By C. J Oakes
Issue: Organized crime groups offer more than simply drug to their clients. As with any business, organized crime groups have diversified with serious implications for both U.S. and International police agencies.
Five Crimes of the Times:
Drugs, Money Laundering, Terrorism, Human Trafficking, and Cyber-Crime
As the world becomes more globally connected, criminal organizations are finding innovative ways to reap enormous profits. Organized crime stands in direct opposition to the nations in which they do business, but the growth of these organizations appear to trace to Alcohol Prohibition in America. In addition, the growth of these criminal organizations is fueled largely by Western Nations but third-world nations typically experience the worst effects. The five crimes of international scope in this paper demonstrate the link between organized crime growth and American policies.
Prior to the dawning of the 21st Century, crime, and criminal organizations remained problems for individual nations. Times have changed; Globalism and the Internet have transformed radically the nature of criminal activity. One of the most serious issues facing nations today involves narcotics, which take a serious toll on society by eroding the foundations of a productive populace. However, four additional crimes create far more serious problems which because of the new global nature of the planet, have far exceeded drugs: Money laundering, Terrorism, Human Trafficking, and Cyber-Crime. Ironically, these are linked and can be traced in one way or another to the Drug War. In this paper each is examined in the context of the others.
International trade in narcotics is nothing new. Evidence suggests ancient Sumerians purchased Opium thousands of years ago; the drug was introduced in China, Persia, and India as early as 1280 by Arab traders. The British fought the first Drug War in 1842 to force the Chinese to continue accepting Opium in trade for tea. In 1833, America signed the first anti-opium treaty with Siam, extending it to China in 1844. Hence, whereas the United States was moving to control the flow of this drug into the nation, the British were working to maintain it (Ansley, 1959). As of 2007, the British, and American governments, along with the United Nations generally work together to control and regulate this narcotic (Taylor, 2007).
However, illicit trade in Opium and other narcotics gave rise to organized crime groups beginning in the late 1800s. In Chicago and Philadelphia, African American organized crime outfits arose, such as the Black Mafia and the Policy Kings, trafficking in Heroin and other such drugs. Distribution of these narcotics remained minor but during the Alcohol Prohibition era in America, sales increased. The growth was in part a result of the elimination of legal alcohol and the focus of national police on alcohol. This permitted virtually unhindered growth of the organizations that dealt with these substances (Hagedorn, 2006).
Beginning in the 70s, trafficking in narcotics took on multi-national dimensions; efforts to fight the trade became international. As of 2012, efforts by law enforcement find some success, but the Organized Crime syndicates that control these substances have become as powerful as many nations (Mallory, 2007). In addition, as soon as law enforcement manages to stop one group, another rises quickly to fill the void. In addition, these groups have expanded their operations to envelop a wide range of products and services, including toxic wastes, gambling, and humans (Lyman & Potter, 2007).
Money laundering is a natural extension of crime group’s efforts to retain their illicit profits. Organized Crime groups saw the need to filter their illegal gains through legitimate businesses rather than simply hide the source: Capone was arrested and convicted for tax evasion and the term “money laundering” derives from Capone’s efforts to filter his money through various laundries he owned (Unger, 2009, p. 807). Hence, the development, and rise of money laundering was in direct response to efforts by law enforcement in fighting illegal substances.
Although money laundering is nothing new, it has been during the last 20 years that the international community has entered the battle. Largely prior to 2001 when America officially entered the War on Terrorism, most nations did not place much effort into controlling laundering. However, that event, coupled with technology and other international criminal activities, brought money laundering into the international spotlight. The result is that although fairly successful at tracking down such activities through internationally cooperative efforts, law enforcement in general is fighting a losing war because very little sound research exists regarding this crime (Unger, 2009).
What is known about money laundering is that it is a very useful tool for terrorist groups (Unger, 2009). In addition, terrorist groups as of 2012 participate in the trafficking of drugs. This allows these groups, which generally hold political agendas, to gain the funds needed to train and operate internationally: This has given rise to the term “narco-terrorism” (Björnehed, 2004, p. 305). In Columbia, for instance, Pablo Escobar conducted terrorist operations against his government in efforts to maintain his illegal cocaine operations (Lyman & Potter, 2007). The recent fiasco Fast and Furious has brought attention to the botched operations of American law enforcement efforts to understand better Mexican drug cartels. These cartels are engaged in systematic terrorism to further their illegal narcotics operations (Kail, 2010).
The Fast and Furious fiasco makes it appear that law enforcement is not only losing the battle against narco-terrorism but also exacerbating it. As of this writing, the future of Mexican and American cooperation in battling drugs and narco-terrorism is uncertain (Antle III, 2012). This event may even affect international cooperation with the United States.
Related to terrorism and narcotics is Human Trafficking. Although efforts to curb the illicit narcotics trade and terrorism have met with mixed success, international organized crime groups have expanded the products and services offered to include trading in humans, particularly women, and children. Such expansion is part self-preservation and part political. Kidnapping, selling women, and children into the sex trade has a two-fold effect: It terrorizes families while satisfying a growing demand for these services, yielding immense profits (Stoica, 2011).
Part of this trade is a direct result of the desire of immigrants to move to America and other Western nations (Wheaton, Schauer, & Galli. 2010). Sadly, many of these immigrants find themselves sold into sexual slavery in these very nations and others. In fact, Americans who have been convicted of child sex crimes in the United States are permitted to travel to places, such as Indonesia and Cambodia, for the purpose of sexual gratification with children slaves of organized crime groups. This hypocritical approach to this industry could contribute to the growing angst against America, which has been cited as a possible reason for the increase in terrorism against that nation (Hall, 2011).
Only recently have the international communities begun seeking ways to stop this terrible industry, but given the immense resources of the perpetrators, such efforts are certain to require the cooperation, not only of Western Nations but also the others (Hall, 2011).
Finally, related to the other crimes mentioned in this article, though loosely, is Cyber-crime. Cyber-crime takes on many dimensions, but generally involves the use of the Internet for the furtherance of criminal activities. Traditionally, organized crime groups used gambling as a means of generating revenue and many of these have taken their business to the Internet (Mallory, 2007). However, the web is also useful to these groups in recruiting vulnerable individuals; persons seeking to improve their lives through immigration are offered jobs, but sold into slavery in the very nations to which they were seeking escape (Stoica, 2010). In addition, many such organizations use legitimate fronts on the Internet to launder their monies for these are generally very difficult to trace (Vlcek, 2011). Finally, the Internet has allowed many disparate drug trafficking groups to find a new level of cooperation creating a difficult situation for law enforcement everywhere (Björnehed, 2004). Indeed, organized crime is everywhere on the Internet and law enforcement is scrambling to catch up.
Cyber-crime is gaining much attention in 2012 largely because it is an entirely new form of crime; nations and law enforcement are ill-equipped to deal with the problem (Rao, 2011). However, as shown in this paper, most, though not all, cyber-crime is directly related to criminal activities that have existed in the bricks and mortar society for decades or longer. Indeed, these activities have taken on a scale and scope that was unknown just a few decades earlier and by all appearances, the criminal groups responsible for these crimes only gained the ability to expand their enterprises as a result of the American War on Drugs. However, it would be a mistake to assume that ending this war would end these crimes: These organizations have become so powerful that all they do when stopped in one area is move to another. The time has passed to alter the course; there is nowhere to go but forward.
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