EURISC şi…crima organizată

Liderul EURISC, Liviu Mureşan, mi-a trimis EURISComments4, despre G20 şi crima organizată, un punct de vedere pe care l-a prezentat la Bruxelles şi pe care-l inserez aici, spre informarea celor interesaţi de această problematică.



The Rise of a New G20 Member –
Organised Crime

1. The extent to which organised crime has publicized its existence has varied over the
years, but recent examples suggest that the expression “sunlight is the best disinfectant” no
longer holds true.

This is evident in instances where elements of organised crime have, discreetly
or otherwise, pierced their own shroud of secrecy and re-entered public sight. As recently as the
Fukushima nuclear incident, the Japanese Yakuza took to the streets to provide tangible relief to
refugees and struggling persons, distributing critical supplies by the truckload and opening their
offices even to foreigners in need of shelter. Quite recently, the crime groups in the Italian
peninsula, suffused with billions of dollars in liquidities, have been dubbed Italy’s largest
“bank”. The dearth of outside finance has allowed them to engage in predatory lending with
hundreds of thousands of businesses, a profitable activity which, apparently, may lead to the
capture of 7% of Italian national output, in current estimates. However, one man’s loan-sharking
is another man’s high-risk, short-term loan. If one discounts the way in which these funds were
obtained, their actions resemble what a heavily opportunistic legal capitalist would have done. In
various countries, such as Mexico, itself a G20 member, crime groups routinely attempt to
subvert local governments and influence thousands of civil servants and political figures to act in
their favour. These manipulations can become so brazen that the criminal group can even be
considered a political organisation or party, financing campaigns and becoming adept at
influencing results without resorting to outright bribery.

2. As the emphasis of organized crime shifts from the local and regional level to the
international and global field, its presence seems to become more palatable to the public.

This raises numerous risks, one of which is the deepening and potential institutionalization of the
links between politics, business and organised crime. Japan serves as a negative example in this
regard – the Yakuza’s ranks are numerous and the various groups are more regulated than
outlawed; various pacts are enforced between them and the police, and the Yakuza have a hand
in keeping public peace. While these groups and others like them throughout the Far East, such
as the Triads, have historic claims to being secret societies that only later (maybe even through
legislative development) ended up in the organised crime business, their example is still very
eloquent. Imagine a situation where the government provision of a certain good becomes very
burdensome and must be eliminated or severely curtailed. Organised crime groups take up the
slack and become socially accepted purveyors of these goods within parallel structures alongside
legal society. This does not change the nature of these organised crime groups, how they weaken
their host societies by extracting massive rents and engaging in economic transfers for no overall
economic gain to society. However, their newfound “respectability”, quasi-legitimacy or simple
“fait accompli” makes it very difficult to remove them, even once the conditions that precipitated
their public rise (such as the global crisis) have passed. We are left with the erosion of the rule of
law, a rise in marketplace inefficiency and uncertainty and, through globalisation, further risks of
transmission towards new realms. Moreover, the dominant discourse in relation to organized
crime now makes the word ”transnational” ubiquitous in debates in this area.
The First Annual Report on the Implementation of the EU Internal Security Strategy
makes a belated attempt at recognising the importance of these issues and recommending
measures, but there are numerous institutional and organisational obstacles to be surmounted
before even beginning to address the issue.

3. Criminal groups, as free agents, have proven to be very innovative and are leaders in
“enhancing” their business models through globalisation.

Recent years have seen the formation
of a large number of complex, international networks created in order to facilitate criminal
activity across jurisdictions. Traditional avenues of organised crime should not be discounted,
since they provide the main revenue stream and its handling has not changed a great deal. It is in
the area of criminal governance and transborder activities that the most innovation has been
registered, areas far removed from street level. The current financial crisis can be regarded as a
great opportunity for them. They export to new markets, perform “greenfield” investments and
adopt the latest financial developments to both mask their staggering profits and add to them.
Indeed, as the Italian “crime banks” prove, the rise of the transborder and translegal organised
crime groups is intimately linked with the development of white-collar crime, both as a new
branch of the “industry” and as an enabler for new synergies. The recent report by anti-crime
group “SOS Impresa” highlights the appearance of extortion with “a clean face”, where loansharks
are replaced by financial executives, operating under the guise of a legal framework. This
is in addition to the creative money laundering that can be performed with the collusion of highlevel

4. Even the meaning of “organised crime group” seems to be in a state of flux.

The United States Department of Justice has tried cabals of market manipulating or defrauding
financiers, such as all-time champion Bernie Madoff, as criminal enterprises. Recent years have
seen the development of financial grey areas, where financial investment groups skirt the limits
of what is legal and ethical and provable with newer and newer “innovations”. They do so even
at the risk of bringing the interconnected web of finance crashing down around them. The US
Securities and Exchange Commission and other such bodies seem intellectually outgunned and
struggle to identify actual breaches of trust and conduct, as well as to keep legislation relevant in
an ever-changing field. An innovation may be the exploitation of a loophole in disguise and the
arbitrage of such kinks in regulatory armour throughout the world can be a source of great
profits. Examples include the pseudo-legality of naked short selling of stocks in an attempt to
manipulate market prices, the use of financial instruments to roll over the short positions on a
regular basis and keep them under the regulatory radar and so on. Under these conditions, a
Ponzi scheme is a refreshingly transparent enterprise, as regulators try to wrap their heads around
the inner workings of the latest in financial innovations.

5. To even begin to decipher the issues of organised crime and white-collar financial
conspiracies, there needs to be a concerted action at regional and international level.

Proper regulations need not be onerous, but they must be inclusive, firmly enforced, transparent and
lacking in loopholes. There is also a need for proper response mechanisms to new developments
and challenges.

One hopes that the current Danish presidency of the European Union, with its emphasis
on economic revitalization as well as financial regulation, will also address the pressing issues of
transborder organised crime groups. An important role in setting the field for the combating of
organised crime should be played by the European Parliament in conjunction with National
Parliaments, as coordinated legislative efforts can create an even ground for European
cooperation in this area. The old standbys, Interpol, Europol, as well as the various regional
initiatives, have an important part to play as well, and are valuable organizations, but they are
hampered by their charters and cumbersome procedures. They are also dependent on the
fluctuating political will of their member states. In the age of cybercrimes and globe spanning
digital evidence trails, the notion of compartmentalising efforts on the basis of territoriality is
both out-of-touch with reality and doomed to failure.

6. Now more than ever, with the advent of the persistent global downturns, there is a
deadly nexus of politics, business and organised crime which, through the deployment of
cybernetic “threads”, has become global in scope.

As such, all efforts to stymie it must eventually reach the global level, though this does not mean that results cannot be obtained at regional levels. Like the application of a Tobin tax, even the right package of anti-organised
crime measures, when limited in deployment, may end up driving the flow of illicit capital
through friendlier entities, a minor setback at best.

7. The United Nations, has less authority over its members than the EU, but one of the
things it can do is use its recognized and experienced framework of agencies and powers to
promote the rule of law in countries where its weakening has allowed crime groups to thrive and
expand outward.

As various UN reports show, organised crime finds it convenient to subvert
local and national governance for its own benefit. The corruption and outright control of
legitimate institutions and state structures is a threat for internal, as well as international,
security. This is in addition to the deleterious effects on economic progress that the weakening of
rule of law, the political uncertainty and the criminal extraction of economic resources can have.
The withering of these groups at their very roots would have a significant effect on international
security and would be well worth the material price. What is less likely to be achieved is political
unity and cooperation in the face of perceived intrusions in internal affairs and national

We can expect an increasing role of the European Union as a harmoniser of the efforts of
its 27 member states in this field. This should give the relevant authorities the same reaction
times and flexibility of the criminal enterprises they are targeting. Furthermore, the EU can effect
positive change in the wider area, which is necessary since the new “silk roads” of criminality
pass through adjacent areas on their way to the EU. Better legislation, better funding of its
enforcement and better organisation of the enforcers themselves are the key to, at least, undo the
gains in power and influence made by organised crime groups in the last few years.
A considerable challenge is presented by those situations where organised crime groups
are mixed with military or terrorist elements. NATO, among other organisations, has a role to
play in this area, such as discouraging piracy or contributing to policing efforts.

8. For better or worse, there is already a diverse and developed set of efforts to stem the
development of transborder crime groups.

However, a lack of coordination, coherence and
distractions by more pressing issues have allowed organised crime to develop to the point where
it is a significant part of some societies, and an economic powerhouse in others. Unrestrained by
adherence to laws concerning the trafficking of people, goods and financial resources, organised
crime has become one of the main beneficiaries of globalisation. All the while, a veritable
ecosystem of competing and uncooperative actors fail to keep up with a foe that has global
ambitions and mobility.

The price for dithering and failing to respond to the new paradigms of organised crime is
potentially tremendous.

From the subversion of local governments to the capture of a significant
share of the national product, organised crime groups will develop and spread with the same
intensity and professionalism one finds in legitimate businesses.

Their entrenchment, under the auspices of the current crisis, could make their removal
even more difficult, and their involvement with business and politics may cement their status as
states within states. When we cross that threshold, the organised crime groups will be able to
confidently state that, in spite of vocal denials by legitimate national and international actors,
they will have earned a place in the G20…

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