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Transnational organized crime

Transnational organized crime (TOC or transnational crime) is organized crime coordinated across national borders, involving groups or networks of individuals working in more than one country to plan and execute illegal business ventures.[1] In order to achieve their goals, these criminal groups utilize systematic violence and corruption. The most commonly seen transnational organized crimes are money laundering; human smuggling; cyber crime; and trafficking of humans, drugs, weapons, endangered species, body parts, or nuclear material.


Transnational organized crime is widely opposed on the basis of a number of negative effects. It can undermine democracy, disrupt free markets, drain national assets, and inhibit the development of stable societies. In doing so, it has been argued, national and international criminal groups threaten the security of all nations. The victims of these transnational crime networks are governments that are unstable or not powerful enough to prevent them, with the networks conducting illegal activities that provide them with immeasurable[tone] profits. Transnational organized crimes interrupt peace and stability of nations worldwide, often using bribery, violence, or terror to meet their needs.


United Nations

Transnational organized crime is one of the ten threats and challenges to international peace and security identified by the United Nations' High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

The UN has taken a stand against this threat with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which has been adopted to fight against transnational organized crime, with the recognition of UN Member States that this is a serious and growing problem that can only be solved through close international cooperation, since November 2000. The Ad Hoc Committee was established by the United Nations General Assembly to deal with this problem by taking a series of measures against transnational organized crime. These include the creation of domestic criminal offences to combat the problem, and the adoption of new, sweeping frameworks for mutual legal assistance, extradition, law-enforcement cooperation, and technical assistance and training.

A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime highlighted that Southeast Asia produced an estimated 48 tons of heroin in 2011. The vast majority of this cultivation – roughly twice that of Afghanistan, which arguably receives much greater attention – has occurred in the fragile state of Myanmar. The UN report estimated that the revenue generated from this trade to be worth $16.3 billion during the same period.

The revenues generated from such trafficking often lie at the root of instability and violence in the region. Additionally, the same routes used to smuggle drugs will likely be used to transport weapons and militants in the event that the current conflict expands. Reconciling the numerous armed ethnic groups that exist within Myanmar continues to be a challenge for the nascent government. A strong drug trade will only complicate negotiations between government officials and these groups.

Transnational crime should be dealt with by local and regional policing.

United States

The White House published a strategy to combat transnational organized crime in 2011,[2] in which transnational organized crime is defined as:

those self-perpetuating associations of individuals who operate transnationally for the purpose of obtaining power, influence, monetary and/or commercial gains, wholly or in part by illegal means, while protecting their activities through a pattern of corruption and/or violence, or while protecting their illegal activities through a transnational organizational structure and the exploitation of transnational commerce or communication mechanisms.[3]

The strength and sophistication of a task force's capabilities will be stronger than any single agency's if the task force is multijurisdictional, combining investigative resources from several agencies.[4] The key element in finding out possible links between local crimes and crimes with transnational component is collaboration among law enforcement agencies. To illustrate further, Operation Trifecta, a 19-month transnational investigation led by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, involved 9 Federal agencies and 67 State and local law enforcement agencies from 8 States. In 2003, it led to the arrests of some 240 individuals charged with transnational drug trafficking.

Transnational organized crimes often occur on local streets. State and local agencies should put effort in trying to discover patterns or characteristics of transnational crimes.[citation needed] If there are any incidents of offenders in overseas contacts, association of foreign nationals, false documents, and trafficking of large amount of money.[clarification needed]

Both state and local law enforcement agencies should be aware of how advanced the means of communications are in the 21st century to facilitate transnational organized crimes.[citation needed] It is essential that these agencies become more familiar with the devices that are involved in transnational crimes as illicit communications. Criminals can communicate across international boundaries very fast; thus, law enforcement agencies ought to keep alert and improve their ability to share intelligence without having any limits.[5]

Law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation are employed by nation-states to counteract international organized crime. Serious international crime—such as crimes against humanity—may be investigated by the International Criminal Court, but that Court does not have the power to take suspects into custody, instead relying on the support of law enforcement and military force in relevant countries.

Louise I. Shelley (Director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University) has said:

Transnational crime will be a defining issue of the 21st century for policymakers - as defining as the Cold War was for the 20th century and colonialism was for the 19th. Terrorists and transnational crime groups will proliferate because these crime groups are major beneficiaries of globalization. They take advantage of increased travel, trade, rapid money movements, telecommunications and computer links, and are well positioned for growth.[6]

It is said[by whom?] that policing objectives in the United States must extend beyond national borders to seek out and target this type of crime. Only through international collaboration and information exchange can the United States develop effective protocol and policies for countering these crimes and mount a serious opposition.


Yuriy A. Voronin (Professor of Criminal Law at Urals State Law Academy, Ekaterinburg, Russia) has said: "Transnational criminal rings are becoming more and more powerful and universal, and their mobility is growing. The means and resources of any state are not enough to seriously harm them."[7]


Although the organization Interpol exists to coordinate intelligence efforts between national law enforcement agencies, it is not an international police force, and indeed no such international law enforcement body with universal jurisdiction exists.


External links

The U.S. Military and Undercurrents in Asia-Pacific Security