Defining an organized crime has long been a source of controversy and contention. This was probably because of the differences in the way that different persons and countries approach various aspects of a problem. Nevertheless, there has often been a need for an unequivocal issue due to a cross-border character that this form of the crime has assumed. It could make the co-operation among different countries easier. It is vital for the understanding of the organized crime issue to decide whether or not a certain category of crime should be determined as an “organized crime”. Then decide how to delineate that category (Beare, 1996). Finally, it is important to decide how resources should be allocated and assess how effectively they have been used in preventing and controlling them (Maltz, 1990).
Ways of Doing Crimes
The important feature of the term “organized crime” is that it displays the ways of doing crimes, not an exact kind of criminal (Beare, 1996). This is the reason why a good definition of the organized crime should grasp the essential aspects of the “process” whereby certain criminals carry out a criminal activity, increasingly within a transnational arena. This “process” is what adds to the level of danger and a social threat. In the following, some definitions are outlined. They correspond to different purposes and, therefore, focus on different characteristics of the organized crime.
At the international level, numerous approaches have been taken to the need for defining the organized crime. The approaches correspond to different perceptions of what the organized crime means and to different purposes to which the definition could be put. The part of the problem for the international community in trying to deal with organized transnational criminal groups is that there is no single organization or any behavioral paradigm providing a constant and accessible frame of the reference. Criminal organizations vary in their size, scale, geographical scope and relationship with some power structures at home and host states, internal organizations and structures. These are the combination of instruments that they use to avoid the law enforcement and to pursue their criminal enterprises, and the range of their legal and illegal activities. Many transnational criminal organizations resemble some major multinational corporations. They often have a similar managerial hierarchy. At the same time, they maintain a flexible structure, which enables them to relocate funds or to react quickly to some law enforcement efforts or new opportunities for making the illicit profits.
Restructuring of Criminal Enterprises
A recently distinct trend noted in the organized crime is the restructuring of criminal enterprises in response to changes in world markets and their regulation. The technological development and the new opportunities provided by the globalization of financial markets and communications are the key factors in understanding the development of some organized crime groups. In order to exploit these new opportunities, criminals must acquire a much higher level of expertise. Thus, only professionals (Mintzberg) often possess this. As a consequence, criminal organizations are increasingly recruiting professionals with specific skills so that they can infiltrate the new markets and earn greater profits.
The Fraud Against the Interests of the European Union
The fraud against the interests of the European Union and money laundering are the good examples of this trend. Money laundering often involves banking and financial institutions, as well as some legitimate enterprises in which the illicit money is being invested. When the laundering of money is a main task of any organization, which undertakes a series of fraudulent activities, i.e. as the counterfeiting of invoices and the corruption of bank employees, it frequently relies on the advice of professionals and consultants. Moreover, organized criminal groups need some professionals not only as external consultants but also as the full members of a group. Since such professionals are more and more essential for risk management and money laundering activities, this full membership strengthens their loyalty to the group. Achieving the most profitable balance between opportunities and the risk of law enforcement, in fact, requires criminal managers to be able to combine ruthlessness and violence with the complex skills managing the corruption requirements.
It can be shown that the offences committed by organized criminal groups are growing increasingly interdependently, constituting a sort of illegal chain in which the organizational structure links them together. The vertical interdependence among crimes arises when, in order to perpetrate a final crime, one or more intermediate and instrumental offences are being committed by the same criminal organization. In other words, in order to finalize the crime of the particular importance, organized criminals utilize a chain of offences. This interdependence among crimes is often a manifestation of the progressive specialization of criminal organizations.
Numerous examples of the vertical interdependency can be cited. For instance, as far as the fraud, corruption and money laundering are being concerned, the analysis of criminal schemes and the inspection of the modus operandi of criminals show these three crimes. They are often functionally related, in that one of them is an end-result of the criminal scheme and the other two are intermediate steps towards it. The analysis of cases in which the fraud against the European budget is a final goal often reveals the corruption of customs personnel and public employees of the European Commission or of member states. The proceeds of such fraud are often laundered in order to conceal the criminal origins and to avert the risk, if the fraud is being discovered, and the sum recovered. Since this activity often involves banking and financial institutions, as well as some legitimate enterprises in which the illicit money is being invested, fraud and corruption are the most frequent means used to achieve this goal.
The Participation in Organized Criminal Associations
A recent trend that has substantially modified the criminal legislation is “The participation in Organized Criminal Associations”. In many countries, it corresponds to the crime of a “conspiracy”. The conspiracy is the formation of two or more persons combined on a continuing basis for the purpose of committing an indefinite number of some unlawful or criminal acts through the common use of all necessary means to pursue a criminal course of action. To be found guilty of the criminal conspiracy, a defendant must be permanently aware of his/her membership of that conspiracy. She or he must be constantly ready to implement the pre-established plans. Owing to the characteristics of the mafia culture, conspiracy has always been difficult to prove at trial. In view of these difficulties, in 1982, Italy enacted a law punishing a new offence. Three kinds of association crime are envisaged in Italy. They are used to counteract in the organized crime and its entrepreneurial dimension. Two of them are being closely interrelated, i.e. the common association crime and the drug-trafficking association crime. The third offence is more specific. It is known as a mafia-type association crime. The association is the mafia-type when its members systematically exploit the situation of environmental intimidation. It also means the widespread condition of duress deriving there from, not only in order to commit crimes but also to acquire the control of economic activities or at any rate to gain unlawful advantages.
One of the most efficient means to dismantle criminal enterprises is to attack their capital assets, as emphasized by the recommendations of the 1994-year United Nations’ Ministerial Conference in Naples. Some countries, principally those that had first experienced the problems with the organized crime, introduced some measures for this purpose many years ago. Their example has been followed. It should continue to be so in future by other nations now lagging behind in the fight against the organized crime.