Global Gangs Rake in $870 Billion a Year

By Dialogo
July 26, 2013

Police find it hard to compete with international crime syndicates who rake in $870 billion a year via activities from drug trading and human trafficking to identity theft, Yury Fedotov, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told AFP in an interview on July 24.

If crime syndicates were classed as an industry, their collective clout would rank them among the world’s top economic players.

Crisis-era cuts have widened a longstanding financial gulf between criminal gangs and those who fight them, Fedotov said.

“Gangs are better funded than any law enforcement institution. That is clear, and especially if we compare the huge amount of illicit revenues with limited budgets of many law enforcement institutions,” he said.

But funding is just part of the problem, Fedotov explained, as law enforcement agencies struggle to keep up with shape-shifting networks that move faster than the traditionalist mafias of the past.

“Contemporary organized crime is also sophisticated and highly adaptive,” Fedotov said. “We should be more flexible, and not only follow the flow, but also prevent and anticipate developments in terms of organized crime,” he added.

Cybercrime is a major growth area, he explained, given that around one third of the world’s population now has active access to the Internet.

The annual proceeds of online identity theft alone are estimated at $16 billion, he noted, though that is still outstripped by $20 billion generated by trafficking in endangered species.

In the narcotics trade, meanwhile, concerns focus on the rising number of designer drugs.