How Do We Know Whole Tsarnaev Family Isn't Mafia?
Print Friendly and PDF

Why was the Tsarnaev family given asylum in the U.S.? has lots of good investigations. So far, though, the feds have stayed clammed up about the Bush Administration's motivations.

In that part of the world, when you try to unravel why something happened, it often turns out to be appropriately byzantine.

Both Ma and Pa Bomb moved back to Russian Dagestan awhile ago, so it's not like the government of Russia had sworn to hunt them down. 

We know dad Anzor Tsarnaev isn't some "bearded fanatic" — he's a secular guy, who got upset that his wife and kid were turning Islamic in exile. He's maybe some kind of lawyer, maybe associated with the old Soviet government, maybe with the successor Russian government. It's murky. 

Were fanatic Muslims out to get him? What side was he on in the Russia vs. secular Chechen nationalist dispute of the early 1990s before all the Islamic crazies arrived.

Was asylum a high-level decision by Washington owing to dad Anzor Tsarnaev doing something for America? Perhaps, although if so, that would be just about the only time during the Bush years that immigration decisions were made in the national interest. 

Maybe Anzor got in on the anti-Osama gravy train after 9/11? Bin Laden had contacts with Chechen Islamists from the 1990s onward, so maybe Anzor, who had seems to have had some sort of shadowy prosecutorial experience, positioned himself as a resource for American national security area experts on the North Caucasus at Harvard or MIT would want to consult with? [Note: sheer speculation.]

Or was it all just another mess-up on the Bush Administration's part? Perhaps nobody was trying to kill Anzor, he just wanted to get out of his own part of the world. 

Or then again maybe, he had, uh, business associates who were no longer congenial. Chechens have a lot of business associates, not all of whom are congenial.

Looking up "Chechen Mafia" on Wikipedia, we find lots of interesting stuff about the blurry line between freedom fighters, gangsters, and terrorists:

The Chechen mafia (Russian: ????????? ????? Chechenskaya mafia) is one of the largest organized crime groups operating in the former Soviet Union, ... which originally consisted of criminals of Chechen ethnicity who later also tried to recruit former Russian special military forces, police and army officers. 

It has substantially decreased its presence in Moscow by 1994 after Slavic mafia groups united against their Chechen counterpart, with assistance from Russian police and the FSB (the former KGB). As it happened most of Chechen gang members returned to Chechnya and joined the rising Chechen separatist movement.

Mistaken for the Russian mafia 

The Chechen mafia is often incorrectly referred to as the generic "Russian mafia" in Europe, because most people of Chechen ethnicity speak Russian and many emigrated from the Russian Federation during the wars. 

According to the documentary The making of a new empire directed by Jos de Putter, the group originated in 1974 after a Chechen student at Moscow State University named Khozh-Ahmed Noukhaev founded an underground opposition movement, which later became known as the widely feared Obshina.[1] 

To many Chechens it was regarded as the cradle of the liberation movement, with Noukhaev embodying a persistent Chechen tradition of the bandit-warrior. By 1987 Chechen criminals had developed into a well-organized community under Nukhayev and Nikolay Suleimanov, the group forced the most influential local OC gangs (the Lyubertsy, Solntsevo, and Balashikha) out of Moscow which allowed the Chechens to occupy the dominant position.[2] 


Recent reports estimated that the group's sphere of influence extends from Vladivostok to Vienna, with members involved in various areas of criminal activity ranging from automobile theft, money laundering, trafficking Chinese illegal immigrants to Japan, narcotics smuggling, and the illegal sale of plutonium. Unlike other Russian OC groups, the Obshina was considered a hybrid criminal-political entity, which used illegal proceeds to finance and arm separatists fighters during the Chechen Wars.[3] 

This unique characteristic has resulted in a trend towards blurring the distinction between organized crime and terrorists groups and has confused many observers as to the Obshina's overall motivations. It is still not entirely clear whether they are more interested in creating an independent nation-state or in perpetuating regional instability so that they might continue to profit from the drug trade and other criminal activities. ...

The Chechen Mafia was also described in the book "Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the looting of Russia" by Paul Klebnikov, a famous Russian-American journalist who was killed in Moscow in 2004. 

Drug trafficking 

Chechen criminal groups and guerrilla factions reportedly play a significant part in the narcotics trade in Central Asia, Russia and the Caucasus region. In the First Chechen War guerrillas used funding from a variety of rackets as well as the sale of oil. However in the Second Chechen War the fighters received huge financial backing from Saudi Arabian militant Ibn Al-Khattab, who joined with guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev and became a prominent figure in the war. This marginalized some figures such as Ruslan Gelayev, who turned to the drugs trade full time. 

The Chechen mafia appears to dominate the traditional Russian mafia organizations in the drugs trade. One Tajik drug trafficker stated he preferred to sell his product to Chechen gangs rather than Russians, because of the Chechen's high-reaching contacts in both the underworld and police force. The Chechen influence runs even so far as to Murmansk, where starting from 1997 the head of the province's Internal Affairs Administration was actually a puppet for a Chechen named Vaskha Askhabov, who brought with him large-scale heroin trafficking that dominated the local underworld. Eventually Askhabov was arrested but freed in Moscow shortly afterwards, apparently thanks to his connections in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.[5] 

Connections to Islamic Fundamentalism 

The Chechen independence movement has gained widespread attention and support in the Islamic world and throughout the conflict foreign charity organizations and fighters from many Arab countries have volunteered their services. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, the Putin administration has made several attempts to link Chechen insurgents to Al-Qaeda. Allegations of Al-Qaeda and Taliban links to the Chechen mafia have recently appeared and well-known Chechen leaders have been at different times referred to in the media as Islamists, terrorists, and mafia bosses. ...

The use of narcotics profits to finance the Chechen separatist movement and its links to Islamists groups has been suggested by various intelligence agencies. 

The Chechen mafia presence in Argentina has been linked primarily to the use of Argentina as a transit country for Andean cocaine shipments to Europe in fishing treaters and cargo ships, arms trafficking to Brazil and Colombia, and money laundering. In the so-called "tri-border" area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay - which is home to a sizable Arab Muslim population[citation needed] - Argentine intelligence sources have detected contacts between Chechen separatist groups and "Islamic terrorists" and suspect Chechen use of these networks for arms smuggling purposes.[6]

As you'll recall, immediately after 9/11, the Bush Administration's #3 man in the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, formally recommended to the President that America respond to the destruction of the Twin Towers by bombing Paraguay.

On the other side of the globe, to finance their separatist movement, Islamist leader Shamil Basayev and his Chechen followers transported Afghan heroin through Abkhazia to the Black Sea or through Turkey to Cyprus and then on to Europe.[7] 

In 1998 it was reported by Riyad 'Alam-al-Din in Nicosia and an unidentified Al-Watan al-'Arabi correspondent in Moscow that Osama bin Ladin dispatched a delegation to the Chechen Republic made up of his group and representatives of the Taliban. Secret meetings were held in the outskirts of Grozny with some members of the Chechen Mafia to put the final touches on "the nuclear warheads deal." Allegedly the deal cost $30 million in cash from Osama bin Ladin's treasury and a grant of two tons of Afghan heroin donated by the Taliban. It was claimed that bin Ladin resorted to the services of the Chechen Mafia after many of his aides, some specializing in nuclear physics, failed in their attempts to acquire nuclear technology and equipment.[8] However, these reports have yet to be confirmed by outside sources.

Yeah, I haven't heard of anything like that in a long time. On the other hand, Chechen fighters provided the rear guard that allowed bin Laden to escape the American trap at Tora Bora. So, there was some contact.

In summary, there's plenty of material here for just about any conspiracy theory you want to dream up about the Tsarnaevs. 

So, what's my bet?

The smart money, no matter what the question, is always on: The Bush Administration screwed up.

Print Friendly and PDF