Section 8: Transnational Organized Crime

Section 8: Transnational Organized Crime

“How Globalization Facilitates Transnational Crime … The Global Logic of Maritime Policy … The Global Trafficking of Human Organs … The Global Reach of Cybercrime … Making Connections”
(Source URL)


  • 8. Transnational Organized Crime > How Globalization Facilitates Transnational Crime > Lecture
  • 8. Transnational Organized Crime > The Global Logic of Maritime Policy > Lecture
  • 8. Transnational Organized Crime > The Global Trafficking of Human Organs > Lecture
  • 8. Transnational Organized Crime > The Global Reach of Cybercrime > Lecture
  • 8. Transnational Organized Crime > Making Connections > Interview Video

8. Transnational Organized Crime > How Globalization Facilitates Transnational Crime > Lecture

  • This section of the course will look at how this process promotes both legal and illegal profit making activities at the same time by exploiting, for example, the great global transportation and communication systems that make globalization possible.
  • The Italian sociologists Monica Massari has described the criminogenic potential of the globalization process that is constantly creating new opportunities for transnational criminals.
  • Globalization includes an enormous amount of economic activity that is estimated to be in the range of between $65 to $85 trillion worth of goods and services per year.
  • According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, what is striking about the global map of trafficking routes is that the world’s biggest trading partners are also the world’s biggest markets for illicit goods and services.
  • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime published in 2010 a long report that lists transnational criminal activities in terms of illicit commodities and specific threats.
  • Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, trafficking in cocaine, heroin, firearms, environmental resources, and counterfeit products, maritime piracy, and cybercrime.
  • This 300-page document is filled with interesting and detailed descriptions of how transnational criminals plan and carry out their operations, and about the annual consumption or confiscation of illicit products.
  • Transnational crime is inextricably linked to the global distribution of wealth and poverty.
  • One can speak in abstract terms about globalization’s having positive and negative consequences in different parts of the world, or within a single country.
  • The economist Joseph Stiglitz writes of asymmetric globalization that has put developing countries at a disadvantage because of unfair trade agreements the developed countries have imposed upon them.
  • More candid depictions of the consequences of these imbalances of power use terms like, the dark side of globalization, the underbelly of globalization, or the dirty economy that co-exists alongside the clean economy.
  • In the last analysis, this discussion is about the economic and social inequalities that are created, or sustained, or amplified by the globalization process.
  • We should always keep in mind that the dark side and the underbelly of globalization have human faces.
  • Studying the impacts of transnational crime in their gory details serves as a useful antidote to the social science jargon that, in its euphemizing way, numbs our ability to understand and empathize with the experiences of vulnerable and traumatized people.
  • An enormous amount of transnational crime originates in the misery and desperation that result from increasing economic inequality around the globe.
  • Traffickers in Latin America may also make use of entertainment networks, fashion agencies, employment agencies, marriage and tourism agencies, and newspaper advertisements to recruit victims.
  • This list of situations and venues does not even include the bars, massage parlors, dancing clubs, pornography operations, and arranged marriage schemes in which trafficked women can be placed.
  • This kind of information makes it clear that the transnational criminal exploitation of vulnerable women who are deceived and manipulated into traveling west to the prosperous Eurozone makes use of any number of social venues and relationships that are perfectly legitimate, rather than being criminal activities in and of themselves.
  • The human trafficking that was just described involves a basic feature of globalization, the movement of large numbers of people across borders, and the consequences that follow their displacement from one place to another.
  • One might say that it is a sign of globalization when a social phenomenon with criminal potential, such as human trafficking, catalyzes the formation of international groups to criticize it, monitor it, or even attempt to regulate it.
  • The universality of the human sex drive and people’s attempts to satisfy it creates social institutions or practices that are examples of globalization.
  • These institutions and practices, as we’ve seen, often incorporating an imbalance of power between exploiters and victims, and between men and women.
  • One commentator calls the extremely profitable sexualization of many societies based on social domination an increasingly central aspect of current capitalist globalization.
  • The French legal scholar Marie-Claire Belleau has studied the traffic in mail order brides and describes it too as a globalization phenomenon.
  • The mail order bride industry is yet another example of a globalization phenomenon that is based on an imbalance of power that takes the form of social domination.

8. Transnational Organized Crime > The Global Logic of Maritime Policy > Lecture

  • Modern piracy against international shipping is another type of criminal activity that is rooted in poverty and that can be classified as a symptom of globalization.
  • The Somali pirates who have preyed on international shipping off the coast of East Africa are an interesting case in point.
  • Global media coverage of hijacked ships, captive crews, and reports of multimillion dollar ransoms paid by shipping companies have reduced a complex set of events to a crime story being played out on the high seas.
  • Illegal fishing in Somali waters by foreign vessels from Europe, Asia, and Africa cost Somali fishermen about 30% of their normal catch of tuna and shrimp.
  • In 2005, the UN development program carried out an investigation that confirmed that the dumping of toxic and harmful waste is rampant in the sea, on the shores, and in the hinterland.
  • In summary, the implosion of this devastated and geographically remote territory became a focus of global attention and global organizational activities.
  • Another maritime example of the relationship between globalization and crime is a weak link in the regulation of global shipping, namely the registration of ships under so-called flags of convenience.
  • Ship owners register their ships not in their own countries, but in the maritime equivalent of offshore tax havens, small and sometimes tiny countries such as Panama, Cyprus, Saint Vincent, and Malta.
  • Many small and undeveloped states around the world accommodate the ship owners to make money.
  • This allows the ship owners to pay lower fees and taxes, to evade regulations, and to find a legal environment where their obligations to the seafarers they hire onto their ships are minimal or nonexistent.
  • When the global recession of the past decade caused shippers to demand lower fees from the shipping lines, many ship owners registered their ships under flags of convenience.
  • The general secretary of the International Transport Workers Federation said in 2003, “in an increasingly fierce competitive shipping market, each new flag of convenience is forced to promote itself by offering the lowest possible fees and the minimum regulation.
  • ” Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, there has been increasing concern that this anarchic registration system would allow terrorist organizations to operate ships in a totally unregulated environment.
  • This ship was registered in the tiny Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, the home of about 10,000 inhabitants.
  • In 2002, the United States Congress held hearings on the unregulated open register global shipping system.
  • It had been reported that the United States and other NATO countries were looking for a phantom fleet of about 20 ships, operating under flags of convenience that were believed to be under the control of Al Qaeda.
  • Interestingly, a 2002 proposal for a United Nations Convention on the registration of ships that would have shut down the flags of convenience system was adamantly opposed by most ship owners and by wealthy countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

8. Transnational Organized Crime > The Global Trafficking of Human Organs > Lecture

  • The global market in human organ trafficking is another type of organized crime that is rooted in the abject poverty of millions.
  • This market originates in a supply and demand dynamic that causes the desperately sick to seek out the organs, and especially the livers and kidneys, of the desperately poor who are willing or forced to sell them.
  • First, traffickers may force or deceive the victim into giving up an organ.
  • Second, the victim may agree to sell an organ for a price, and is then paid less or not paid at all.
  • Third, the victim undergoes treatment for a real or invented ailment, and in the course of the treatment, organs are removed without his knowledge.
  • Human organ trafficking can be seen as a criminal version of the medical tourism that sends many people to foreign countries in search of less expensive or exotic medical treatments that are unavailable or illegal in their own countries of residence.
  • Let us take a look at an organ trafficking case that in April of 2013 resulted in prison sentences for five people, including a urologist who also served as director of the Medicus clinic in Pristina, Kosovo.
  • Most of the organ recipients in this case were alleged to be Israelis who had paid between 80,000 and 100,000 euros for an organ.
  • The EU special prosecutor commented, the sole and driving motive for this exploitation of the poor and indigent was the opportunity for obscene profit and human greed.
  • In human organ trafficking, the logic of global trade approximates the law of the jungle.
  • Human organ trafficking belongs to that special subcategory of globalization encounters that actually do bring physically together people from different places and social classes for the purpose of consummating a financial transaction.

8. Transnational Organized Crime > The Global Reach of Cybercrime > Lecture

  • Cybercrimes include internet auction fraud, credit card fraud, telemarketing fraud, Nigerian letter or 419 fraud, identity theft, advance fee schemes, letter of credit fraud, investment fraud, denial of service attacks, the spreading of malware, cyber-stalking, and the so-called phishing scams that go after information such as usernames, passwords and credit card information and often direct victims to fraudulent websites that enable cyber-theft.
  • These are predatory crimes that can target and victimize anyone anywhere who spends time on the global internet.
  • Cybercrime operates on the internet that has become the nervous system of the globalization process.
  • First, like the globalization process, the internet has expanded faster than anyone’s capacity to regulate it.
  • Just as globalization is promoted by increasing numbers of computer-literate users, a growing number of internet users have more access to cybercrime tools that have become easier to use.
  • Technological literacy thus drives both legitimate and criminal uses of the internet.
  • The increasing number of computer-literate people in the developing countries will produce a larger population of predatory online actors who will focus their criminal efforts on a wealthier population of internet users whose numbers will stabilize or even decline.
  • The internet offers remarkable opportunities for individuals or small groups to mount massive electronic attacks against the websites and other electronic operations of nation-states, multinational corporations, or other powerful institutions located anywhere in the world.
  • Third, cybercrime represents the nightmare version of the global connectivity that seems to abolish time and space and enable personal contact across great distances.
  • The ransomware experience can deprive the internet victim not only of money but of his or her dignity as well.
  • It is the online version of a home invasion and represents the pseudointimacy of the internet at its worst.

8. Transnational Organized Crime > Making Connections > Interview Video

  • If crime increases as markets expand and globalization is promoted by capitalism, will we see a significant increase in crime as world globalizes? Yes.
  • I think that the expansion of the global economy and the differentiation of the global economy into increasing numbers of different kinds of businesses and transactions is going to promote an increase in crime.
  • The most dramatic example of the expansion of criminal activity within the globalization project right now is cyber crime.
  • Does all the new internet technology come with this new kind of crime? Revelations about the data spying and collection by the National Security Agency of the United States has provoked a lot of commentary about the price to be paid for tremendously convenient internet services.
  • It is beginning to sink in that the price you pay, unless there is profound reform of intelligence agencies- not just in the United States, but in Europe and China and Russia and elsewhere- the bargain seems to be that in a world in which major intelligence agencies are active and trying to keep track of the communications and behaviors of large numbers of people, then the price you pay for having that sort of access is, in effect, allowing a great deal of access to you.
  • How do countries get away with just dumping waste on other countries, like has happened to Somalia? The reports regarding the dumping of all sorts of toxic wastes, both on land in Somalia and along the Somali coast, involves, we are told, big European corporations who send ships down there to dump even nuclear radioactive materials, as well as other sorts of toxic substances on the land and in the waters of this particular country.
  • It can be understood as a consequence of the enormous imbalance of power between wealthy Europe- with all sorts of resources, including access to cargo ships that can take dangerous materials thousands of miles and dump them and then go home again- and the world’s most famous failed state.
  • Wouldn’t it have been nice if Western governments, and other governments with ships to protect in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, had detected and disapproved of this awful anti-environmental dumping operation by European corporations, and said, the Somalis, the Somali environment deserves protection from these sorts of crimes against the environment.
  • When these environmental crimes were being committed against the Somali coast, as verified by any number of respected international organizations, it appears that nobody lifted a finger.
  • If organ donors were paid, do you think that human organ trafficking would decrease? If there were a globally regulated commercial organ selling and purchase system, I think that would put some sort of a dent in the illegal trafficking of human organs.
  • Which is a huge problem, in the sense that it maims and kills many, many people who are invariably poor, desperate, vulnerable.
  • I think it’s reasonable to assume that a regulated commercial operation would take some of the pressure off desperate patients who will do anything, and pay anything, and look the other way as peasants from Anatolia have their kidneys removed for the benefit of the wealthy and desperate patient.
  • There are a limitless number of operations that require communication and coordination in a rather precise sense in order to keep the globe going, in order to keep the global economy functioning, in order to support the activities of countless organizations that have to be in touch with each other.
  • We can see how this topic connects to regulation with the Somali pirates and with media with the internet.
  • According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is supposed to coordinate anti-doping campaigns and operations around the world, that the trafficking in performance enhancing drugs has been taken over by criminal gangs, by what they call drug mafias.
  • Another way that the sports world is vulnerable to transnational organized crime comes in the form of gambling and match-fixing where players on, let us say, football teams- or in other sports- are paid either to influence the outcome of a game or a match, or to affect the relatively minor statistics within a game or a match.
  • In terms of social justice, the offshore tax haven system is a way for very powerful, very wealthy corporations and individuals to, in effect, remove- not billions- but even trillions of dollars from societies that need that money to promote social development.
  • Thanks for talking to us about crime, Dr. Hoberman.

Return to Summaries

(image source)