The Global Criminal economy
Consider this scenario: Con men operating out of Amsterdam sell bogus U.S. securities by telephone to Germans; the operation is controlled by an Englishman residing in Monaco. with his profits in Panama. Which police force should investigate? In which jurisdiction should a prosecution be mounted? There may even be a question about whether a crime has been committed, although if all the actions had taken place in a single country there would be little doubt. (United Nations Development Programmer. 1999: 104) As this example shows, international criminal activity poses new and interesting questions not only for those who are the victims of such actions but also for governmental agencies mandated to control crime. Global crime-the networking of powerful criminal organizations and their associates in shared activities around the world-is a relatively new phenomenon (Castells, 1998). However, it'is an extremely lucrative endeavor as criminal organizations have increasingly set up their operations on a transnational basis, using the latest communication and transportation technologies. How much money and other resources change hands in the global criminal economy? Although the exact amount of profits and financial flows originating in the global criminal economy is impossible to determine, the 1994 United Nations Conference on lobal Organized Crime estimated that about $500 billion (in U.S. currency) per year is accrued in the global trade in drugs alone. Today, professorship all kinds of global criminal activities are estimated to range from $750 billion to over $1.5 trillion per year (United Nations Development Programmer, 1999). Some analysts believe that even these figures underestimate the true nature and extent of the global criminal economy (Castells. 1998). The highest income-producing activities of global criminal organizations induce trafficking in drugs, weapons. and nuclear material; smuggling of things and people (including many migrants); drafting in-women- and-doctrinaire or t e sex industry; and trafficking in body parts such as corneas and major organs for the medical industry. Underbidding the' entire criminal system is money laundering and various complex financial schemes and international trade networks that make it possible for people to me resources they obtain through illegal activiry for the purposes of consumption and investment in the "legitimate") formal economy. Who engages in global criminal actio .ties! According to the sociologist Manuel Cast-Ile (!998), the following groups are the major players in the global criminal economy
Although these groups have existed for many years in their countries of origin and perhaps surrounding territories. they have expanded rapidly in the era of global communications and rapid transportation networks. In some countries. criminal organizations maintain a quasi-legal existence and are visible in legitimate" business and political activities. For example, in Japan the Yakuza have operated for many years without much scrutiny by the Japanese government. Today. the Yalwza have exported their practice of blackmail and extortion of corporations to the United States and other nations. where they send in violent provocateurs. known as the Soyinka. to intimidate Japanese executives living abroad (Castells, 1998). Among other global criminal organizations. these Japanese gang members have been able to operate in the United States by investing heavily in real estate and engaging in agreements with other organized Clime groups in this country. Recently. law enforcement officials have become increasingly concerned about the operations of criminal networks in the United States that trace their origins to Russia (see Box 7.4). According to Castells (1998). networking and strategic alliances between criminal networks have been key fjctors in the success of the criminal organizations that have sought to expand their criminal activities over the past two decades. It is through such networks al basis. allowing participants to escape police control and live beyond the laws of anyone nation. Can anything be done about global crime? Recent studies have concluded that reducing global crime will require a global response. including the cooperation of law enforcement agencies. prosecutors. and intelligence services across geopolitical boundaries. However. this approach is problematic because countries such as the United States o~en have difficulty getting the various law enforcement agencies to cooperate within their own nation. Similarly. law enforcement agencies in high-income nations such as the United States and Canada are often suspicious of law enforcement agencies in low-income countries. believing that their officers are corrupt. Regulation by the international com unity (for example, through the United Nations) would also be necessary to control global criminal activities such as international money laundering and trafficking in people and controlled substances such as drugs and weapons. However. development and enforcement of international agreements on activities such as the smuggling of migrants or the trafficking of women and children for the sex industry have been extremely limited thus far. Many analysts acknowledge that economic globalization has provided greater opportunities for wealth through global organized crime (Castells, 1998; United Nations Development Programme, 1999).