GUAT – A gangsters paradise no more?

Readers familiar with the Ukrainian world and acronyms associated with it will probably be aware of GUAM – Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova.  Created in June 2001, GUAM set the lofty aims of promoting democratic values, ensuring stable development, enhancing international and regional security and stepping up European integration.  Obviously regardless of any progress made, there remains varying distances, but generally a long way to go for these nations.

The 5th September 2018 would appear to herald the creation of what the blog will term GUAT.

This time Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkey setting the task of taking on the (infamous scourge that are) “thieves-in-law” – at least as far as announcements by First Deputy Chairman of the National Police of Ukraine Vyacheslav Abroskin and Chairman of the National Police of Turkey Jalal Uzulka are concerned.

In short an attempt by these nations to tackle the organised criminality created by the “Thieves-in-Law” that impacts on each nation and yet rarely sees them prosecuted – rather they are usually deported, persona non grata, then arriving in one of these States after expulsion by another of these States.

A matter of all moving the problem on rather than any effectively dealing with it.

Indeed on numerous occasions, the Verkhovna Rada has refused to create legislation making being a “Thief-in-Law” a criminal offence in and of itself – perhaps it is the right position to take on the issue, perhaps not.

Some form of definition of what a “Thief-in-Law” is would be required.  Thereafter those parameters would have to be met.  Who decides?  Who decides who decides?

Would that decision be based upon police intelligence, or the recognition of a “Thief-in-Law” among their peers?

Being adorned with the traditional ink no longer necessarily acts as an identifier.  Neither would adherence (or increasingly non-adherence) to “the Code”.

There are those that would be tattooed with such symbolism as “fashion” in today’s world where once they would not dare.  There may also be some that would meet “Thief-in-Law” definitions that carry no such ink these days.

The fundamental question is whether it is the authorities or the criminal underworld decide who is in fact a “Thief-in-Law” if the mere fact of being a “Thief-in-Law” were to be an offence in and of itself.  What are the chances of a successful prosecution for being a “Thief-in-Law” if the underworld doesn’t recognise that an individual does indeed hold such distinction/infamy?

Further is simply being a “Thief-in-Law” sufficient grounds for a criminal conviction if no direct and/or obvious personal criminal activity that would otherwise lead to an arrest and probable successful prosecution?  Prima facie there would appear to be some human rights issues that could be debated.

Perhaps it is indeed wiser to actually take down a “Thief-in-Law” for their criminal activity rather than any label they may have (or be thought to have)?

This then brings about questions of jurisdiction.

As “Thieves-in-Law” have more oft than not earned the right not to directly get their hands dirty (that often), jurisdiction of crimes is normally that in which the offence is committed – but if the conspiracy, or acts more than merely preparatory occur elsewhere, and without which no crime would have been committed, where then is the jurisdiction?

How easy would it be to make arrests in Ukraine of those that directly carry out the crimes, to then successfully tie that to the Thieves-in-Law who conspired and plotted in Azerbaijan for their successful prosecution there for example?

“It is important for Ukraine to continue cooperation with Turkey in the fight against cross-border organized crime and “thieves in law.”  It is important that in this issue we have a common vision – only tough steps,” – Vyacheslav Abroskin

Bravo!  Quite right!

But what?  And how?

A new GUAT police task force targeting the “Thieves-in-Law” is naturally to be welcomed.  But that task force will have to work primarily within individual domestic legislation, and thereafter that of ratified regional and international instruments.

How complimentary is that legislation and how problematic are the gaps?

Will the constituent parts of the police task force benefit from additional legislation to fill in those gaps – or will the “Thieves-in-Law” continue to exploit them?  Is it better to concentrate on the crimes and their prevention rather than the criminals?  Put pressure upon the methods as a way to pressure the perpetrators?  If “cure” is so problematic, is “prevention” a better antidote (not that they are mutually exclusive)?

If “only tough steps” is the common vision, how will they be effectively and cooperatively be implemented?  What is to be the commonly agreed and commonly enforced holistic approach?

How robust is any political will behind this police task force initiative – is it just noise rather than signal?

Perhaps the only way to find out is to wait and see.