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'Russia is a mafia state'

Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state", according to leaked secret diplomatic cables that provide a damning American assessment of its erstwhile rival.

world Updated: Dec 03, 2010 00:52 IST

Russia is a corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs and organised crime are bound together to create a "virtual mafia state", according to leaked secret diplomatic cables that provide a damning American assessment of its erstwhile rival.

Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion, secret offshore bank accounts in Cyprus: the cables paint a bleak picture of a political system in which bribery alone totals an estimated $300 billion a year, and in which it is often hard to distinguish between the activities of the government and organised crime.

Among the most striking allegations in the cables, are:

--Russian spies use mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations such as arms trafficking

--Rampant bribery acts like a parallel tax system for the personal enrichment of police, officials and the KGB's successor, the Federal Security Service

--Putin amassing "illicit proceeds" from his time in office, which various sources allege are hidden overseas

In a briefing for US officials in January, Spanish prosecutor, José González said Russia was a "virtual mafia state" in which "one cannot differentiate between the activities of the government and OC [organised crime] groups".