Thursday, November 11, 2010


Last month I travelled to Goa to report on its underbelly. It was a cover story for India Today.

Certain people, mostly foreigners (Russian, Israelis, Nigerians and British) have made it into a global destination for fun and frolic. They do not mind breaking the law. And they do not have to worry about breaking the law. As the law enforcer do not have any objection. In fact the tourism department is worried that they are losing junkie backpackers, who form a substantial part of the long-term tourist in Goa, to Thailand. Some of them find Thailand more exciting then Goa; and less cumbersome.

The Russian mafia is spreading its tentacles on tourism economy of Goa. The way they are doing it has an uncanny resemblance with how Japanese mafia Yakuza-one of the largest organized crime phenomena in the world- dominated illicit drug, prostitution and gambling syndicates principally in Hawaii, also in California, Nevada and even New York in the early eighties.

Yakuza did not disturb the normal life of the locals to carry out their multifaceted illegal activities of corporate extortion, gambling, smuggling, money laundering, narcotics, real estate, tourist scams, sex tours, prostitution and pornography that go hand in hand. They would dress oddly, with distinctive haircuts, intricate tattoos on their torsos as a mark of strength and assertion of non-compliance to any rules or social norms. They are aggressive by temperament. The cultural differences and the language barrier is a hindrance, but they manage to operate as a syndicate businesses with locals. They create extensive network of bars, restaurants and nightclubs by investing in high-priced real estate; even forge documents, bribe officials to do that.

Russian Mafia in Goa to me appeared to be an offshoot of Bratva (slang for 'brotherhood')-the numerous Russian mafias gangs that sprung which rose from the ashes of communism in the early 1990s. They operate behind a cover business like cyber cafĂ©, boutiques, run yoga classes, restaurant, bakery, some of them serve ‘hash cakes and pastries’ only to white tourists. They are into real estate acquisitions, agriculture lands is diverted to create tourism infrastructure much of it is owned by foreign nationals. After creating a base, they protect their core group from legal action by using all possible means: threats, bribery, even murders. In all this they prefer to be background operators with their Goan partners as the face of the business.

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