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Research Report

The new criminal powers: The spread of illicit links to politics across the world and how it can be tackled

Ivan Briscoe
Pamela Kalkman
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2016
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 44

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)
  4. (pp. 2-2)
  5. (pp. 3-4)
  6. (pp. 5-8)

    Anxiety over the sway exerted by organized crime has rarely been as widely or acutely felt. In a number of countries that may be considered weakly governed, or undergoing erratic transitions to democracy, the issue of organized criminal influence on public affairs is so serious and entrenched that it appears to be no longer responsive to treatment through the traditional methods: law enforcement, anti-corruption campaigns, or institutional purges and reform. Instead, in the cases of Ukraine or Mexico, as well as many of the world’s more fragile states, serious organized crime has become not so much an illegal profit-making activity...

  7. (pp. 9-14)

    The seepage of organized criminal activity into the political affairs of low-income and fragile countries raises a set of issues that require urgent consideration. Until quite recently, the profit-making criminal activities carried out by governments rarely preoccupied the international community, and were treated far more leniently that the atrocities or human rights violations carried out by states and their associated militias. However, recent wars in Afghanistan and Mali, or cases of criminalized states in Guatemala and Guinea-Bissau, have pointed towards a change in this approach, and a much firmer commitment to international support for law enforcement, above all when the...

  8. (pp. 15-19)

    Even as serious state-level crime and the perceptions of it endanger the stability of imperfect democratic regimes or failing autocracies, the means to address this predicament with national resources or international support appear more elusive than ever.

    As mentioned above, the concept of organized crime, which is itself a contested term with multiple rival definitions, is ill-suited to capturing the mercurial, opportunistic arrangements that bring together high-level officials, private sector actors and low-level operatives in criminal endeavours.29 On many occasions, as in the case of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s manipulation of the judicial system, the levers through which criminal activity...

  9. (pp. 20-29)

    For the moment, the fight against organized crime would appear to be at an impasse, hemmed in by the embedded nature of illicit activity in communities and states. In order to begin sketching a more effective and comprehensive set of policies to address the global presence of crime and corruption, and its impact within nations and regions, we must begin by understanding why organized criminal activity has evolved in such a way that is has become entrenched in communities and state systems, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected states; and, on this basis, explain its evolution into a recurrent feature of...

  10. (pp. 30-34)

    For the reasons cited earlier, most notably the embedding of crime in certain societies and states (particularly those that can be considered fragile or conflict-affected states), the paucity and weakness of international instruments of control and regulation, and the counter-productive nature of certain interventions against transnational trafficking, public policies have so far made little progress in reducing the power and wealth of transnational illicit networks. As a result, the regulations in place have failed to address the ways in which ever more complex and business-like criminal networks are making use of the global financial and political system.

    The overarching focus...

  11. (pp. 35-40)