The growth of international crime and transnational crime is a vital threat to the peaceful existence of humanity. Globalization and developments in the field of information systems have increased the scope of cross-border crimes as they have facilitated easy communication among world nations. Time and distance no longer create bridges among the global community and bilateral and multilateral relations among nations have increased considerably. This has given rise to the spread of international crimes as well. The most important message given by fast the growth of international crime and transnational crime is that no country is permanently safe from the negative influence of organized criminal groups. International and transnational crimes have posed a great threat to the international security and civic life of the people. Globalization and privatization reduced the whole world to a single village and the threat of organized crimes has posed the latest threat to international peace. Day-to-day, the number of countries affected by international crime is increasing. Organized Crime has been rapidly expanding its influence beyond national barriers and innovation in the field of science and technology is being misused by high-tech criminals. The essay tries to identify the contributing factors for transnational organized crimes evaluates the prevalence of international crime groups worldwide, analyses the existing laws for the prevention of international crimes and seeks to offer solutions on how to combat the issue.
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Factors contributing to international and Transactional Organized Crimes
Various factors have contributed to the spread of international crimes across the world. According to Peter Reuter, “the integration of the world’s economic systems and institutions; the increasing barriers to trade, travel, and migration; and the technology that supports global communications have all increased criminal opportunities, especially across national boundaries, for individuals and organizations worldwide” (Peter Reuter p. ix) (Transnational Organized Crime: Summary of a Workshop. By Peter Reuter, National Research Council (U.S.), Carol Petrie, National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Law and Justice. Contributor Peter Reuter. Published by National Academies Press, 1999). A similar view is expressed by Mats R. Berdal & Monica Serrano when the authors point out that “financial and trade liberalization, partial industry deregulation, technological improvements in communications, transportation, and distribution, and more generally, the easing restrictions on cross-border transactions of all kinds” have all opened new horizons of criminal opportunities for the perpetrators all over the world. (Mats R. Berdal & Monica Serrano p.2). (Transnational Organized Crime and International Security: Business as Usual? By Mats R. Berdal, Mónica Serrano. Published by Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002). Thus, the changed systems of communication systems, new political and economic scenarios have called for significant changes in the policies and measures undertaken by international bodies and governments of various nations too. The network and communication systems of many international crime bodies are so well-knit that the governmental bodies have to resort to better and highly effective preventive measures to put an end to transnational organized crimes. Other factors that facilitated international crimes include the growth of international trade relations and the increased number of international money transfers.
Transnational organized crimes across the globe
The fall of the Soviet Union and a large number of subsequent migration have been instrumental in the spread of transnational organized crimes. The Russian Mafia not only dictates terms upon the communist party of the nation but also spreads international crimes in other nations including the United States. For instance, the Russian-based Mafia group Odessa Mafia is active in New Jersey and California and undertakes contract murder and extortion. The existence of these mafias has far-reaching implications for the political and economic life of the nation. As Phil Williams and Ernesto Ugo Savona (1996) observe these sorts of organized crimes “will limit free elections and freedom of the press and the media. Labor markets once controlled by state planning and submissive trade unions will instead be subject to the intimidation of organized crime, ready a major employer”. (Phil Williams and Ernesto Ugo Savona, p.16) (The United Nations and Transnational Organized Crime. By Phil Williams, Ernesto Ugo Savona. Published by Taylor & Francis, 1996). Another major transnational organized crime body is the Chinese Triads who have their base in the territory of Hong Kong. The major international crimes of the group are extortion; drug trafficking, prostitution, and gambling. The criminal activity of the gang has crossed national borders and they spread havoc and terror in many parts of Western Europe especially in Amsterdam and London. One can also notice their illegal and illicit international undertakings in Spain. Similarly, the Japanese Yakuza is the major international crime unit that carries drugs mainly methamphetamine into Hawai and California, and the troupe is reported to be smuggling guns from the U.S into Japan. International organized crimes in Columbia are centered on the drug business and the cocaine industry among the organized bodies is very powerful and influential whereas the Nigerian criminal organizations are preoccupied with the import of heroin. An investigation of the organized crimes across the world thus convinces one that in Asia crimes related to human trafficking, drugs trafficking, prostitution, and gambling are dominant whereas Europe is tormented with international criminal bodies who smuggle a large number of drugs to the region. Latin America acts as the major contributor of cocaine across the world.
Louise Shelley argues that failure to formulate ‘viable, coordinated international policies’ to tackle international criminality would lead to the breaking of national security and the result would be a collapse in the world order. According to the author, the activities undertaken by various organized crime units vary from nation to nation and it is not so easy to grasp the complexity and the nature of illegal activities performed by each group. There is no doubt that any such illegal activities would pose a great threat to the very concept of democracy and would result in economic and political instability. Louise Shelley provides a list of the illicit and illegal activities undertaken by various international crime groups which include drugs and arms trafficking; smuggling of automobiles; people and trafficking in stolen art; smuggling of embargoed commodities; industrial and technological espionage; financial market manipulation and the corruption and control of groups within and outside of the legal state system; and money laundering through multiple investments in banks, financial institutions and businesses around the globe (Louise Shelley). (Article Title: Transnational Organized Crime: An Imminent Threat to the Nation-State. Contributors: Louise Shelley – author. Journal Title: Journal of International Affairs. Volume: 48. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 1995). Such international crimes came to the notice of the international community only after the world wars as the whole world was fascinated by the slash among the superpowers for dominance; this long term neglect paid to the silent international crimes helped the international crime units to turn to be more powerful and organized. Since the post-World Wars, the world came to understand how international crime groups are at operation in many parts of the world and since then efforts have been made by international bodies like the United Nations and the European Union to find solutions to tackle the issue.
The transnational organized mafia challenges the very concept of human rights and democratic society. Most of the international crime groups resort to violent means to achieve their goals and this has caused misery and terror to the peaceful lives of the common man. There have been instances from many nations where the drug mafia has acted violently towards the freedom of press and the media and has ruthlessly murdered many a journalist and media personalities. Most of the organized crime units have their own pockets and the common people who live in those localities have to either tolerate or be a part of the organized crime groups for survival. In the same way the social and health related issues connected with the growth of international crimes are many and varied. Crimes like drug trafficking, violence and prostitution would only help for the formation of degenerated population. The monopoly of markets by the transnational crime groups would cause economic instability as the prices of products will not be affordable for the common man.
International laws and international criminal courts do have a pivotal role to play for the elimination of international and transnational organized crimes. However, a probe into the history of international wars present a number of instances where international law have been clearly violated by individual nations and where international bodies like the United Nations could not preserve the sovereignty of the international laws. For instance, the United States’ war with Iraq and its invasion of Iraq that caused the lives of many soldiers and civilians in 2003 was obviously against the norms and regulations of international law embodied in the U.N Charter. The war was fought in the name of self-defense and the U.S claimed that Iraq was a threat to the international peace and security of other world nations including the United States. Thus it can be concluded that the preservation and sovereignty of international laws are subject to power politics and power equations worldwide. International law is defined as “a body of conventions, treaties, and standards that play a central role in promoting economic and social developments, as well as international peace and security, among the nations of the world” (Joanne M. Dufour). (Article Title: War Crimes: An End in Sight?. Contributors: Joanne M. Dufour – author. Journal Title: Social Education. Volume: 65. Issue: 7. Publication Year: 2001). Realizing the need to address the issues associated with transnational organized crimes, the Australian Institute of Criminology has introduced a specific research program known as the Global, Economic and Electronic Crime program. Based on the research, the Australian Government has enacted strict legislations for anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking in persons. Trafficking in persons can invite a penalty up to 25 years imprisonment and for people smuggling the penalty is up to 20 years under the Australian criminal law.
David O. Friedrichs believes that international or transnational crimes cannot be undertaken by the powerless sect of criminal groups as it needs a lot of power, capital and structured organization. To quote the author’s own words: “transnational crime is disproportionately the crime of relatively powerful organizations and entities, in part because some level of power or resources is necessary to commit crime effectively on a global scale” (David O. Friedrichs). (Article Title: Transnational Crime and Global Criminology: Definitional, Typological, and Contextual Conundrums. Contributors: David O. Friedrichs – author. Journal Title: Social Justice. Volume: 34. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 2007.).
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The Sixty-third General Assembly of the United Nations seeks to enact multi-pronged strategies to combat transnational organized crimes. The general meeting came to a conclusion that effective prevention of international and transnational crimes are possible only when the States implement ‘good governance and law enforcement measures’, which is supported ‘through strengthened communication between States’. Even though there are international laws and regulations regarding various international crimes, one does not find a consensus among world nations on the penalties or sentences provided to the guilty. Legislations on international and transnational crimes vary from nation to nation and in States where either the law or its enforcement is not powerful enough, transnational organized crimes are most likely to thrive and foster. Thus, poor nations are to be assisted by the international community in their fight against international mafias and for this they should be allocated sufficient financial assistance and finding.
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the chief international body that fights against transnational organized crimes. The 2000 conference of the UN held in Italy emphasized on three protocols with a view to prevent transnational organized crimes. They include “the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition”. The first of the protocol is a strong warning to all sorts of international human trafficking, the second aims to prevent smuggling of migrants and the third aims to weaken the international crime groups’ access to deadly weapons and ammunitions.
Global Organized Crime and its Transnational Influences
Globalization of trade and growth in consumer demand resulted in the transnational activities of organised crime groups. These groups are able to engage in large scale criminal activities and can destroy the evidence of the crime. The new generation criminals are engaged in the transfer of illicit goods and services to the global market. The logic behind this activity is that it is more profitable than the traditional mode of trade. There are no regulatory enterprises to control these myriads of activities exercised in different forms. The major players in the global market concentrate in illicit industries like drug producing and trafficking. For example, opium produced in Afghanistan reach Europe and US through the hands of transnational organized crime groups which control the whole process of illegal trade. It is much difficult to find out solid evidence against these groups because the trade is well organized. The carriers who smuggle drugs do not have any direct contact with the mastermind. When these carriers are arrested, it is difficult to find out any evidence against the organized crime group. The Emergence of Global Organized Crime and its Transnational Influence makes clear that most of the international organised crime groups have direct contact with other criminal groups. The smuggling of drug between Italy and other parts of Europe is directly connected with the relation between Organized Criminal groups: “the international character of organized crime has produced links from one group to another. For example, the Colombian cocaine cartels have established relationships with Italian mafia groups, opening up new market areas in Europe for illegal narcotics distribution”.
All of the Organized Criminal groups are so flexible to adapt quickly to the changed situation and to the law enforcement effects of the government. These groups are ready to diversify their operations and to exploit the loops in international laws related to criminal justice. Moreover, the use of effective communication infrastructure and the international and intercontinental connection help them to be away from practical risks. The latest tendency in international crime is that these groups can create new market for their goods and services. It is evident that these groups are capable to run a parallel form of government in their circle and are capable to operate vast transnational business empires of their own.
The opening of new markets in developing countries boosted the rapid growth of new criminal groups. The article ‘Effective Measures to Combat Transnational Organized Crime’ points out that the developing countries are under the threat of organized crime because these countries possess newly opened markets and communication facilities. So the efforts of criminal minded people are more organized in these countries. Another problem is that the lack of sufficient resources to counter these organizations is not so effective: “The opening of new markets and new communication technologies has, along with the diversity of activities in which they are involved, also fuelled the growth of organized crime in developing countries.”
The criminal agencies are able to contact with their counterparts in other countries through innovative communication facilities and are ready to change the mode of communication. For example, if there is high chance to be caught while operation they are ready to change the technology that is decided to use. So, it can be seen that the growth of organized crime is closely related to developing and underdeveloped countries. Another factor that resulted in large scale recruitment of youngsters to criminal groups is poverty and unemployment in these countries. The leaders of these criminal groups easily attract the youngsters by providing money and other facilities. This is the easiest way chosen by these groups to get followers. The countries that are under economic crisis are becoming more and more affected by organized crimes. Organized crime and corruption is interrelated, so the fight against corruption is to be considered as the fight against organized crime. Co operation among nations is essential to counter any type of organized crimes.
The Fall of Soviet Union and Spread of Transnational Crimes
The origin of organized crime without the control of the state originated in the successor states of former Soviet Union. When Soviet Union was a strong communist state, the mafia was strictly controlled by the state because any thing that is supposed to revolt against the communist state was totally destroyed. But after the break of Soviet Union, the control was transferred to the mafia. Mark Galeotti and Clive H. Schofield are of the opinion that the breaking up of Soviet Union in the beginning of 90s resulted in an increase up to 15% percent crime rate in Kazakhstan, and other communist republics like Lithuania faced more severe problem of crime. Russia was the most crime affected country because it was under communism for a long time. As Mark Galeotti and Clive H. Schofield observe, “The first year of post- Soviet ‘freedom’ brought a 15% increase in the reported crime rates in Kazakhstan, 25.9% in Lithuania and fully 27% in Russia. The murder rate in Russia has doubled since 1991.” (Mark Galeotti and Clive H. Schofield) (Cross-border Crime and the Former Soviet Union By Mark Galeotti, Clive H. Schofield, University of Durham. International Boundaries Research Unit. Published by IBRU, 1995). Because of this, the rate of murder in Russia happened to be doubled. Gradually, the criminals became a dominant force in the national politics of Russia too. The authorities who were entitled to control criminalization were under the control of mafia. So, the people had to suffer a lot and there is no security for life and property in Russia. Another problem was that crime and corruption dominated in national politics of the former states of Soviet Union. The Republic states, which were once part of Soviet Union are facing the problem of a certain type of political culture which is deeply uprooted in the culture of corruption. A small population is able to exploit the whole country. The rapid growth of mafia in Russia and its surrounding countries were seen in the early 90s. The reason was that, in 1991 The Soviet Union became the part of past and the vacuum of the former government was filled by criminal groups. The criminal mentality of the groups in Russia is the out burst or the social response to a general identity crisis among the people. Moreover, the moral and psychological crisis of the people is evident in the reports of organised crime in Russia and its surroundings. But, for Russia, there were legal and practical problems to fight crime because the transformation of the country from Soviet power weakened the moral and political strength of the country. Moreover, the soft borders of Russia played an important role in the cross border crime in Russia. From Russia, criminal groups spread to other parts of the world and are able to terrorize most of the world countries through their organized crime.
The criminal groups originated in former USSR resulted in the wide spread of its influence to other European countries, US, Africa and Asian countries. Other main countries related to the wide influence of mafia in the society are Italy and Columbia. In Italy, organized crime is based on four major groups which are based in Rome. The main source of income of the mafia in italic is drug trade. Gradually these grops were able to save large amount of money and they concentrated in large scale construction work. Now these groups in Italy transformed to major investors in the tourism sector of Italy. The traditional crime families dominated the Italian groups and they were not so specialized like their counterparts in Russia.
Another important country where the international criminal groups originated in 1970s was Colombia and they were able to extent their influence up to international level. The main item of Columbia in international illegal market is cocaine. Columbia emerged as a new arrival in international market by supplying cocaine to other groups. When the smuggling of cocaine was successful, they decided to go on by their own. In 1980s these criminal groups extended their trade to Europe. It was so easy that the drug was supplied from Latin American countries and the risk of the trade was so low. Gradually they extended their trade links to Africa, china, other parts of Europe and Russia. The money from this illegal trade was invested in other sources. Now, the criminal groups play an important role in election campaign and can influence the government.
Transnational Organized Crimes in UK
The problem faced by the Government in UK to tackle international organized crime is that the businessmen are able to cover their illegal activities under a legitimate business. Less crimeS related to trafficking on women and children are reported in UK. But this is not the evidence that UK is safe from organized crimes. Academic research conducted in UK proves that there is large and growing problem faced by the children that are brought to UK. The crime on these children aged between13 to 16 is out of focus and there is high chance for the violation of human rights in this area. But the police report that there is no evidence of trafficking on women and children in UK. The article- Trafficking-A transnational organized crime (trafficking of women and children) argue that the existing statistics on prostitution in the UK is not sufficient to prove the depth of this organised crime. The web of organised crime is interwoven with various layers of the society and there is high chance for the break out of the mastermind behind the crime. Studies point to the lack of related statistics on the issue: “there is a gap in the statistics in that there has never been any statistics on prostitution in the UK, but that by a method of deduction and a search of secondary evidence, a good estimate can be made for sex trafficking to the UK”.
The main problem is that there exists high chance for crime among the people who immigrated to UK for better life. The fact is that the foreigners who immigrated to UK are ready to be the part of sexual exploitation. This is not because that they like to be exploited but poverty and other factors force them to do so. So, the first step that must be taken to reduce this sort of crime is to impose strict laws on immigration from other countries.
International Laws and Transnational Organised Crimes in UK
The UN plays a crucial role to reduce the effect of Transnational Organised Crime on victim countries. The global outlook and technological advantages help the new generation crime groups to cross the national boundaries and to find out new unexploited areas of crime. The UN undertook the effort to reduce the effect of Transnational Organised Crime and the convention under UN decided to promote international co-operation to prevent and combat transnational organised crime. The UK and other 140 countries, including 14 European Union nations signed in an agreement on 14 December 2000. United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime makes clear that UK signed two protocols to the convention on 6 May 2002. “The UK signed two Protocols to the Convention – on people trafficking and migrant smuggling – at the same time as the Convention. Another Protocol – on firearms manufacture and trafficking.” One is related to the problem of people trafficking and migrant smuggling and the other is on firearms manufacture and trafficking. The importance of this convention is that most of the world countries are aware of the threat of Transnational Organised Crime. Only the joint effort of the whole world under UN can reduce the rate of Transnational Organised Crime.
Threat from International Organized Crime and Terrorism
Urgent attention is to be provided for a coordinated international policy to tackle transnational organized crime. It is evident that the major priority of UN and EU goes to the same problem. But it is not so easy to trap these criminal groups because they are so advanced and more experienced in the field of criminal activities. If trapped, they know the easiest way to be out of the net. The ever increasing financial power of international organized crime groups acts as threat to political and economic systems of many countries. In some countries, these groups are so powerful that they control the whole economy. The arms smuggling by these groups is a threat to national security and this illegal trade helps the terrorist groups that operate their activity in different countries.
Louise Shelley points out that the impact of transnational crime is not uniform but ultimately affects the society as a whole. For example, the economies of Japan and Italy are badly affected by the deeds of transnational criminal groups: “The impact of transnational organized crime is not uniform. Organized crime can destabilize even major economies such as Japan and Italy, as the 1990s has shown, but the costs are even more devastating for transitional states.”
But these countries were able to recover from the problem. But when other transitional states are under the control of these groups, the end result is beyond imagination. These groups benefit from travel, trade and telecommunication networks which are under control. Gradually these groups became dominant in economic and political forces of the focus country.
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Combating international and Transactional Organized Crimes
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime rightly identifies that money laundering is the greatest asset of the international crime groups and that it is essential to prevent it. For this, the convention proposed that the Governments should “separate organized criminal groups from their ill-gotten funds by confiscating the proceeds of crime or property of the same value and by identifying, freezing and seizing assets. They would also empower courts or other authorities to order that bank, financial or commercial records or property are made available or seized”. The transnational crime organizations very often amass large amount of money through illegal trades, drug trafficking and sexual trade and invest their profits to explore new forms of crime. It is therefore mandatory that the organized criminal bodies all over the world are negated of their criminal assets so that their reach can be controlled and regulated.
The rapid growth of science, technology and information systems have accelerated international crimes and it has enabled criminals all over the world to know each other and stand organized. The number of computer crimes has increased considerably and the daily international money transfer through the internet has posed new threats to international security. The growing ease of international communications via internet has contributed to large amount of widespread marketing of pornography and terrorism among world nations. However, information technology, on the other hand, can best be used as the most effective tool to combat international crimes. As Bruce G. Ohr points out, “information technology could certainly be used to identify sources and target money-laundering locations, create an international agreement to upgrade the recording system for all financial transactions, share information on financial transactions, and coordinate prosecution strategies through an intergovernmental body”. It necessitates international cooperation and consensus among world nations regarding international crimes and prosecution procedures. Observing their views on fighting international crimes Mats R. Berdal & Monica Serrano rightly make it clear that “joint and multilateral approaches to fighting organized crime also raise complex and sensitive issues of cooperation and intelligence sharing among countries” (Mats R. Berdal & Monica Serrano p.2).
Bruce G. Ohr identifies extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) as the twin measures to combating international and transnational organized crimes. The provision for international extraditing of criminals should be strong enough to stop international criminals fleeing from one nation to the other. Many nations have entered into meaningful bilateral international treatise with other nations with a view to prevent international threats to the nation’s security. For instance, the United States sought the extradition of 1,672 accused or convicted criminals in 1991 which was increased to more than 2,894 by the year 1996, which emphasizes the increase in the number of international crimes as well as the need for international extradition treaties among world nations (Bruce G. Ohr , p.58). Bruce G. Ohr also suggests that as part of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), there should be a set of efficient officials who would be able to locate, and prevent international crimes. He is of the opinion that wherever “offenders are identified, these officials also work to locate, apprehend, and return the perpetrators of such crimes through extradition, expulsion or other lawful means. They also facilitate the arrest and extradition of international fugitives located in the United States and wanted abroad. (Bruce G. Ohr , p.59).
The laws to counter international organized crime
Effective enforcement of international laws regarding drug trafficking and the related transnational organized crime, plays the crucial role to counter the same. UNOC, a separate wing of the UN, provide the professional and technical assistance to the law enforcement officers. This is a helping hand to most of the third world countries which are under the control of drug mafia because the governments are helpless to combat with them. The assistance provided by UNOC include, law enforcement, investigation assistance, prosecution, modern training, and information exchange about the groups that are involved in drug smuggling and International Organized Criminal acts.
The technical assistance provided by UNOC helps the states to control the crime problems by their own. This helps these states to prevent the wide spread of problem beyond the border. If all the nations are capable to control the crime in their own domain, the chance of global crime becomes lessened. This organization promotes international co-operation and provide effective law enforcement training to the member countries. Moreover, the database which include the data about important criminal groups and about their aim helps the global effort of combating illegal drug trafficking. This organization plays the role of connection among Interpol, Europol, and The World Customs Organization. The coordination of these international institutions is helpful to reduce the influence of criminal organizations. UNOC supports the countries which share long common borders. By keeping a vigilant eye on border areas, countries can reduce the influence of criminal organizations. The cross border communication among the neighboring countries can reduce unwanted stress and violence. The trust and the dialogue between the opposing border control agencies can be reduced and the joint efforts can reduce the cost of tracking the criminal organizations. Another program of UNOC, namely The Container Control Pilot Program, aimed to assist poor countries (Ecuador and Senegal) to prevent drug trafficking through containers. Another agency of UNOC is Central Asian Regional Information and Co ordination Centre ( CARICC), to prevent the illegal trafficking of drugs like opium and heroine from Afghanistan to Europe and other parts of world. Another Agency of UNOC Tajikistan Drug Control Agency (DCA), which is a partnership with the government of Tajikistan so as to improve drug banning capacities and dismantling organized criminal networks. Here, UNOC plays the role of a technology support provider.
It is thus evident from the above discussion that international and transnational crimes have spread to each and every corner of the world. The new developments in the fields of science, technology, information systems and telecommunications have all facilitated communication among international groups and therefore, no single strategy will be sufficient enough to tackle international crimes. Any attempts to fight against transnational organized crimes should be multifaceted, taking into account all the factors that contribute to the spread of international crime groups. Combating international crimes necessitates strong and effective international policies which are supported by effective implementing measures. International bodies like the United Nations need to play dominant role in bringing about consensus among world nations on various international criminal laws and prosecution. International extradition treaties and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) among world nations should be promoted. Above all, the individual nations need to display more responsibility in suppressing transnational criminal upheavals in the nation. For this the governments of various nations need to make use of all the potential resources like advanced information systems and information sharing systems among world nations.