Globalisation, Global Criminal Networks and Crime

Last Updated on June 1, 2017 by


Anthony Giddens (1990) defines globalisation as ‘the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped be events occurring many miles away and vice versa.

David Held (1992) sees globalisation in terms of the greater interconnectedness of social life and social relationships throughout the world.

As a result of globalisation, what happens in one part of the world can quickly affect other parts of the world.

The globalisation of crime

One of the downsides of the increasing interconnectedness between societies is the increase in global crime – Manuel Castells (1998) argues that there is now a global criminal economy worth over one trillion per annum. Four of the major forms of global crime which he recognises include:

1. The drugs trade
2. People Trafficking
3. Cyber crimes
4. International Terrorism

Global Criminal Networks and The Global Criminal Economy

Global Criminal networks involve complex interconnections between a range of criminal networks which transcend national boundaries including the American Mafia, Columbian drug cartels, the Russian Mafia, Chinese Triads and the Sicilian Costa Nostra.
Global criminal networks have developed because of the growth of an information age in which knowledge as well as goods and people can move quickly and easily across national boundaries.
According to Misha Glenny (see below) these networks form a global criminal economy which accounts for 15% of global trade – (Misha Glenny, (2008) McMafia: Crime without Frontiers). In order of importance (in economic terms) the main crimes organised criminal gangs engage in are:

• Drug trafficking estimated – 8 % of world trade
• Money laundering estimated 2 – 5 % of global GDP.
• 4 – 5 million people trafficked each year = profits of up to US$9.5 billion

In addition these criminal networks also trade in weapons, pharmaceuticals, nuclear materials, body parts, metals, precious stones / natural resources, stolen cars, art, antiques, rare animals and counterfeit goods; they Provide and control illicit services, most notably, gambling and prostitution, they engage in cybercrime, robbery, kidnapping, extortion, corruption,and piracy, and finally there is also terrorism.

Misha Glenny: The role of organised Crime in Ex-Communist Countries

Glenny suggests that organised criminal gangs are especially important in facilitating the trade in illegal goods and service. Organised criminal gangs (basically the Mafia) have become especially influential in those areas of the world where there is weak rule of law (i.e. failed and transitional states), distrust of the state (i.e. Italy, and Mexico), Inaccessible terrain (i.e. Peru and Colombia), high levels of corruption, and easy access to weapons and access to Transnational networks.

One of the most significant criminal networks which impacts Europe operates from Bulgaria – a country which is a ‘Hub’ between the rich and poor parts of the world, and where the Mafia have held considerable power since the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s. Most of the drugs people take in the UK and many of the prostitutes British men sleep with have been shipped by the Bulgarian Mafia.
Evaluation of Glenny

Dick Hobbs and Colin Dunningham their 1990s ethnographic study examined how organised crime has expanded on the back of globalisation. They suggest that criminal organisations like the Mafia are not dominant, but most global crime operates through a glocal system – that is, there’s a global distribution network built from local connections. For example local growers of cannabis, deliver their product to a supply-chain feeding a global network of users. For example Columbian drug barons use glocal systems to deliver their product to the world.

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