Organized crime are acts carried out for profit or power, by more than two people acting together over a long or indeterminate period, through the abuse of commercial structures, the use of violence or intimidation, and having an effect on political life, the media, public administration, justice or the economy. More simply put, organized crime is perpetrated by any group having a corporate structure who primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities, often surviving on fear and corruption.
Organized crime can be segmented into four types: (a) the criminal gang, usually predatory mobile gangs involved in armed robbery, kidnapping and some kinds of drug trafficking; (b) the criminal syndicates cater to a specific segment of the population providing forbidden goods or services like drugs, sex and gambling; (c) criminal rackets extort money or business concessions from legitimate or illegitimate organizations including business and trade unions; and (d) criminal political machines. These types can overlap and any one criminal organization might be involved in one or all of these types.
Organized crime is difficult to eliminate for three main reasons: (a) Although individuals can be arrested and convicted, they can also be quickly replaced in the organization; (b) Although the criminal code penalizes individual acts or persons, is generally powerless to tackle the conspiracy of a permanent, sometimes international, well-structured organization; (c) As long as the public continues to demand certain services (such as gambling, drugs and prostitution) which are illegal or semi-legal, criminal entrepreneurs will find it profitable to employ the same techniques as industry in order to be profitable and efficient, which includes being efficient at avoiding prosecution. Techniques used include both the sound organization (usually on military lines with a chain of command up to the general staff) and the communications systems (international, national, local and field based) that effective operations require.
[Former socialist countries] Until recently, organized crime did not officially exist in the former Soviet Union. With the collapse of the USSR, and moves towards a market economy in eastern Europe, the great increase in levels of criminality has been associated with organized crime. The lack of centralized control in Russia has allowed criminal groups to flourish and is considered by many to be responsible for the steep rise in crime, bribery, protection rackets, imposition of monopolies, provocation of artificial shortages and distortion of the market to generate profits out of all proportion to costs incurred. Illegal trading is helped by porous borders from the Caucasus to the Urals, convenient for drug smuggling, and there was a notable presence by 1993 of Italian pursuing ill-defined businesses in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the Czeck Republic and Russia. In 1988, an estimated 1200 Chechen gangs were operating in the former Soviet Union. It is claimed that the turbulent events in the former Yugoslavia enabled organized crime to recycle illicitly earned funds without too many risks.
[Russia] Moscow has been carved up by the gangs partly on the basis of ethnic origin and partly by territory -- one family controlling the markets and flower stalls, another the car repair shops and dealerships, and so on. In 1994 it was estimated that there were some 5,000 organized gangs (double the number in 1991) involving some 3 million people, extending into all 15 of the former Soviet republics, and active in every domain. They are reported to be usurping political power, taking over state enterprises and exploiting natural resources using extortion, theft, forgery, armed assault, contract killing, swindling, drug runing, arms smuggling, prostitution, gambling, loan sharking, embezzlement, money lanundering and black marketing on a large and increasingly international scale. It is claimed to be the fastest growing crime consortium in the world. Leningrad was divided between 3 underworld groups, each with 200-300 members in 1991. Criminal organizations committed 355,500 crimes in 1993, a 27.8% rise from 1992. In 1993, two-thirds of the deposits in Russia's 1,850 commercial banks were in hard currency, and official estimates are that 40% of the money moving through the banks comes from illegal activities and that organized crime controlled 40 of Moscow's 260 banks. Offshore companies (particularly insurance companies set up by well-rewarded, or -threatened, foreigners) are often used to transfer moneys overseas. It was widely believed that security forces and government officials at all levels were being paid off so that such organized crime could operate outside the law. In 1994, Russia's Foreign Ministry estimated that about 30% of the businesses privatized over the last few years are controlled by organized crime and 40% of Russia's new entrepreneurs were gangsters and former black marketeers, and 70 to 80% of private enterprises and commercial banks (40,000 businesses) in major cities are forced to pay a tribute of 10 to 20% of their turnover to organized crime. This accounted for about one quarter of the inflation rate, which averaged 20% in 1993. There was also emerging evidence of links between complex organizations with criminal connections in Russia and the Italian Mafia and that based in the USA.
[Industrialized countries] In the USA, organized crime is responsible for the illegal trade in drugs (through its links with Sicily, Colombia and Venezuela), for an endless number of assassinations and abductions, including that of USA labour leader James Hoffa, and for the corruption and attempted corruption of political life in many countries and at all levels, from local inspectors and mayors up to national leaders. It is estimated that each year in the USA, organized crime reduces the gross national product by $18.2 billion, reduces employment by more than 400,000, raises consumer prices about 0.3% and reduces per capita income $77.22. Because of it makes money faster that it can use it, the clans invest, save and clean money in 'respectable' activities, such as construction, commerce, and trading on the stock exchange. Four of the largest trade unions in the USA, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Labourers International Union, Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, and the International Longshoreman's Association, were cited in a report on Mafia controlled organizations. Members of the Mafia sub-culture usually live seemingly average, middle-class, respectable lives within the community; but this masquerade of respectability is a cover for some of the most heinous criminal activities - drug dealing, prostitution, illegal arms smuggling, extortion and gambling, leading in turn to murderous gang wars between so-called "families".
According to Transparency International, much of European organized crime and corruption now takes place in the corporate world; Italy leads followed by Belgium.
[China] The Triad gangs are equally a part of Chinese society. They have now infiltrated Hong Kong, reportedly exerting social control over ordinary dealings, such as buying a car or renting a flat, which for the Chinese, in a bargaining position with the UK over the transfer of the colony, may view as almost patriotic. The Japanese are even more ambivalent about organized crime. Crime syndicates have high street offices where members of the public can get 'strong-arm' services. Gangsters hold fund-raising parties for which it is not advisable to turn down a ticket. The Yakuza mob-leaders are well connected, well known and, curiously, widely respected, perhaps because of their strong tenets of [giri], the obligation to repay favours, and [ninjo], compassion for the weak.
[Japan] Japan has 3,300 organized gangs with 90,000 members, although the three biggest -- the Yamagushi-gumi, the Inagawa-kai, and the Sumiyoshi-kai -- account for almost half of gang activity. Japan's criminal gangs have expanded their operations into legitimate big business and the stock exchange in the face of new anti-crime law. Their "white-collar branch" is known as the sokaiya, and now is active outside Japan, for example in London and other European financial centres, and regarded as entrenched in Pacific centres such as Manila, Sydney and California. Sokaiya groups may sell companies protection to avoid embarrassing moments at shareholders' meetings, or may research scandalous information on company dealings or their senior executives to discredit companies on the stock market.
[Italy] Penetration of the legal business sector is also a characteristic of the Camorra of Naples whose legal income is now greater than their illegal one. They profited greatly from the flood of public money that flowed into the earthquake-ravaged Campagnia region of southern Italy in 1980, from which time a young, sophisticated 'New Family', with alleged political connections with the Social Democrats, emerged from a background of bandit gangs. It now control Campagnia's agro-industrial business, building, car sales concession, among other activities. It has its own bank, finance house and social services.
Regardless of its power and ability to generate fear, the Mafia could not exist without the complacency of the society at large. Italians across the board in recent years have demonstrated much greater determination to control the spread of the Mafiosi, which had become closely intertwined with Italian political life and every aspect of social life -- giving it the name 'the octopus'. Its proven interests alone amount to a turnover the size of the Fiat car company. The hub and safe haven of the commercial and laundering empire is Switzerland, although Monaco, France (through Saint Martin, the Channel Islands and Andorra) and more recently eastern Europe are also channels. In addition, the inquiries into the Vatican's Ambrosiano bank, the P2 masonic lodge, and the train bombs of the 1970s and 1980s also revealed Mafia stamps of one kind or another. The heads of the largest three organizations : the Sicilian-based Cosa Nostra, the Camorra of Naples, and the 'Ndrangheta of Calabria were captured in 1992; the fourth organization is the bandit gangs of the Holy Crown (Sacra Corona Unita/La Rosa) of Pugila. At the same time financial investigations have enable authorities to seize about $2.6 billion of mafia funds. In its resistance to public attack, the Sicilian Mafia was responsible for many assassinations in Italy including: in 1992 the two judges who were to head the special prosecutor's department for organized crime; in 1991 an ex-mayor; in 1990 a judge and a businessman who defied extortion; in the 1980s a judge, three anti-mafia investigators, two prosecutors and a police captain; and in the 1970s a police commissioner, a chief prosecutor and, at least indirectly, Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Political assassinations of numerous politicians, including Prime Minister Andreotti, are more recently the rule.
2. The end of the Cold War has given the Mafia access to new weapons to bolster its traditional trade in gunrunning. Mafia-related shipments and cachets of anti-tank rocket launchers, surface-to-surface missiles and tonnes of explosives have been intercepted. There is a very real possibility that the Mafia and organized crime in general could come into possession of chemical, nuclear and biological weapons.