The situation I am about to describe is a direct result of the inability of the legal system to enforce its rulings. After exhaustive research I have not been able to find any published materials about Mafia Tribunals or Mafia Court. No one can actually confirm or deny the existence of either of these phenomena except those that have been party to either of them. I therefore admit that what I will discuss in this Part is from my own personal experience having participated in two mafia tribunals and having been refused an opportunity to participate in Mafia Court.
I was a businessman living and working in St. Petersburg, Russia between 1990 and 2000. In the early 90’s soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, even before the official establishment of the Federal Constitution Law on Judicial System of the Russian Federation (Dec 1996) there were arbitration courts but these courts had no means to enforce decisions. For this reason the courts were not very busy. The main reasons people used courts in the early 90’s were to get decisions on subjects directly related to legal issues where the Government was somehow involved. Where the courts were not used were for arguments between commercial entities. The only place commercial entities could argue against each other with a remote chance of collecting damages, were Mafia Tribunals. Having had a Russian partner with admitted ties to the Mafia of the early 90’s I found myself in my first tribunal in early 1992.
Soon after we started our timber export business (), my former Russian partner informed me that we were summoned to appear at a Mafia Tribunal that took place in the coffee shop of the Pulkovskaya Hotel in St. Petersburg, not too far from the Pulkovo International Airport. It was common practice for Mafia to meet at hotels in open view to public and the local police. The truth is that they felt it was less likely that someone would try to kill them in public near tourists. This would change in later years with a number of assassinations taking place in the coffee shop of the Sheraton Nevsky Palace Hotel on Nevsky Prospekt in downtown St. Petersburg.
One of our suppliers () accused my partner of not paying full price on a shipment he made to one of our buyers. My partner obtained an old acquaintance of his whom he knew for many years that represented us. Prior to our arrival at the hotel we met in two separate locations in the backs of apartment complexes to meet the necessary people who would be a part of this meeting. Only after the 2nd rendezvous did we know where the actual meeting would take place. We then found ourselves at the Hotel.
As we walked into the restaurant we saw at least 30 Mafia seated in the cramped area of 100 sq. ft. with three distinct groups within the overall group. The least important were the plaintiff and the defendants. Most important were our “attorneys”. The third group was their bodyguards who were sitting further away from the table watching everyone else who passed near to us. I cannot imagine that any of the tourists visiting the café had any idea of who these people were.
The tribunal lasted approximately 2 hours. We were victorious at the tribunal and received certain compensations, which were settled with my partner. The Mafia attorney for the plaintiff (our accusers) was named “Slava” who in fact was the 2nd most powerful Mafia boss in the City. The “judge” was dressed in a Nike sweat suit and was apparently the Godfather of the St. Petersburg Mafia. Sweat suits were a very common form of dress for the Mafia in those days. Later that year he was shot 10 times but survived the assassination attempt and moved to Germany.
- Russia Is ‘Mafia State,’ Prosecutor Said in Cable (businessweek.com)