THEY trade in everything from stolen art to nuclear technology and leave rivals riddled with bullets in the streets of Moscow.
Now the worst thugs in the Russian Mafia have blasted their way to the top of the global organised crime league.
Moscow's Solntsevskaya Bratva, known as the Brotherhood, have just been named the worst criminal gang in the world in a major survey. And the planet's most famous mobsters, the "Five Families" of the New YorkMafia, barely scrape into the top 10.
The Brotherhood took over the underworld of south-west Moscow in the 1980s after godfather Sergei Mikhailov learned his criminal trade in the Siberian labour camps. Then, by linking up with other gangs, they built an empire worth tens of billions of pounds across Russia and beyond.
The survey says: "From its base in Moscow, this syndicate runs rackets in extortion, drug trafficking, car theft, stolen art, money laundering, contract killings, arms dealing, trading nuclear material, prostitution and oil deals."
Anyone who threatens the Brotherhood's business tends to end up dead.
They murdered a string of rival hoods in Moscow in the early 1990s and a bid to put Mikhailov on trial in Switzerland in 1996 had to be abandoned after several witnesses were shot or blown up.
Former FBI agent Bob Levinson says the Russian Mafia are "the most dangerous people on earth". But the survey, compiled by online men's mag AskMen, reveals that they have rivals in every corner of the world.
No 2 in the gangland top 10 are the Yamaguchi-gumi syndicate, the biggest of Japan's Yakuza crime clans.
Based in the city of Kobe and run by mastermind Shinobu Tsusaka, the 40,000- strong Yamaguchi-gumi run extortion, gambling, vice, drugs and loan-sharking scams. They also take kickbacks from building projects and peddle online porn.
Third place in the poll goes to an Italian Mafia gang - but not the Sicilian Cosa Nostra or the Camorra of Naples. The little-known "'Ndrangheta", based in the southern district of Calabria, have ties to Colombian drug barons. Some believe they are responsible for 80 per cent of Europe's cocaine trade. While other Mafia gangs have been crippled by informers, the 'Ndrangheta have kept their vows of silence because the mob is built on close family ties.
Most gangs only care about cash. But the fourth mob on the list, India's D Company, have sinister ties to Islamic terror. Boss of bosses Dawood Ibrahim masterminded a wave of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993. Ibrahim has links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and is widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan. He is rumoured to have had plastic surgery to alter his face.
Fifth on the list are the ruthless 14K triad from Hong Kong, who trade in human beings as well as drugs and assassinations.
The Sicilian Mafia only make sixth place in the poll after a string of high-profile arrests of their bosses.
Seventh are the Chinese Dai Huen Jai gang, many of whom are veterans of Chairman Mao's Red Guards.
One of the world's most violent mobs, theMexican Tijuana Cartel, take eighth place. Turf wars between the Cartel, led by Eduardo Arellano-Felix, and other gangs have killed hundreds in recent years.
Ninth spot goes to Taiwan's United Bamboo triad.
And despite their Hollywood reputation, the five New York Mafia families are left bringing up the rear.
The Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese clans have been relentlessly harried by the FBI. Many bosses are now behind bars, including Gambino godfather Nicholas Corozzo, who was held in March.
Top 10 criminal organizations
1 Solntsevskaya Bratva
4 D Company
6 Sicilian Mafia
7 Dai Huen Jai
8 Tijuana Cartel
9 United Bamboo
10 The US Mafia 'The Five Families'
Thanks to Ian Brandes
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