Organised crime can be described as the activities of criminal syndicates involved in supplying goods and services that are prohibited by law such as drugs or gambling along with other protection rackets, intimidation and extortion. The main motivation behind the organized crime, according to many criminologists, seems to be fast upward mobility for lower class individuals. Professional criminals and criminal organisations maintain their position, as Croall (1998) observes, by manipulating law enforcement through corruption and related means. A key characteristic of organised crime, identified by Ruggiero (1996a), is that ‘it deals with the provision of goods and services which are officially defined as illegal’ and thus attains the status of an industry – distinguished from a legitimate industry by the very illegal nature of its activities. Professional criminals and criminal organisations are distinguished by their criminal identity, involvement in a criminal subculture and possession of criminal skills. Sutherland (1937) in his classic work “The Professional thief” finds similarity between professional theft and a legitimate profession by their distinctive systems, language, laws, history, traditions, customs, methods and techniques. Ruggiero (1996a) says, approaches to organised crime are generally understood taking the example of the Mafia, in terms of family and the characteristics of secretive organisation with strong loyalties among its members. With globalisation the erstwhile organised crime became transnational involving international cartels. There are wide varieties of transnational crime ranging from drug trafficking, human trafficking to Cyber and internet thefts. This paper looks in to the changing nature of criminal organisation across the borders and its wider implications.
Cressey (1972) delineates the structure of organisations within organised crime. There are apparently two types of organisations informal and formal, similar to the ordinary organisations. The informal organisations according to him are ‘stabilised patterns of interaction based on similarities of interests and attitudes and occasionally on mutual aid.’ He says, ‘in an informal organisation interaction patterns have become routine to a degree such that there is a cluster of role relationships, each consisting of reciprocal rights and obligations. But the persons playing the roles do not necessarily perceive this structure as serving collective purposes, as is the case in formal organisations’.
In the case of informal organisations, the positions remain independent of the persons occupying them and the structure need not be made rational, not even with respect to social relationships in case of deciding profits, fighting and winning the battles, defense against crimes, committing crime, etc. The informal organisations could be street corner gangs, and delinquent gangs formed out of neighbourhood associations etc. These groups have their own propriety standards, their own stance pro or against certain issues and the common thread is that of fighting the common enemy. Some of them would have faced punishment or imprisonment too. But there is no underlying organisation structure with collective end for the group.
The formal organisations, on the contrary, are rational. Whether criminal or ordinary, Cressey says formal organisations have three principal characteristics, viz.
- Division of labour and occupational specialisation specific to individuals.
- Coordination between individuals of specialised positions carried with the help of rules, agreements, understandings and codes supporting the division of labour.
- An end goal and a defined objective for the whole enterprise.
Thus the characteristics of all formal organisations are same and they differ from each other only in terms of their end objective that is criminal or non-criminal.
The informal organisations indulged in criminal activities, become formal organisations if they adopt a rational division of labour which is identified in criminal law as, ‘continuing criminal conspiracy’. But Cressey (1972) says, it should not be assumed that, any or every informal criminal group could become a formal organisation and attain its complexity. Nor a hierarchic structure of authority and power necessarily is adopted to become a formal organisation.
The criminal organisations differ from each other in their degree of rationality due to which some turn out to be more organised than others, which is shown in the kind of crimes committed. They could be small time thieves indulging in shoplifting with some organisation or a confederation of criminal groups that have an exaggerated organisational discipline and coordination to mutually help each other in securing immunity from the penal process.
For any organisation, criminal or legitimate, networking forms an underlying principle of rationality. Moreno (as quoted in Cressey 1972), while discussing legitimate society, says ‘networks form sort of permanent structure, that binds groups of individuals together irrespective of geographical distinctions’. Spaulding (as quoted in Cressey1972), defines a network as ‘a set of relatively stable emotional linkages between persons which result in selective channels of communication through which information and emotions may be rather freely transmitted to the members of a community so linked’. These network relations bind together the criminal cliques or groups with different degrees of cohesion and the common values, norms, motives, attitudes, rationalizations among these cliques form what is called the ‘criminal sub culture’. An underworld which is assumed to be indulged in nation wide alliances could also just be an informal organisation like that of neighbourhood delinquent boys associations. It becomes difficult to separately identify the underworld in a modern society, as the criminal activities of many groups are closely associated with the activities of the so-called respectable officials. As Ruggiero (1996a) finds, many criminal organizations have a legitimate outfit to provide services behind which illegal transactions like money laundering etc are carried out.
The organisations exist irrespective of the individuals and many at times they pre-exist before an individual becomes a member of them, with a set of rules and codes. Therefore, any criminal organisation continues to commit crime irrespective of who is heading it. Thus, the groups, gangs, cartels, confederations, syndicates, troupes, etc have criminality as their end goal and thus can be identified as forms of organised crime. The international cocaine trade involves such confederations involving many legitimate multinational enterprises at the ‘front’ carrying out drug trade at the back.
To Ruggiero, corporate and organised crime is variants of the same form as they involve similar activities. But Cressey (1972) says a corporation cannot be included in this list of organised crime because as its name suggests it is a legal entity. It may have forms of informal crime within the closed walls of legality in terms of corruption at higher levels and frauds. Thus organised crime is possible within the legitimate organisation but a legitimate organisation cannot be branded as a criminal organisation.
The criminal organisations also differ from each other in terms of the degree to which their objective of reaping profit from crime is rationalized, because, many criminal organisations might be providing non criminal services to its members which can be proclaimed as their objective. The example is that of according status and prestige to those individuals who could not acquire status through legitimate pursuits in a legitimate society. But its permanence as an organisation lies on the edifice of the profit generated out of crime.
Cressey (1972) recognised six varieties of criminal organisation, not in terms of types, but in terms of key positions in the structure of their organisations. The first is that of a commissioner, which indicates the whole lot of governing body of a confederation. As Cressey says, organised crime is referred to only the crime perpetrated by individuals occupying positions in the organisations at the upper end of the rationality continuum. The term organised crime is used synonymous to syndicated crime, cartel crime, or confederated crime represented by Cosa Nostra, Mafia etc. The division of labour is so complex in these and the crime committed through these cannot be committed by smaller organisations. The complexity is not only in size. Small firms selling illicit goods, untaxed alcohol, drugs, stolen merchandise, need higher division of labour for their activities and liaison with big cartels for profits. The presence of commissioners makes a confederation like Cosa Nostra to be a cartel kind of illegal network of economic sub units and a political control system like that of a confederation. The members of Cosa Nostra monopolise the most of the illegal activities, being the wholesalers and exporters of stolen goods, narcotics, etc. They own a number of legitimate enterprises like restaurants, bars, hotels, factories, garbage collection routes etc and at the same time control many other legitimate enterprises like cigarette companies etc. Cosa Nostra, which was formed out of many small enterprises indulged in production of illicit products, is one of the largest business enterprises in America to have huge profits. The commission makes a thriving business through its jurisdictional disputes, i.e., crime committed to specific jurisdictions by cartels and their disputes over crossing of those jurisdictions.
The second is the position of Corrupter, corruptee and the enforcer. This is defined by Cressey as, ‘any crime committed by a person occupying, in an established division of labour, a position designed for the commission of crime, providing that such division of labour also includes at least one position for a corrupter, for a corruptee and one position for an enforcer’. The example is that of Cosa Nostra which has families and each family has hierarchical structure of boss at the top, an underboss, a counsellor or advisor and a buffer. Deciding about a criminal activity and the role of each in it would be decided along this hierarchy.
The third is the position of Corrupter and corruptee which tries to define professional crime. Professional crime as defined by Sutherland (as quoted in Cressey), refers to pursuit of crime as a regular, day-by-day occupation; development and use of skilled techniques in that occupation; certain shared understandings, agreements and attitudes; high status among criminals and identification of self as a thief’. A professional criminal according to MacIntosh (as quoted in Cressey), is any one who makes crime a full time occupation. There are three characteristics of professional crime identified by Sutherland as (1) subordination of individual occupational skills (2) selection of safe crimes and (3) neutralization of criminal law administration. Cressey recognises that his third variety of organised crime contains all the above characteristics of professional crime. He says that a professional criminal always tries to bribe the official to gain immunity from penal offence.
The fourth variety is that of a strategic planner, whose position makes the criminal organisation grow more rational. Strategic planning can be understood from the organisation’s activities and successful gambling that is carried out by the families of Cosa Nostra indicates their efficient strategic planning. The fifth variety is that of a tactical planner whose job is to recruit specialists for different activities and assemble a small organisation of different skills. The sixth is that of a Task Force Guide which guides the members of the organisation in a particular task like raids, attacks, expeditions etc. A crime led by the task force, assembled by a tactical planner could be called as a Project crime according to MacIntosh.
Cressey(1972) says, organised crime has remained to be a social category, rather than a legal one, because no policing agency keeps a record of information of these where as they keep a record of bicycle theft, chain snatchers, pick-pocketers, or careless driving. This is the most important factor in the extensive spread of organised crime, transcending the international borders and transforming in to transnational organized crime.
The drug trafficking, especially that of cocaine, is a good example of transnational organized crime. The transnational criminal organisations (TCOs) have their base in the regions of cultivation of narcotic plants while retailing is taken care off either by groups native to the market region or the ethnic groups with larger diasporas in the retail zones. The manufacturing sites are located by these TCOs in the regions where the risk of sanction is less and they enter into alliances with the local guerillas for local might (Schroeder, 1998).
Cocaine trafficking involves many confederations and was originally dominated by Colombian cartels based in Medellin and Cali. The Cali maintained secure ties with the local regime and managed strategic alliances with the Sicilian Mafia which helped its entry in to the European market. The Cali group surrendered in 1995 and cocaine trade transferred to more violent Mexican groups in the region (Shroeder, 1998). Similarly the Costa Rican based Contra group is identified to have families such as the Sanchez family, the Fernando El Negro Chamorro family etc who have high connections like that of CIA on one hand and Noriega – Pastora on the other and as Scott (1991) says, ‘each major faction in the Contras had its own cocaine connection and the rise of each connection corresponded to a change in the management of the U.S – Contra relationship’.
Thus the organized crime with its wide variety of networks and organizational characteristics depicts a highly exaggerated disciplined profession akin to any other legitimate organization thus making the differences blurred.
Transnational organized crime
The official policy making in tackling transnational organized crime is fundamentally based on a presumption that all that crime is branded as a threat from the ethnic outsiders, that it is criminology of others. Therefore, as Edwards (2002) says, while responding to the problem, crime is dealt with in social, political and cultural dynamics of market societies which he terms as criminology of self. Thus policy response also is considered in the changing nature of governments from ‘sovereign’ to that of a ‘regulatory’ framework.
Edwards (ibid) observes that there are basically two narratives on the problem of transnational organized crime (TOC) that represent a contradiction at the heart of the contemporary crime control policy. The first is that, sovereignty remains intact and political governments tackle with crime in such a way that meets their political purpose. In this purpose, Edwards (ibid) points out that the governments either feel obliged to respond to the insecurities expressed by people or manipulate the insecurities for an inherent political purpose. This is seen in the case of wars against crime in general or drugs in particular. In such circumstances, the legal measures with their inherent ambiguity in rhetoric and language provide the actual space within which the actual policy outcomes could be negotiated according to the bureaucratic and the corporate interests. This is clearly visible in the case of transnational organized crime.
The second narrative according to Edwards (ibid) is that acknowledgement that crime is always with us and new techniques are required to contain it. The measures as per this narrative include encouraging citizens to take care of their security and property, engaging non governmental and private organisations in partnerships for crime prevention, deploying the techniques of risk assessment rather than those of welfare etc. The above two narratives depict two discourses to deal with crime viz., criminology of others and criminology of self. In the latter case, as Edwards (ibid) explains the culprit is a rational opportunist, no different from the victim and crime is a routine affair that needs to be prevented with active measures of reducing opportunities for the crime. In the former case, criminals are those racial, social outsiders who are different and who need to be excluded. Transnational organized crime especially comes in this category.
Central to this argument is the notion of Transnational Organised Crime as something infiltrated and influenced by the outsiders on a legitimate polity and economy. The official definition of Transnational Organised Crime given by the Council of Europe’s classification of organized crime in 1993 identifies the following attributes:
- Collaboration with more than two people
- Each with own appointed tasks
- For prolonged or indefinite periods of time
- Using some form of discipline and control
- Suspected of the commission of serious criminal offences
- Operating on an international level
- Using violence or other means suitable for intimidation
- Using commercial or business like structures
- Engaged in money laundering
- Exerting influence on politics, the media, public administration, judicial authorities or the economy
- Determined by the pursuit of profit or power (Cited in Clay, 1998, p94).
Edwards (2002, 253) argues that, by defining Transnational Organised Crime in this way, crime has been identified as something external and works upon and against the legitimate society but not within. Thus ‘crime is treated as an objective phenomenon rather than as the result of interaction between forms of harmful behaviour and the way in which some become criminalized and others do not’ (Edwards, 2002, p253). Thus the attributes accorded to Transnational Organised Crime are ‘content less abstractions’ built based on certain historical coincidences and are not universally applicable (Sayer, as cited in Edwards, 2002, p253). Edwards (ibid) says that, this notion of Transnational Organised Crime is developed at the backdrop of many historical events like collapse of Soviet Union, increase of cross border military groups, continuing growth in transnational drug trafficking, the construction of continental trading blocks like NAFTA and European Union, the legacy of deregulation in international currency markets, and quantum increase in information and communication technologies that fed an image of globalisation in both illicit and licit enterprises.
Globalisation & crime
Regarding the illicit and licit trade, it is a well accepted notion in the criminological community that variations in the criminal organisation depend on the variations in the conditions of social control. It is agreed after a long observation that legitimate markets are shaped in such a way that have an alternative channel of illicit goods. Similar to this argument is the raising notion that economic development brings, along with wealth and social opportunities, means for illegal acquisition of wealth. Thus as Ruggiero (2003, p171) observes, globalisation with its expansion of markets has been accompanied by a simultaneous expansion of crime. The corollary of this is the hypothesis that business is criminogenic and the structure of organisations and the culture of those in the organisations create such an atmosphere that facilitates opportunities for misconduct.
Globalisation on a positive side is seen as revolutionary development in communication and transport, internationalization of trading and labour, and growing coordination of tasks performed by groups and individuals world wide ( A.D.King as cited in Ruggiero, 2003, p172). Thus with organisations positioning themselves globally, it is said that the world is becoming one single space holding opportunities equally for all.
But critics argue that this process favors only those in the most advanced countries engaged in all sorts of international interactions and exchange. Thus the benefits of this interconnectedness are rarely shared with the developing nations and even if they are shared, they are not on equal terms.
The geographical expansion, of course is a historical necessity of business for establishing new markets. But this has led to formation of networks and inter dependencies thus creating a world system, the corrosion of borders and the increasing ‘placeless’ of the economy (Knox & Taylor, as cited in Ruggiero, 2003, p172). The epitome of this growing mobility of goods and finances is the drastic improvement in information that constituted the main element of economic growth (Castells, 1989).
As Ruggiero (ibid) observes, the inherent contradiction in this apparently beneficial global mobility of goods and finances is the immobility and unavailability of these to certain groups of people. Rather, he says, ‘the immobility of these groups guarantees the free movement of others’. Immobility is equal to lack of resources and being local in a globalised world is an indication of social deprivation. The forms of social control in the globalised world favour movement of certain goods and people while impeding the movement of others.
Ruggiero (ibid) observes that, the forms of social control fostered by globalisation make the centrally structured hierarchies redundant because the power relationships are increasingly embedded in the global networks through which instructions are processed rather than in the hierarchical organisations and institutions. Thus, globalisation implies not only the weakening of the localized sovereignty and structures (Beck 2000, as cited in Ruggiero, 2003, p173) but also the by-passing of the nation-state by the contemporary networks of capital, production, trade, science and communication (Castells, 2000 as cited in Ruggiero, 2003, p173). Ruggiero (ibid) points out that, criminal business responds to the new forms of social control by establishing new networks that help in by-passing the national regulations. This gets activated in the case of demand for greater mobility of prohibited goods and the localized people. Thus he points out that, transnational crime is an off shoot of the changing forms of social control.
The official concerns about the transnational crime, as delineated in the previous section, also centre on the feeling of vulnerability of the advanced countries towards criminal activity that is originating in the other countries. These concerns express a fear that the illicit goods and unwanted people destroy the institutions of the civilized world. Especially transnational crime is addressed as if it is synonymous with drug trafficking and considered as some thing originating in the developing countries and penetrating in to the developed world. But, as Ruggiero (2003, p173) points out, the Western commentators fail to consider the pre-existing pharmacological culture of advanced countries that allowed illicit drug use to develop. That demand in the West has resulted in the growth of drug trafficking is often a forgotten fact.
The other issue in transnational crime is the increase of foreigners and migrants that are feared to be producing detrimental effects on the national economy due to their potential ability for manipulation of funds and disruption of legitimate creation and distribution of wealth. This notion, as Ruggiero (2003, p174) observes, is based on the assumption that wealth generated by illicit drugs is appropriated only by the foreign producers and distributors. It is often forgotten that the wealth is generated even within the consuming countries and considerable revenues accumulated by the local consumers and distributors.
The above argument points out, that transnational crime need not be criminal activity crossing borders but rather that activity originating in developing countries that crosses the borders of developed countries. It is to be considered that any criminal activity needs a receptive environment along with indigenous partners and agents in the countries in which it operates. Thus it needs a revamping of the official definition and notion of transnational crime as something external created by the foreigners / migrants.
Some instances of transnational crime: (Ruggiero, 2003, p174-176)
- Case I: I, 1999, a partnership among members of Russian syndicates, politicians and New York bankers carried out money-laundering operations. Finances lent to the Russian government became intermingled with other furtive money totaling $7 billion. Without the participation of legitimate actors and their willingness to utilize the services and practices of illegitimate partners, the laundering operations would have been impossible. (as cited in La Republica, 30 October 1999).
- Case II: A group of illegal migrants were arrested in 1999 while working on British North Sea oil rigs. They were give slave wages and forced to work 28-day stretches without a break. To enter the UK, they paid a fee to an organisation that had established a partnership with an official employment agency operating in Britain (Nelson, 1999).
- Case III: In March 2000, a group of Italian businessmen operating in Albania were charged with promoting illegal migration. They offered false employment contracts to local residents in exchange for an agreed sum. The migrants were then left with the choice of entering Italy legally and once there disappearing in the country or contacting traffickers who would bring them to their destination at a lower price (Mastrogiacomo, 2000).
- Case VII: A case brought to light by investigators across Europe showed how alliances among a variety of actors, both legitimate and illegitimate, are required for transnational crime to occur. A group of cocaine wholesalers bought quantities of the illicit drug from South American producers and sold consignments to distributors operating in Europe. Payments for consignments took place courtesy of the mediation performed by European financial institutions. Importers included legitimate entrepreneurs who mixed the drugs with the legitimate goods of their trading activity.
The above case studies highlight how transnational crime involves partnerships and parties from both the across the borders. In this sense transnational crime transcends not just the borders of nations but also the boundaries of legitimacy and illegitimacy. As Ruggiero (ibid) observes, the transnational organized crime must be analysed in a demand -supply framework. Any criminal activity, whether it is drug or human trafficking or money laundering or any higher enterprise would not be successful across the borders unless there are inter-national partnerships and a host environment that facilitates the illegal trade as a parallel channel.
Crime is endemic to any society. As the means of social control change with the diversifying society, the means of criminal activity also changes and adopts wide varieties and strategies. As said earlier, any criminal activity needs a particular organisation structure and partnerships for its active endurance.
With respect to the organisation structure, there is not much difference found between any formal organisation and a criminal organisation. A criminal organisation adopts its structural and functional elements based on a formal organisational structure. Thus organised crime is a well planned, strategically enforced activity. It becomes even more complex when it involves trans- border elements. Transnational Organised Crime is an institution in itself with a wide variety of actors and structures involved.
Globalisation with a wide variety of opportunities for inter continental business flows also opened up parallel channels for inter- national crime flows. Transnational Organised Crime in response to the globalisation transcends the centralized and highly structured organisations with involvement of more diverse actors and dispersed activity. With growing opportunities short term alliances are set up that are inspired by mutuality and competition. Ruggiero (ibid) argues that these opportunities may not only involve criminal syndicates but also a variety of legitimate entrepreneurs lured by the global markets. Thus the trans-nationality of crime has increasing opportunities with globalisation. Therefore, while dealing with the criminal organisation in the globalisation era, one needs to bear in mind the diverse nature of transnational crime that has blurred the distinction between the traditional organized crime and white collar crime. Also one has to keep a track of the trajectory of the transnational crime and the changing nature of innovative methods adopted, in order to address and tackle the crime scene.