Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 7
Definitions and Descriptions efinitions can be developed in at least two ways: either incluc- tively, by observing how a word or term is usecl, or clecluctively, by translating a highly abstract concept into something more us- able for clescription, measurement, or control. A single definition may not serve all purposes equally well. We give more emphasis in this report to definitions suitable for research than for enforcement, although we recog- nize that, especially in a field driven by policy ancl operational concerns, the development of a scientific nomenclature often depends on terms ancl ~ . . . . c ~eilnltlons usec ~ in practice. COMPLEXITIES OF DEFINITION The term "transnational crime" was developed by the Unitecl Nations (UN) Crime ancl Criminal Justice Branch in 1974 to guide discussion at one of the quinquennial UN crime conferences. As described by Mueller (1998), it was a criminological term, with no claim to providing a juridical concept, ancl consisted simply of a list of five activities: (1) crime as busi- ness: organized crime, white-collar crime, ancl corruption; (2) offenses in- volving works of art ancl other cultural property; (3) criminality associated with alcoholism ancl drug abuse (especially illicit traffic); (4) violence of transnational ancl comparative international significance; ancl (5) criminal- ity associated with migration ancl flight from natural disasters ancl hostili
OCR for page 8
8 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME ties. Twenty years later, a single-sentence conceptual definition was added by the UN: "offenses whose inception, prevention and/or direct effect or indirect effects involved more than one country" (United Nations, 19951. This definition may have use for an international organization, in terms of defining jurisdiction for its programs or treaties, but is less useful for mea- surement. The list of offense categories was at the same time expanded to 18, to include such varied activities as trade in human body parts, environ- mental crimes, and fraudulent bankruptcies. The transnational element of some of these categories seems somewhat strained; for example, it includes all computer crimes because computers are now linked across national boundaries, although a specific computer crime may involve no party or transaction outside the United States. One possible conceptual definition was offered at the workshop: "acts that are offenses in one state that involve actions or actors in another state, requiring more than a single opportunistic transaction between individu- als." The first part of the definition elides the question of whether both jurisdictions criminalize the same activities, and the second makes the dis- tinction between transnational organized crime and the broader phenom- enon of transnational crime. In a world with great disparities in the detail and reach of the code of criminal law, legal definitions of"offense" may be too narrow conceptually. Many nations have been created in the past 10 years; some still have weak systems of written laws. One participant at the workshop suggested that the definition be expanded to include "acts that entail avoidable and un- necessary harm to society, which are serious enough to warrant state inter- vention, and similar to other kinds of acts criminalized in some countries." It is not clear how important the qualifier "organized" is for the defini- tion. Precisely because it involves criminal activities that cross national boundaries, some degree of organization is usually required, generally a considerable amount. Certainly, as Phillip Williams notes in his workshop paper, some very serious cross-border crimes can be individual. For ex- ample, a toxic waste hauler in San Diego who dumps into border waters, thus creating pollution or toxic hazards in Mexico, is probably committing a transnational crime but on an individual basis, with no transnational collaborator. Moreover, these kinds of acts present legal authorities with distinctive problems; for example, gathering evidence in Mexico so as to permit a prosecution under U.S. environmental law may be difficult. The workshop, and most of the research literature, suggest that the main action involves organizations. But the organization of crime is very
OCR for page 9
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 9 different from organized crime. Ko-lin Chin, having studied Chinese crimi- nal gangs and their many activities, concludes that "human smuggling is not organized crime but rather it is crime that is organized. ... It is a trade that needs organized participation and execution but it does not appear to be linked with traditional organized crime groups" (Chin, 19981. The definitions developed in the organized crime research field (Maltz, 1994; see also lacobs and Panterella, 1998) do not seem particularly rel- evant for transnational organized crime, although some individual charac- teristics may apply. Maltz's list of organized crime characteristics (the defi- nition is descriptive rather than deductive) includes: corruption, violence, sophistication, continuity, structure, discipline, ideology (or lack thereof), multiple enterprises, and involvement in legitimate enterprises. These may reasonably be described as the common features of the American Mafia and some other ethnically centered American criminal groups of the first three quarters of this century, many of them building control of specific local illegal markets through their control of corrupt police departments and political machines (see, e.g., Hailer, 19941. The emphasis on the use of violence and corruption to control mar- kets, however, does not seem central to transnational organized crime. The usual incentives for violence in organized crime (discipline of subordinates, succession to leadership, transactional integrity, territorial protection) are attenuated when organizations are not highly centralized and the notion of territoriality is strained. Territories are associated with localness; transnational organized crime entities aspire to broader reach than that. Suborning rangers in African game parks to obtain protected species of animals or plants may be an important element of the international trade in those species, but it can be done indirectly or can be avoided by the smuggling organization if it merely encourages local poachers to seek out the desired objects. Although it is no doubt useful to obtain cooperation from U.S. border personnel for importing illegal aliens, the paucity of cases in the face of a persistent investigative effort suggests that smugglers mostly succeed without that cooperation. an. . . . . . 1 ills IS not to claim that transnational organized crime generates nei ther violence nor corruption. In particular, the drug trades at the import level are associated with both violence and corruption in some major pro- ducer and transshipment nations. But both evidence and argument sug- gest that these phenomena do not revolve around the control of activities or markets, as is the case for organized crime domestically. The other characteristics listed by Maltz are secondary for American
OCR for page 10
10 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME organized crime ancl seem even more so for the transnational variety. So- phistication may help in complex financial crimes, but much smuggling is quite simple, both operationally ancl organizationally. Similarly, a stolen car exporting ring may engage in no other criminal activity but still involve transnational criminal activity with a substantial organizational superstruc ture. Incleecl, Williams (1998) has arguccl persuasively that the organized crime literature has been too focused on concepts of either markets or cen- tralizecl organizations, when there has been a shift, in both legitimate busi- nesses ancl illicit enterprises (ancl even some terrorist groups), to the use of networks. Recent work by Finckenauer ancl Waring (1998) on Russian organized crime (more correctly, criminal activities by Russian emigres) conforms more to the network notion. Networks represent relations among criminal actors that allow them to collaborate opportunistically with other members most appropriate to the specific opportunity presentecl. This may be particularly useful for understanding the emergence ancl func- tioning of transnational organized crime. The network is likely to have a core group of people who are fairly tightly connected ancl then a more dispersed set of participants, most of whom will collaborate only in re- sponse to initiative by the core group ancl who have more specialized func- tions. Other characteristics of offenders or offending groups may be im- portant to the definition as well. We have learned even in street crime that it makes sense to look at offenders as well as the offense; this is the whole idea of"clangerous offenclers." It is important practically, because high-rate offenders commit many of the offenses. It is important in justice terms, because sustained offending seems morally more culpable than one-time offencling. The latter is particularly pertinent to the notion of offenders . . . . . engagec ~ in ongoing criminal enterprises. Several participants noted that for purposes of research, definition is necessarily entangled with measurement Treated in Chapter 31. That points to a definition built around well-clefinecl activities; for example, one might focus on how many tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were imported illicitly into the Unitecl States from countries that were exempted under the international protocol signed in Montreal in 1987 (perhaps through analy- sis of reported sales of CFCs ancl recorded legitimate imports) ancl how many persons/businesses were engaged in this smuggling. But some activi- ties that might be included present greater challenges to definition through measurement. For example, the UN list includes insurance fraucl, presum- ably limited to those instances in which there is some involvement of per
OCR for page 11
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 11 sons/entities outside the host country. However, insurers have incentives to conceal that they have been defrauded. Given that most of these offenses remain unsolved, it is highly unlikely that an estimate of the transnational organized crime component of insurance fraud can be generated. Transnational organized crime is also close to transnational white-col- lar crime. Legitimate corporations making bribery payments to foreign officials for facilitating the smuggling of their products into nations that have prohibited them are certainly elements of what is referred to as transnational organized crime by some researchers (e.g., Passas, 19961. Transnational white-collar crime is likely to fit any of the abstract defini- tions offered for transnational organized crime; a question is whether they are sufficiently different in their sources and adverse consequences that in- cluding white-collar activities makes an already complex topic intractable. A sense of the fragility of the definition can be garnered by noting that the extent of transnational crime is influenced simply by the number of nations and their size. The breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 separate states means that many offenses, such as Georgians selling untaxed liquor in Moscow, have now become transnational. Bovenkirk (1998) has noted that the European Union, comparable to the United States in population, area, and total economic activity, involves 15 national sovereignties. Thus whereas a California swindle of a New York insurance company is simply a white-collar crime, the European equivalent, a British swindle of a Greek insurer, would be transnational. In deriving a definition for research (or operational) purposes, some attention should be given to a listing of the principal activities involved and describing actual or hypothetical cases. The following list is a starting point, covering only activities that seem to be significant at the turn of the twenty- first century: · Smuggling · Commodities · Drugs · Protected species . Contraband (goods subject to tariffs or quotas) · Stolen cars · Tobacco products
OCR for page 12
12 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME S. ervlces · Immigrants · Prostitution · Indentured servitude · Money laundering · Fraud It has been noted that, in all social science research, definition is very much a matter of social construction; the choice of definition is just that, a choice, and is not dictated by some external reality. A variety of abstract definitions can reasonably compete here, but a listing of activities should also be useful for defining the current field of research. DESCRIBING TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME The United Nation's categories of transnational crime include tradi- tional international crimes such as hijacking and terrorism; various types of frauds; trafficking in stolen goods or illicit commodities, such as weapons and human beings; and environmental crime. The latter three, which share a common motivation, namely the desire for illicit profits, were the main focus of the workshop. As a starting point, participants were con- cerned with the impact of these crimes in the United States, which serves not only as a lucrative market for illicit goods and services but also as a supplier of some commodities or services for other countries. Transnational crime groups import illegal drugs and other expensive commodities into the United States, and also export such stolen goods as arms, tobacco prod- ucts, and cars to consumers in other countries. Furthermore, as the world's largest economy and as a major international money center, the United States provides the financial institutions through which the profits of transnational crime activities flow. Elaborate schemes to defraud financial institutions and businesses occur in the United States as well as many other countries. Workshop participants were mindful, however, that what organized crime does abroad has an impact on U.S. foreign policy interests. Ameri- cans are concerned about organized crime in Mexico, for example, not only because drugs come into the United States from that country, but also because of the influence of organized crime on the Mexican government, and its implications for the U.S. foreign policy interests there. The follow
OCR for page 13
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 13 ing brief examples provide some insight into the operations oftransnational crime groups. Auto Theft Rings Many stolen vehicles exported to foreign countries originate in the United States. These crimes are easily executed and can even be perpe- trated by single individuals attempting to defraud their insurance compa- nies. But more often, theft export rings, operating out of immigrant com- munities throughout the United States, are responding to the demand for these vehicles from contacts in their home countries. Some of these crimes are simple theft and export operations, but others involve sophisticated counterfeiting techniques and network operations. Stolen cars are fitted with counterfeit vehicle identification number (YIN) markings and license plates, taken to ports, crated and sealed in intentionally mislabeled con- tainers, and shipped overseas (National Insurance Crime Bureau, 19991. In one case, a large, loosely organized, but very proficient group in Florida was found to have been smuggling stolen vehicles with expertly counterfeited VINs to countries in South America. The group had ties to an employee at the Port of Miami who was selling lists of VINS from previously exported vehicles. A special investigative task force uncovered this auto theft ring when they found some of these counterfeit VINS on several recovered stolen vehicles that had been "renumbered" by the group for sale in the United States. Even though some manufacturers embed covert antitheft, security fea- tures in their VIN labels, it is almost impossible to identify or recover most exported stolen vehicles. Many foreign countries cannot identify stolen vehicles because they have no VIN standards or requirements, component part markings, registration and title files, or manufacturing and shipping records. It is important, however, not to overstate the magnitude of auto theft as a transnational crime problem in the United States. Two-thirds of the 1.4 million autos stolen annually in this country are recovered (Na- tional Insurance Crime Bureau, 19991. Some unknown proportion of the remainder winds up in so-called chop shops usually in the United States, but sometimes in Mexican border towns where stolen vehicles are stripped and their parts and accessories sold separately; the rest are assumed to have been exported for resale in other countries.
OCR for page 14
14 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME Smuggling of Aliens Shelley (1998) has noted that human beings are trafficked for a num- ber of purposes: prostitution, cheap labor, and taking up illegal residence in the country of destination. The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates that about 275,000 illegal immigrants enter the United States in a given year, and that, in 1997, about 5 million illegal immigrants had become "permanent" residents (Immigration and Naturalization Service, 19991.1 Most, at least from Mexico, probably do not pay professionals for services in getting across the border safely. The few studies of trafficking in illegal immigrants have focused primarily on Asia and Mexico but, overall, little has been done to examine the effects on the United States of traffick- ing in illegal aliens from these areas or from other countries of the Carib- bean and the former Soviet Union (Shelley, 1998; Winer, 1997a). Trafficking in human beings differs from other types of smuggling in that the individual often must repay the trafficker after arriving at his or her destination. Most smugglers or criminal organizations relinquish control of an illicit item once it is delivered, but traffickers frequently maintain control of illegal immigrants, forcing them to work for low wages and to commit crimes to support themselves (Shelley, 19981. Conditions oftran- sit often endanger the lives of the people being trafficked. Moreover, when families or individuals are unable to pay the large sums charged for illegal transit, the trafficked individual may be violently assaulted, raped, or some- times murdered (Chin, 19971. A noteworthy form of this crime involves illegal trafficking in women and girls, which is characterized by certain patterns no matter where it occurs. Typically, a woman or girl is recruited in her home country by an agent, who promises a good job in another country, but instead forces her, through debt bondage, into prostitution. The offer of a job is sometimes accompanied by a payment to the woman's family at the time of recruit- ment, a debt she must repay with interest. The debt increases because of charges for her transportation which usually are enormous because of the need to avoid detection and for food, clothes, medicine, and lodging pro- vided by the waiting brothel owner or pimp (Caldwell and Galster, 1997; International Organization for Migration, 19971. 1 The 275,000 represents the net addition to the stock of illegal immigrants each year. Many millions may cross the border in both directions; some are here only briefly and others return to their home country only briefly.
OCR for page 15
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 15 Escape is virtually impossible without repaying these debts, which are often between $25,000 and $30,000 (Shelley, 1998; Chin, 19971. Leaving the brothel without repayment invites retribution against the woman and frequently against her parents or other family members. The risk of arrest on immigration charges also keeps the woman dependent on the brothel owner or pimp, as do other factors, such as the distance from home, lack of familiarity with the local language, and consequent inability to find local support networks. Although most frequently described as a problem in Asian and certain European countries, enforced prostitution of immigrant women and girls also has been found to occur in the United States (Dombrink and Song, 1992; Chin, 19971. Other immigrants pay to be smuggled into the United States to flee poverty or persecution, and they also experience debt bond- age. In addition to transportation, smugglers charge exorbitant rents for substandard, abandoned, or even condemned housing. Some immigrants end up in prostitution, and others are forced to work in sweatshops, sell drugs, or become traffickers themselves to pay off their debt. F. ~ 1 ~ ~ 1nancla1 Primes Financial crimes bank and insurance fraud and money laundering committed by transnational crime groups are among the most complex and difficult to detect. Many frauds are large in scale and use international telecommunications technology to quickly move illicit profits out of the country where the offense occurs. Passas (1993) has asserted that "ifmoney is the lifeblood of criminal enterprises, banks are the veins through which it flows." Bank frauds are troublesome for investigators because banks avoid accountability by hiding behind veils of confidentiality and complex orga- nizational systems. Even serious misconduct is handled with great discre- tion, usually settled in a way that avoids costly and prolonged litigation, and without either admitting or denying guilt. Many such frauds are per- petrated with the witting (or unwitting) collusion of high-level corporate officials or mid- to high-level government officials. Some are carrying out authorized policies, and some are simply personally corrupt. Sparrow (1999) has recently found that health care fraud remains at alarmingly high levels, despite attention from law enforcement, and that major scams are artfully designed to circumvent routine controls and re- main invisible for long periods. Russian emigre crime groups have been particularly active in insurance fraud schemes victimizing Medicare and
OCR for page 16
16 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME other health insurance providers in the United States. In the most costly of these crimes ever prosecuted, mobile health clinics were established to de- fraud Medicare and Medicaid. "Patients were lured to clinics or sites ser- viced by mobile vans for Efake] comprehensive physical examinations, with bogus claims of'state-of-the-art' testing offered 'free of charge' or at a nomi- nal cost to the patient" (U.S. Senate, 19961. These phony medical clinics then submitted claims for these examinations and tests to insurers. Losses to the U.S. Treasury and private health companies totaled around $1 bil- lion and forced the state of California to completely restructure its public health insurance programs (Raine and Cilluffo, 19941. Shelley has noted that, after seven years of investigation, law enforcement agencies were able to recover only a small amount of the money because it was laundered outside the country, virtually as the claim payments came in. This is also an example of a crime that was organized, rather than of organized crime; that is, two individuals rather than an organized group perpetrated this particu- lar fraud (Finkenauer and Waring, 19981. Investigations have also identi- fied similar schemes in which Russian crime groups in the United States staged car accidents and then established phony medical clinics for the purpose of submitting fraudulent claims for unnecessary treatments. Nexus Between Legal and Illegal Activities By their very nature, many transnational criminal activities, especially financial crimes, require the tacit or open cooperation of legitimate organi- zations and actors. In the abstract, organizations could be perceived as either legitimate groups that commit no crime or as criminal groups with purely criminal purposes. In the real world, however, the activities of many organizations, both legitimate and criminal, fall between these extremes. Transnational crimes sometimes are committed by criminal organiza- tions in pursuit of criminal goals and sometimes by legitimate organiza- tions in the pursuit of otherwise legal business goals. The illegal drug trade has tints of both. The smuggling and marketing of illegal commodities for profit reflects the purely illicit organization, and the laundering of the re- sulting funds by financial institutions represents the tacit participation of the legitimate one. The corruption through extortion or bribery of public officials in a country in order to do business within their borders is a com- mon example of the reverse: legitimate ends accomplished with criminal means. One workshop participant noted that when doing business in coun
OCR for page 17
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 17 tries with weak governments where contracts cannot be enforced, all orga- nizations break some laws. A specific example of linkages between the legitimate and the illegiti- mate is the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal. Passas (1996) has detailed the web of relationships between the BCCI and corporate leaders, political figures, and other prominent government offi- cials and world leaders in most of the 72 countries where the bank oper- ated. Its capitalization by the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the Bank of America in 1972 gave the bank the credibility to grow quickly and the cachet to establish these relationships. It was able to obtain deposits, open new branches, gain preferential treatment, handle a country's U.S. commodity credits, and gain respectability (Passes, 19961. Many individuals and orga- nizations profited from the bank's operations. Despite these advantages, the bank was insolvent from the beginning. Its top managers manipulated the bank's accounts to conceal losses, keep deposits off the books, hide illegal investments in U.S. financial institu- tions, and generate false profits (Passes, 19961. Illegal or, at the very least, poor banking practices made these problems worse. For example, a loan to the Gulf Group of shipping companies was larger than the bank's capital base, and the loan was not serviced, resulting in unsustainable losses of over $1 billion in the 1980s. Passas notes that the liquidators could not account for several billion dollars, and subsequent investigations into BCCI's prac- tices, as well as press reports, fueled a massive international scandal. The bank, ostensibly established to serve the poor and poor countries, was ac- cused instead of serving Colombian drug barons, a number of intelligence agencies, several prominent Third World dictators, money launderers, arms traders, and tax evaders, among others (Passes, 19961. It is still not alto- gether clear whether the intent was criminal from the outset, or whether this was a legitimate enterprise run amok. By the mid-1980s, auditors and regulators had detected these illegal practices. Directors and shareholders also were aware of BCCI's heavy losses and other problems. Yet, in several instances, powerful actors lob- bied openly or behind the scenes on behalf of BCCI, trying to convince the authorities that the rumors and evidence about BCCI were baseless (Passes, 19961. Most of these individuals, later implicated in the BCCI scandal, claimed that they were deceived and were unaware of unlawful practices, despite many warning signs (Singapore did not allow BCCI to operate there, and Great Britain and the United States placed severe restrictions on its operations). The most benign interpretation is that they were indeed
OCR for page 18
18 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME fooled. Passas concluded that the system in place to detect and control such abuses functions so badly that they may be more frequent than is realized. This nexus in the banking world between the legitimate and illegiti- mate essentially the connection between corruption and money goes to the heart of concerns about transnational crime threats. For example, nei- ther small crime networks nor criminal cartels could launder or hide their illegal profits without banking safe havens. The United States, the G7 nations, and the World Bank have been trying to combat money launder- ing since the late 1980s. Despite their efforts, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has had to issue advisories calling for enhanced scrutiny of certain transactions from banks in Mexico, and all transactions originating from the Seychelles (in the Indian Ocean), and Barbuda and Antigua, a small island nation in the the Caribbean (Financial Crimes Enforcement Net- work, 1996a, 1996b, 1996c, 19991. The activities of these havens strengthen the influence of what Anthony Lake, President Clinton's na- tional security adviser, has called international criminal conglomerates and constitute a potential threat to the global banking community. U.S. insti- tutions and the public also may be contributing to this problem. The Federal Reserve fined one well-regarded American bank $950,000 for its compromised behavior involving money-laundering by officials at one of its branches in Beverly Hills, California, in 1993 (Lupsha, 19951. And, according to one workshop participant, the U.S. General Accounting Of- fice estimates compliance with the requirement to report income kept in foreign banks at only 8 percent. The president has called on the interna- tional community to come together in a common cause against these ac- tivities, to work with other nations to outlaw these activities, and to con- sider sanctions against recalcitrant nations (Lake, 19981. Transnational crime produces benefits for some people, giving corpo- rations and governments an incentive to develop relationships with orga- nized criminal groups, or at least tolerate their activities. Historically, the smuggling of American cigarettes into highly protected markets resulted in the crumbling of resistance to foreign smoking products in those markets and in increased profits for American tobacco companies. Direct harm to the United States from cigarette smuggling may have been minimal, except for the smuggling capacities that were created to perhaps serve other illegal markets. Illegal drugs are also illustrative. Several workshop participants pointed out that the drug trade does not just cause harm. In some poor countries, it generates employment, income, and foreign exchange, pro
OCR for page 19
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 19 vices a better standard of living for hundreds of thousands of farmers in the countryside, and produces capital for legitimate investment. In South America, organized crime in many regions is a major source of funding for political campaigns. As one workshop participant noted, "It pays for the buses, the barbecues, the chicken dinners. It gets out the vote." In Colombia and Peru, the proceeds from organized crime may provide a kind of bulwark against spreading insurgent movements by funding counterinsurgency and paramilitary organizations that cooperate with the countries' military. Aggressive enforcement, such as the busting of drug cartels, in these areas may simply lead to a takeover of the illicit activities by the insurgents, rather than to their eradication. Historical Perspective Some authors maintain that there is little new to the phenomenon of transnational organized crime. Tom Naylor argued at the workshop that the smuggling of highly taxed tea into Britain in the 18th century was a large-scale transnational organized crime activity, even involving corrup- tion on the part of governments and legitimate corporations. The opium wars of the 1 9th century were initiated by a government-sanctioned cartel, the British East India Company, seeking to expand its market against the wishes and laws of the Chinese government. The Japanese government in the period between World War I and II was a principal supplier in the illegal cocaine market, developing coca fields in Formosa for that purpose (Karch, 19981. Rent seeking (i.e., the expectation of extra earnings through gifts or favors) by officials is a long-standing phenomenon, and organiza- tions with international ambitions often have the capability to manipulate that behavior. In recent years, according to this school of thought, all that has changed is the scale, although adherents concede that scale matters. Ethnicity and Transnational Crime Ethnic minorities, particularly those newly arrived in a country, turn out to have an especially important role in transnational organized crime, in both the United States and other rich countries. Bovenkirk (1998) gives examples: Vietnamese gangsters have tended to dominate cigarette smug- gling in Berlin; prostitution in London has long been heavily influenced by a small number of Maltese; and foreign and immigrant criminal groups
OCR for page 20
20 TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME were shown to be the principal figures in organized crime in the Nether- lands (Fijnhaut et al., 19971. The United States has a long history of such involvement by new eth- nic minorities; the Irish were conspicuous among the urban racketeers in the late 19th century, mostly providing illegal gambling services, and Ital- ians and Eastern Europeans were prominent in the bootlegging industry of the 1920s (Hailer, 19771. The difference is that these gangs made little use of their roots in another country. Even though bootleggers imported a large share of the illegal alcohol sold during Prohibition, their connections to Europe were irrelevant for that activity. Only the early Mafia control of the heroin-importing industry depended on their ability to work with gangs in Sicily and Corsica (Cressey, 19691. Today ethnic groups involved in criminal activities appear to make much more extensive use of their foreign connections. One factor that has led Colombia to become the center of the cocaine production industry is the strength of its ties to a large immigrant community in the United States, which was established well before the drug trade was significant. By 1990 the census reported that 286,000 U.S. residents were born in Colombia, about twice as many U.S. residents as were born in Bolivia or Peru (Bureau of the Census, 19931. Theories to explain the connection between minority or immigrant status and criminal activity are not hard to find (Tonry, 19971. Such groups have a comparative advantage in smuggling and domestic distribu- tion of goods and services from their home country; better connections with the producers and corrupt authorities there; and a protective immi- grant community that is not yet trusting of local authorities, thus provid- ing barriers to the recruitment of effective informants or the conduct of investigations generally. Furthermore, these groups are often denied op- portunity within the legitimate economy, whether because of limited profi- ciency in the host country language, poor education, or discrimination by employers. The strength of kinship networks in these communities also facilitates the development of trust, which is an important factor in crimi- nal enterprise. CONCLUSION Arriving at a single definition that usefully limits the field of research but also covers the full range of issues and problems described here proved very difficult. Clearly the definition, at least initially, must be based on the
OCR for page 21
DEFINITIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS 21 laws of the United States, other countries, or international law. The crimes on the UN list provide an interesting starting point. Many involve the production and distribution of goods and services that are prohibited by one or more of these bodies of law. Motivation committing illegal acts for money or a cause is important to the definition. The definition must also take into account the nature of the offenders and the level and type of organization required to commit the crime. Harm, both level and type, is critical to defining transnational crime problems. lust as operational agen- cies allocate their investigative resources to what they see as the most im- portant cases, researchers may want to reserve the designation of transnational organized crime to mean certain offenses carried out by cer- tain kinds of organizations i.e., above some threshold of size, durability, capacity, or harm. Developing a variety of definitions that include some or all of these elements and are based in law enforcement and other justice system responses may be one path to sorting through these problems of nomenclature. Fleshing out the description in an analytically coherent manner may provide another path to better research.
Representative terms from entire chapter: