Traditional Organized Crime and its deviation

Rabi Raj Thapa

September 11, 2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Traditional Organized Crime and its deviation
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Since last two decades, there has been a significant change in Organized Crime Groups (OCG) and Traditional Organized Crime (TOC) activities.

Contemporary OCGs have moved away from a system of hierarchical, turf-based groups into interconnected, flexible, and opportunistic networks. Unlike traditional OCGs like Mafias, Yakuza, Tirade and Korean and Vietnamese, new types of OCGs have new formations comprising broader, developed, and less formal structures, often lacking formally defined roles or its members, where continuity of membership is often less of a defining factor (Reed 2009, p. 8).

Another recent change that has been observed in many countries is the move away from a monopolistic setting where one or two larger criminal organizations control international criminal trade, to the emergence of smaller, more reactive networks.

OCG activities can be harmful to stabilization, peace-building, and development of a country in several ways. For example, criminal funds may distort the political process by funding the activities of some political parties and not others.

This flatter, more informal structure has come about partly as a result of advancements in communications technology which enquire less formalized command and control structures to be in place (Shawand & Kemp, 2012, p. 7).

As a result, these less formal structures can make it difficult for intelligence analysts, law enforcement agencies to conduct up-to-date network analysis and operations as their relationship and membership constantly keep on changing (Keene, 2018, p.12).

Negative Impact of Organized and Transnational Crime

OCG activities can be harmful to stabilization, peace-building, and development of a country in several ways. For example, criminal funds may distort the political process by funding the activities of some political parties and not others.

This, in turn, may result in corrupt parties getting into power or retaining the power. Another destabilizing factor of widespread OCG‘ presence is its impact on the local economy. When legitimate means of economic survival gets threatened by OCG activities, it leads to economic instability, inflation, unhealthy competition, the corruption that may lead to further increase in crime when legitimate means of economic survival becomes difficult if not impossible and ultimately further conflict and violence (Keene, 2018, p. 13).

A poor economic environment will also result in brain drain and muscle drain; as well as scaring away foreign investors and donors to divert their investment elsewhere.

In a fragile economy of a post-conflict political transition, it is natural for government and people to strive hard to strengthen the local economy. When organized group undermine healthy economic growth through a syndicate, partisan politics; through immoral illegal practices corruption, intimidation, and violence, it will drive the society into organized crime and violence.

Such an environment is likely to prevent new businesses from opening, thus reducing the legitimate employment opportunities as well as fair trade and market competition.

A poor economic environment will also result in brain drain and muscle drain; as well as scaring away foreign investors and donors to divert their investment elsewhere; (Keene, 2018, p. 14). Because without a vibrant economy there is no place to invest or spend the money.

When this phenomenon is ignored by the government and the OCG, the economic health of the country is doomed to failure. Suppose, even where criminal money is injected or stays in the country, there will be a lot of negative consequences which affect the local economy and have a destabilizing influence in the country.

One example is price inflation, which can occur as a result of the circulation of criminal money. This, in turn, increases the cost of living and makes their people struggle just to survive or become poorer or dependent more on foreign aid.

In such situations where aid is unavailable, or where regular aid is withdrawn by the donor, the recipient country will be forced to resort to crime as the only means of their survival. This will automatically induce petty criminals to join organized crime and develop themselves of new OCGs from among themselves.

Transport Syndicate and Trade Unions resemble this group to a larger extent. Many poor conflict-ridden countries of Africa and Asia like Afghanistan, Sudan, Sierra Leon and CIS countries and countries of former Yugoslavia and even Nepal may be put into this category.

Whenever such countries resort to crime, joining OCG or insurgency group in return for payment or sustenance, further strengthening the position of these groups (Shawand & Kemp, 2012). Irregular Forces IHL refers the term ‘irregular forces‘ to combatants that form part of a country‘s armed forces in armed conflict and that do not belong to country‘s regular forces (Boczek, 2005).

CPN (Maoist) prior to the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could be termed as Irregular Force of Nepal. On the other hand, to be categorized as ‘regular armed forces’, the Hague Conventions‘ (1899, 1907, and Hague IV) four conditions must be met.

First, they are commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates to a party of the conflict. Second, regular forces have a fixed distinctive emblem, recognizable at a distance. Third, they carry arms openly, and fourth, they conduct operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war (The Geneva Convention 1949).

Combat forces that do not satisfy these criteria are referred to as irregular forces. As such insurgency groups and terrorist organizations fall under the definition of irregular groups (Keene, 2018, p.16). The fundamental difference between OCGs and irregular groups may differ in motivation and aspirations.

The OCGs are found to be driven predominantly by economic gain and power; whereas irregular groups may be seen as being more motivated by political change. But in many ways, drivers of OCGs may look similar to private organizations whose aim is also to maximize profit.

A significant portion of terrorist funding is derived from donors, some of them may be fully aware of the intended purpose of their contribution and others may not be.

All OCGs are essentially a business, albeit criminals generally intend to enjoy the illegal proceeds through legitimate way or use legal proceed in illegitimate business whereas irregular groups may be more willing to die fighting for their cause (Keene, 2018, p. 15).

The primary motivation for terrorism and irregular groups in general, however, may not be only financial. For them finance is a means to an end, that may be either ideological and political aspirations or financial gain for power and prestige (Money laundering & Terrorist Financing – A Global Threat, 2004).

A significant portion of terrorist funding is derived from donors, some of them may be fully aware of the intended purpose of their contribution and others may not be (Keene, 2018, p. 17). Nonetheless, where legitimate resources of funding such as donations are inadequate or unavailable, terrorists also may seek alternative sources by turning to criminal activity, such as extortion and hostage-taking for ransom.

Like any criminal network, the terrorist organization may also derive funding from a variety of criminal activities of varying scale and sophistication form low-level crime to serious organized crime (Money laundering & Terrorist Financing – A Global Threat, 2004).

In some cases, terrorist‘s involvement in trafficking and crime may not be only strategic; they may do it for sustaining their organization financially. They may also garner and provide them political support and legitimacy within and among the local population which depends upon the protection and for their livelihood.

Such criminal activity is rife in fragile states where the risk of prosecution is low as a consequence of the weak or absent rule of law (Keene, 2018, p. 19).

Views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the stance of Khabarhub.

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