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How to Bribe a Judge

How to Bribe a Judge

Ján Kuciak, a young Slovak investigative journalist who was murdered three years ago, never got to the bottom of what could have been the biggest story of his life. Long attuned to financial fraud and corruption, he was closely following the doings of Marian Kočner, a brash businessman who frequently appeared on television and in the tabloids to brag about his villas and sports cars. In 2017, Kuciak had come across Kočner’s latest scheme: an attempt to get a judge to award him nearly 70 million euros from the coffers of a popular television station on the back of fraudulent...

The FinCEN Files: Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists

The FinCEN Files: Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists

The FinCEN Files show trillions in tainted dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system. Secret U.S. government documents reveal that JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and other big banks have defied money laundering crackdowns by moving staggering sums of illicit cash for shadowy characters and criminal networks that have spread chaos and undermined democracy around the world. The records show that five global banks — JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon — kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players even after U.S. authorities fined these financial institutions for earlier failures to...

Zoran Jaksić’s Last Hurrah in Peru

Zoran Jaksić’s Last Hurrah in Peru

The world got a little smaller on July 17, 2016. That evening, television news reports in Peru and in Serbia were covering the very same story: A global drug trafficker who had switched among 40 identities to escape justice for years had finally been caught. The footage of the arrest in northern Peru was dramatic. Zoran Mihajlović Jaksić, the “right hand” of the world-spanning Group America gang, tried to hide his face from TV and police cameras. Four local policemen had to hold him to keep him from running. It was the grand finale of a year-long police operation. Using...

A Broken Operation in Venice Exposed Group America’s Slovakian Connection

A Broken Operation in Venice Exposed Group America’s Slovakian Connection

On the night of April 6, 2009, Mladen Miljanić and Braim Sinani were on the road, driving an Opel Astra across the plains of northern Italy from Milan to Venice. The two men were visiting from Slovakia, but they weren’t tourists — as police wiretaps of their conversations would later prove. In the car, Miljanić bragged about supervising his first drug handoff and talked about his uncle, a notorious drug smuggler. Sinani fretted about the price of cocaine, then told Miljanić he was interested in doing business with his organization again. That organization is Group America, one of the most...

How Group America’s Money Feeds the Balkan Economy

How Group America’s Money Feeds the Balkan Economy

What do drug traffickers do with the mountains of cash they make supplying Europe’s cocaine habit? For members of Group America, the answer is easy: Spend it on Zlatibor, a mountain resort in southwestern Serbia. Though global in scope, the international cocaine smuggling operation has both roots and friends in Serbia. It’s only natural that hundreds of millions of narco-dollars the gang makes each year go back to the old country. Much of it travels the old-fashioned way. In December 2008, Italian police eavesdropping on Group America operations in Milan heard gang leaders discussing a problem: Vladimir Rasic, an operative...

My Day With a Narco-Baron Behind Bars

My Day With a Narco-Baron Behind Bars

LIMA, Peru (August 16, 2017) – Standing in front of tall metal doors wrapped in razor wire in the dusty outskirts of Lima, Peru, my colleague Stevan Dojčinović and I realize this might not be such a great idea. I’m about to pose as a prostitute to sneak into the maximum-security Miguel Castro Castro prison. Getting past the facility’s high walls and heavily-armed guards is my only chance to interview Zoran Jaksić, the second-in-command of a notorious international drug gang called Group America. Authorities in Peru, Germany, Greece, and Argentina, as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, say Jaksić...