During 23 years with the BBC, and 39 years as a journalist (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), exposing illegality has always been central for our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry, and now come revelations that the appalling invasion of Ukraine by Russia, has significantly changed the way criminal gangs operate. Possibly forever.
Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo (SWE) officecar when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown is played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
Crime pays in the fog of war – to mix two awful clichés!
It is now clear that criminal gangs have totally changed their practices during the invasion of Ukraine to keep their profits up, and some Ukrainian ones have even turned to a patriotic belief in their own country, spurning previously lucrative routes through Russia.
I find this fascinating, as I have long been keen to expose criminality wherever I have found it, and this information puts a whole new complexion on things.
As the presenter of the BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) Current Affairs series Week In, Week Out (WIW0), and subsequently with The Eye, I have come across any amount of illegality.
I have doorstepped a crooked dentist, chasing him down the road, and it has happened as well with several dodgy landlords.
A woman who was advertising her bent business wrongly became so angry during a television interview that she stormed out (locking me and the producer in the room!), and another criminal denied point blank on camera he was the person I said he was, even though I had the evidence, which was presented to him.
On BBC Two’s Public Eye (PE) the head of a UK Government agency became so incensed by my questions that he THREW a pile of papers at me, but (bizarrely) on one BBC Panorama I presented, a man of the cloth congratulated me on my interview with him afterwards!
I had to have my house wired for intruders (with panic buttons at the bedside), and an expert was called in to offer safety advice which mainly concerned not keeping to a regular pattern, as well as how my kids were picked up from school.
All of this forms the backdrop to an earthquake which has shaken the underworld during the war in Ukraine.
The vast majority of rock-hard Ukrainian mobsters have stopped collaborating with their Russian peers, and have taken a position of pride in their country – spurning Russia altogether.
As one has told the papers: “We are thieves, we are against any state, but we decided we are for Ukraine“.
The war has changed everything by creating “an environment of unacceptable risk for international illicit trafficking”, says a new report from America’s government.
Black Sea ports are closed to shipping or have restricted it.
The boundary between government-run Ukraine and the territories occupied by Russia, is now a fortified series of killing fields – breaking the superhighway.
Enlistment in Ukraine has deprived the underworld of manpower while martial law stopped a wide range of criminal activity, and curfews make it harder to move around at night.
Academics have examined why Ukrainian gangsters are now shunning their Russian counterparts, and have concluded it is the natural order of matters.
“It is one thing to be called a criminal; quite another to be thought of as a traitor”, says Mark Galeotti, author of “The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia”.
Loyalty to Ukraine is about risk-control as well as patriotism.
“If we were annexed to Russia, many of the guys in prison might be transferred a long way away”, explains one gangster.
“Russian guards are merciless. None of us need that. So we’ll do the dirty work for Ukraine.“
Perhaps I should remember these issues the next time a crook storms out of an interview, or I have to chase one down the road!
The memories of Phil’s extraordinary decades long award-winning career in journalism (during which he exposed numerous criminal activities) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A Good Story’. Order it now.
Another book, though, has not been published, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – how a fanfare in the mainstream media greeted the planned launch of a fresh news outlet, but The Eye have shown that the man behind it is a ‘comedian’ and failed media executive, who had made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse prominent politicians on social media, was placed under police investigation, tried to finish off this website, and been officially reprimanded.