also to be responsible for extortion, kidnappings, public corruption and money laundering, according to the report, an annual threat assessment issued by the agency.

In May, a deputy administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration told a group of U.S. senators that Mexican cartels are involved in the African methamphetamine trade, and have “documented links” to criminal groups in Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We haven’t identified specific cartel activity in Africa,” a DEA official told the Voice of America in June. “We’ve identified Mexicans in Africa, and we know they are affiliated with cartels – we just haven’t put it together.”

The Europol statement said that law enforcement officials had recently “averted” the Sinaloa Cartel’s attempts to set up a major European cocaine wholesaling operation. Thus far, according to the report, few violent incidents in Europe have been attributed to the Mexicans.

“We do not want the level of violence and brutality which we see in Mexico mirrored in Europe,” said Rob Wainwright, the Europol director.

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