Deviant Globalization, the new criminal markets of the modern world

Globalization, like most things, is neither purely good nor purely bad, but contains elements of both.  Globalization allowed for increased trade and financial freedom, but companies and states are not the only groups that have benefited.  Organized crime has managed to take advantage of the new markets provided by globalization, and have spread their activities worldwide.

Before globalization crime was mostly a local phenomenon.  Criminal groups stayed in their own countries and regions, and it was easier for law enforcement to keep track of the groups.  After globalization criminal groups have started operating in a manner similar to multi-national corporations.  In some cases, the criminal activity is directly enabled by multi-national companies, as in the case of China.  One of the major reasons that China has become the world’s largest source of counterfeits is because major brands have moved their factories to China to take advantage of cheap labor markets.  Many factories in China produce legitimate goods during the day for foreign companies, but at night or on the weekend produce the same goods illegally, and often using poorer quality materials.  This activity is not only limited to things like clothing, but has spread to medicine, with an alarmingly high percentage of medicine in Africa, China, and South East Asia being convincing looking fakes.

Another tragic example of deviant globalization can be found in former Soviet States such as Bulgaria, where smuggling women into prostitution has become a big business.  There is a large market for prostitution in Western European countries like Germany, so the Eastern Europeans were able to take advantage of the openness of travel in the EU to smuggle women into a large market.  It is not only women that are being sold; there is also the problem of arms sales.  One particularly trouble area is the Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria.  The country is run as a mafia state with a specialty in selling weapons left over from the Soviet Union, and has found many clients from conflict prone regions like the Middle East and Africa.

Organized crime groups have also managed to take advantage of financial globalization.  One prime example is Mexican drug gangs were able to launder billions of dollars through the American bank, Wachovia.  Unfortunately, banks working with criminals are not a new phenomenon; one of the most flagrant examples comes from the now defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International.  The bank famously worked with dictators such as Saddam Hussien and Manuel Noregia, as well as criminal groups like the Medellin Cartel.  The bank was not merely working with criminals, but actively soliciting their business.

Globalization is not a small thing, it cannot be micromanaged.  The channels opened by increased communication, financial openness and easy transportation do not discriminate based on positive motives.  Organized crime is first and foremost a business, so it should be no surprise that the illicit market mirrors the legitimate one.  It is probably the case that the benefits of globalization outweigh the risks, but these risks should not be ignored or diminished.



About Leon Whyte

I'm a recent graduate of the Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy. My interests include Pacific Asia and Security. I am looking for related opportunities.
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