Just how organised is organised crime? Think of it as the world’s largest and most illicit social network. Modern organised crime has, for the most part, done away with the kinds of hierarchical structures the Mafia once favoured — capos, dons, lieutenants — and has embraced local, just-in- time, ad hoc networking to solve problems or exploit opportunities. Transnational organised crime — co-operation between criminal groups in various nations — is estimated to be a £1.2 trillion industry, larger than the economy of Spain. Its constant cycling of drugs, people and counterfeit merchandise represents a shadow market that spans five continents.
The Mafia, the Cosa Nostra, the Yakuza, Mexican cartels – the underworld is ruled by a complex network of criminal groups. Here’s how they fit together…
1. MEXICAN CARTELS
The Tijuana, Juarez, Pacific and Gulf cartels bring Colombian cocaine north. Currently engaged in an all-out war with the Mexican government.
2. NORTE DEL VALLE
Once Colombia’s leading drugs cartel. Has now been mostly dismantled — cocaine is smuggled by smaller organisations.
3. COSA NOSTRA
US group still tied to its Italian-Mafia antecedents. Involved in extortion, money laundering, cybercrime and smuggling.
4. NIGERIAN ORGANISED CRIME
Inventors of the 419 bank scam. Nigerian workers in south Asia give the mob street-level access to 90 per cent of the world’s heroin.
5. ITALIAN MAFIA
The mob against which all others are judged. Today it’s whacking fewer people but is still laundering money and smuggling heroin and arms.
6. ALBANIAN MOB
Criminals across this region comprise one of the world’s largest organised-crime groups. Provides drugs, arms, sex workers and cigarettes globally.
7. RUSSIAN MAFIA
Career criminals who cosied up to government officials after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Eastern Europe has become a hub for human trafficking.
8. ISRAELI MAFIA
Nonhierarchical and egalitarian, the group includes Arabs and, increasingly, Russians. One of the world’s largest ecstasy traffickers.
9. RED WA
Originally part of the Burmese Community Party’s military. Now produces and exports methamphetamine and heroin on the Myanmar-Thailand border.
10. JAO PHO
Primarily ethnic Chinese in Thailand. Uses legitimate businesses as fronts for crime and infiltration of the police, military and government.
11. CAMBODIAN ORGANISED CRIME
The authorities are reluctant to crack down on trafficking abuses in this group’s sex industry because it attracts tourists.
With tens of thousands of members, these Hong Kong-based gangs are active in loan sharking, car theft, protection rackets and other criminal enterprises.
Taiwanese gangsters get more done when they infiltrate business or politics. A third of the government’s officials are current or former members.
14. FILIPINO ORGANISED CRIME
Many women who apply for entertainer visas to leave the unstable Philippines are smuggled into prostitution rings.
Historically low-caste Japanese pedlars, the Yakuza bills itself as the protector of ordinary people. Today it may comprise up to ten per cent ethnic Koreans.