Drug-Pharma Monday | Transnational Crime: How Can Transnational organized crime networks be stopped from becoming more powerful and sophisticated global enterprises?

April 21, 2008

Transnational organized crime continues to grow in the absence of a comprehensive, integrated global counter strategy. Havocscope.com estimates world illicit trade to be about $1 trillion per year, with counterfeiting and piracy at $521.6 billion, the global drug trade at $321.6 billion, trade in environmental goods at $55.7 billion, human trafficking at $43.8 billion, consumer products at $37.5 billion, and weapons trade at $10.1 billion.

Higher estimates are available for illegal drugs and weapons. This does not include extortion or organized crime’s part of the $1 trillion in bribes that the World Bank estimates was paid last year or its part of the estimated $1.5–6.5 trillion in laundered money. Hence the total income could be well over $2 trillion—about twice all the military budgets in the world. Estimates for TOC (Transnational Organized Crime) are also difficult because the increasing use of cash couriers, diamonds, and anonymous Internet banking hides its gains.

According to the UN, there are 27 million people held in slavery today, far more than during the peak of the African slave trade. The vast majority are found in Asia. The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking was launched this year and the UN Protocol Against Trafficking in Persons has been ratified by more than 110 countries, but with little effect. Since the World Bank estimates that just $20–40 billion of the total paid in bribes went to developing and transitional countries, the vast majority of bribes are paid to people in richer countries. These countries can be understood as a series of decision points that are vulnerable to vast amounts of money. Decisions could be bought and sold like heroin, making democracy an illusion.

The government of North Korea is reported to derive $500 million to $1 billion annually from criminal enterprises, and many Afghan government officials are allegedly in the illegal drug trade. Daily international transfers of $2 trillion via computer communications make a tempting target. Internet crimes such as mass identity theft have now become a substantial activity of TOC. The 13–15 million AIDS orphans, with potentially another 10 million by 2010, constitute a gigantic pool of new talent for organized crime. Meanwhile, prescription drug abuse has outstripped the use of conventional illegal drugs in many areas, and counterfeiting of these compounds is a new line of business for TOC.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Financial Action Task Force has made 40 recommendations to counter money laundering, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has created the Global Program against Money Laundering. There is also the International Narcotics Control Board, the World Customs Organization, the International Group for Anti-Corruption Coordination, Interpol, and the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, TOC continues to grow and has not surfaced on the world agenda in the way that poverty, water, and sustainable development have. It is time for an international campaign by all sectors of society to develop a global consensus for action against TOC, which has grown to the point where it is increasingly interfering with the ability of governments to act. The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has called on all states to develop a coherent strategy to deal with the problem. One global strategy has been informally endorsed by several countries in Europe and Latin America. An international body would use a priority system for collaboration for arrest and prosecution of one TOC leader at a time based on the volume of money laundered rather than specify categories of crimes.

The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime came into force in September 2003. It calls for international cooperation to help fight organized crime. Possibly an addition to this convention could establish the financial prosecution system as a new body to complement the related organizations addressing various parts of TOC. In cooperation with these organizations, the new system would identify top criminals by the amount of money laundered, prepare legal cases, identify suspects’ assets that can be frozen, establish the current location of the suspect, assess the local authorities’ ability to make an arrest, and send the case for immediate action to an appropriate court. When everything is ready, all the orders would be executed at the same time to apprehend the criminal, freeze the assets and access, open the court case, and then proceed to the next TOC leader on the priority list. Courts could be deputized like military forces for UN Peacekeeping, via a lottery system among volunteer countries. Countries would have to give up some sovereignty, as the global system would set the location for prosecution, preferably outside the accused country (extradition is accepted by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime). After initial government funding, the system would receive its financial support from frozen assets of convicted criminals rather than depending on government contributions for continued operations.

Challenge 12 will have been successfully addressed when money laundering and crime income sources drop by 75% and when law enforcement organizations are effectively integrated across all countries.
Regional Considerations


Africa: The hashish trade in Morocco is being used to support terrorism in both Europe and North Africa. Links between African rebel factions, organized crime, and terrorism may be increasing, which is potentially exacerbated by millions of AIDS orphans with few legal means to make a living. Corruption has permeated much of African society and is now perhaps the greatest limit to growth in many countries.

Asia and Oceania: Heroin production and trafficking in humans provide huge sources of income for the region. It is reported that Chinese organized crime gangs are spreading their activities into Russia. China has enacted a strong new anti-money laundering law.

Europe: European coalitions based on national politics cannot address global organized crime. Russia’s now more porous border adds to the security problems caused by the EU’s integrated economic territory, and the human trafficking problem from the accession countries of Eastern Europe will be exacerbated by the open frontiers. Corruption has fallen in the transition countries of Europe and Central Asia.

Latin America: UNODC says crime is the single largest issue impeding Central American stability, where drug-related violence has risen sharply. The U.S. Plan Colombia, lasting six years and costing almost $5 billion, has left cocaine availability, price, and quality unchanged. It is estimated that 5% of Mexican GDP is laundered, and its drug cartels are moving into Peru, where coca output is up about 40%.

North America: The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has opened a Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. Organized crime and its relationship to terrorism should be treated as a national security threat. Countries must be held accountable for corporations that are involved in criminal activities in their own and other countries. Intellectual property loss in just the U.S. is estimated at $200–250 billion. The use of radio frequency and other forms of identification tags will help trace legal materials into illegal transactions. About half of the 17,500 foreigners trafficked into the U.S. in 2006 were for the commercial sex business, and some 200,000 people are considered to live in slavery in the United States.



3 Responses to “Drug-Pharma Monday | Transnational Crime: How Can Transnational organized crime networks be stopped from becoming more powerful and sophisticated global enterprises?”

  1. fnb Says:


    It’s not the time in history for a Neville Chamberlain type president. The core of everything you mentioned above is the corrupt (I prefer to use “evil”) side (nature) of Man — in both doing the above and allowing it to happen. I hope good men will ralley, and not only detour the degenerate acts of the wrong-headed men above (and many more scenarios), but somehow nurture our wounded humanity back to a constructive light. At the end of Walden, Thoreau writes (I paraphrase): “The light that blinds us is like the darkness.”

  2. fnb Says:

    I don’t know how that smiley face got there, it wasn’t intended. Ah, it was meant to be a closed parenthetical.

  3. morganwrites Says:

    I’m not sure as to which candidate would ‘roll over’ like a dog and piss all over themselves – as Mr. Chamberlain did when he signed the accord (Munich Agreement) in 1938 and thereby ‘handing’ Hitler most of Austria – when it comes to discussing the above post.
    If there’s a weak link in the three contenders for office – John McCain is not one of them.
    Yes, we live in a world where money talks and all else walks. There are very few ‘good men’ as well as women who would stand up for what is right.
    What needs to happen, in my estimation, is to make sure that the Supreme Court only interprets the law as written, rather than rewrite the law to their own political agendas.
    Thanks – and don’t worry about the smiley face.

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