In April 1994, Raymond Kendall, then Secretary General of Interpol, stated: “Drugs trafficking is in the hands of organized crime… Interpol manages a file of 250 000 major criminals, 200 000 of them have links with drugs trafficking.”
In fact, the groups that control the bulk of the drugs production and trading are relatively few and well known. Colombian and Mexican cartels (cocaine and heroin); Triads (Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China) for the Golden Triangle heroin; Italian, Albanian and Turkish Kurdish Mafia groups for Golden Crescent heroin. Connecting the agricultural sector (controlled by guerrillas and tribal warriors) with the final distribution, controlled by urban gangs from western metropolises; these trans national criminal organizations (TCOs) are vital to world wide drugs trafficking.
During the UN conference dedicated to crime (Cairo, 29th April – 8th May 1995), we learned that each year the TCOs were handling between 26 and 43 billions of US Dollars ($) for drugs trafficking alone and were recycling half of it in the world wide economy. Today, the Mafia groups operate an amalgam of the illicit trafficking of drugs, arms and illegal immigrants. These TCOs will be even more powerful in the future as they are concentrating and strengthening their profit centers in this way.
Already in 1988, on behalf of a Presidential commission, Wharton Economic Forecasting Associates a highly renowned economic monitoring watchdog conducted an in depth study on the financial power of American organized crime. The conclusion: in the mid-eighties therefore before the formidable draught due to the end of the Cold War the annual turnover for organized crime in the United States exceeded $ 40 billions, 1.1% of the American GNP; more than the (US) iron, steel, copper and aluminum industries put together. Year after year, drugs trafficking, loan-sharking, illegal gaming, prostitution, racketeering, left the Mafia families more than $ 20 billions of profit.
These TCOs are established both in the southern megalopolises and the large metropolises of Europe, as well as in the chaotic sectors of the planet where they even dispute to the surviving States their major prerogative and the original reason for their foundation: the monopoly on organized violence. In the former Eastern Bloc, their power is such that in April 1994, the former director of the CIA, James Woolsey, told a commission of the American Senate: “The TCOs exercise an important influence on certain sectors of the Russian government” and “may compromise the process of liberalizing the economy that is underway”.
Russia is not an isolated case. On 29th December 1989, the Nikkei index at the Japanese Stock Exchange peaked at a level of 38 915. An unhealthy fever: shortly afterwards, the “financial bubble” burst. In a few months, the Nikkei lost 60% of its value and then stagnated between level 14 000 and 15 000, a sign of a severe recession. The financial bubble was inflating at the rhythm of a frenetic real estate speculation. In 1989, just the Park of the Imperial Palace situated in the very heart of Tokyo supposing that it was for sale was worth more than the whole of the Canadian real estate assets! And this speculation was criminal: in October 1994, Raisuke Miyazawa, former chief of the “organized crime” division of the Japanese National police told the New York Times: “This recession is caused by the Yakuzas. During the years when the bubble was inflating, many companies forged culpable contacts with organized crime.” 2 “Companies”? Even flagship groups as the Japanese press revealed during the month of August 1998 that Toyota, Nissan and Japan Airlines had sustained illicit connections with the Japanese underworld.
How to define organized crime?
- This rational and opportunist system easily adapts to changing environment. Its organization is hierarchical but empirical and flexible: observation of the basic rules and personal initiative are well combined. In its Mafia like form (see below) organized crime is a distant clandestine relic more a caricature of feudalism; in fact, the Mafia groups more or less observe all the feudal methods of production and control.
- Organized crime commercializes illicit goods and services (undercover games, sex, drugs, usury, “protection” etc). But above all, organized crime still uses a part of its enormous profits to influence and corrupt, in the ultimate aim of controlling:
- Economic and financial companies and institutions
- Political, judiciary and social institutions
Firstly at a local level, then regionally and finally nationally, the only known form of power of organized crime being the monopoly. Thus, during the summer of 1997 3 we learned that in the Indian sub continent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) organized crime now seriously influenced the electoral processes, intimidating the electors and corrupting the civil servants of the electoral commissions. Similarly, experts now consider that whole sectors of Burma, China, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Surinam, Turkey and the Ukraine are de facto under the influence of organized crime.
Two unique features distinguish a transnational criminal organization from a Mafia group: longevity and initiation. Italian Mafia groups, Chinese Triads, Japanese Yakuzas are secular societies whose roots go back a long way into the history of their people; during long periods of history they led a quasi symbiotic existence with the local political and economic forces. A simple organized criminal society, like a Latin American cartel, does not have the “historical” dimension of a Mafia group. Besides, they both have a different structure: the cartel in Latin America, the holding company for the Italian or American Mafia groups, the Triads or the Yakuzas. Otherwise, their activities, their adaptability, their corrupting capacity are similar.
Finally, we note that, contrary to the naive views of certain liberal economists and politicians, the heads of cartels or the major Mafia Godfathers are not capitalists without complexes or businessmen more energetic than others: the thousands of millions that they collect are not distributed between an infinity of bearers, as in the case of the capital of a multi national but are concentrated in a few hands. On our planet, no form of capital is as compact and secret as criminal capital. In the United States, the bulk of the rich pickings fall to around fifteen “capi” of the Cosa Nostra who collect three quarters of the booty. But these major criminals are above all terribly brutal. In Cali, a young woman who informed the American special services was found crucified on her door, eviscerated with a machete. We also remember the children of Japanese bankers attacked with acid by the Yakuzas, adolescents who were too talkative buried alive by the Mafia of Catania in Sicily.
A serious threat
With the help of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world’s major criminal societies have undertaken to conquer new territories and new markets. They have forged new coalitions amongst themselves; they have re structured and diversified. To such an extent that, for many experts, the Mafia can today :
- Weaken, even control certain governments,
- Cause, on certain continents, a veritable economic or even political chaos,
- Impose new drugs on the developed world.
The final characteristic of the Mafia and undoubtedly the most worrying: their quasi indestructibility. Contrary to what has been put forward (for more than a century) by politicians, eternal optimists and journalists, to, date, no Mafia has been destroyed. Let’s take the Italian Mezzogiorno where the death of the mafias has been predicted during the two last decades:
- In Sicily: the 2 000 Italian soldiers who had controlled Palermo since the summer of 1992 left in summer 1998. Judges Falcone and Borsellino seem forgotten; this anti Mafia maintaining of law and order was costing too much: $ 8,5 millions per month . The outraged 4 prosecutor of Caltanissetta declared: “We are aware of a strong desire for standardization. “However, the special police officers consider that, on the island, eight out of ten companies pay their tithe to the “Honorable society” as in 1992.
- In Naples and in Campania: in the mid-nineties, the Italian government triumphed: the Camorra was close to death. Today? “The anti Mafia police is reduced to counting the corpses.” For its part, the judiciary is saturated, over worked, asphyxiated: the region counts 1 500 000 anti Mafia trials pending, 900 000 in the civil courts, 600 000 in the criminal ones. For 1997, the number of Mafia murders is easy to remember. 365, one per day. And from January to June 1998, the war between the 180 Camorrist criminal clans has already caused fifty deaths between Naples and Caserte …
2°) Criminal cartels
The criminal cartels 5 we find in Mexico or in Colombia are not Mafia groups. They lack longevity. As even more so than for a traditional one the passage to the second generation of directors is critical for criminal companies. For example, in France, no organized group has ever passed this point, become institutionalized, enjoyed a ritual. Namely, become a long term criminal secret society like the Italian Mafia groups, the Triads or the Yakuzas. But although the Colombian or Mexican cartels are not Mafia groups, in two decades some of them have become real criminal multinationals, controlling each stage of the drugs business and thus accumulating profits at each point. These formidable machines for generating illegal profits now constitute empires whose financial means, systems of transport, intelligence and communication are more important and sophisticated than those of many Nation States.
This is borne out by the real “continental drugs systems” implanted in Latin America by these cartels, where each country has its place :
- Production, agriculture of coca: Peru, Bolivia, Colombia.
- Processing/chemistry: Amazonia, Panama, Colombia.
- Laundering/finances: Chile, Uruguay etc.
- Colombia, May 1997. In a shed to the west of Bogota, the police discovered an ultramodern telecommunications center containing $ 8,5 million worth of hi tech equipment. This center, which was set up by the drugs trafficker Efraïn Hernandez “Don Efra” who was assassinated in 1996, allowed all the cartels to have shared use of satellite contact with their air or maritime fleets (at sea or in the air) as well as with their representatives throughout the world.
- In 1996, the Colombian police found a computer in the possession of a director of the Cali cartel which contained ail the telephone numbers of the United States Embassy in Bogota, as well as the personal numbers of diplomats and employees attached to it. The spy computer was connected to the telephone lines of the cartel’s leaders and immediately detected American “moles”.
- In February 1995, still in Cali, the Colombian police seized a Boeing 727 (triple engine, 120 seats) large enough to carry 12 tons of cocaine in rotation as far as the Mexican border with the United States. The owner of the aircraft, the company Aerolineas americanas, was a member of the Cali cartel…
These examples demonstrate the sophistication of these multinationals that specialize in drugs trafficking and were christened “cartels” by the American judiciary at the end of the nineteen seventies. But above ai[, these trans national criminal entities have an extraordinary capacity for mutation. And their leaders did not take long to transform the highly visible “gas factories” designed in the nineteen seventies by Pablo Escobar and company into coalitions of small and medium sized criminal enterprises deep in the countryside.
A revolution begun around 1988 Men the “Medellin cartel”, formed around 1978 in order to produce, transport and sell cocaine wholesale was hit by the recession. Pablo Escobar Gaviria, Carlos Lehder Rivas, Gonzalo Rodriguez and the brothers Ochoa Vasquez wanted this first “narco multi national” to be vertical, hierarchical, militarized. A mega structure incorporating one hundred different “jobs” in Medellin “cocalero”, sales teams in the American metropolises, chemists and trans continental couriers.
The megalomaniac concept of the “cartel” was established by individuals who were untouchable at the time and without rivals but is ill adapted to the 21st century : competition and repression. Medellin and Cali therefore adopted a structure that was flexible, water tight and close to the ground.
Firstly, there was a change of image: the end of the ostentatious loud drug dealer look, the “cocaine cowboy” in the Escobar style with a collection of ranches and villas to outshine the stars of Hollywood, armored 4X4 Toyota, Rolex studded with diamonds and gold plated colt 45 at the belt. Also the end of convoys of bodyguards and parties given for 500 friends in night clubs hired for the night. The newlook drugs dealer dresses soberly; he travels by taxi and knows how to be forgotten. He has also understood the source of his greatest worries: cellular telephones and pagers have been dumped; everything goes through messengers, which definitely takes longer but is more discreet. The neo drugs dealer has finally understood that repeated murders were disruptive even in Colombia. For the cost of the effort of reasoning, he has become less murderous and more a corrupt influence.
Finally, the management. The end of the gas-factory cartel, making way for the spider’s web of SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises] operating in a network. At the center of the web, a control-tower deals with multiple small enterprises, coca plantations, cocaine production laboratories, export and marketing units. The basic SMEs are independent and sell their products or services to the control-tower cartel; they either belong to the latter or are in partnership with it. From a distance the new look “cartel” is the interface of the miscellaneous components of the system and provides protection and information for the “Grouping of economic interest”. Thus adapted the Colombian government puts on a show of taking these changes in “management” as disappearances the structure has no problem in surviving the removal of a Pablo Escobar or a Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, owner of the Cali cartel.
Today, there are approximately forty of these “coke SMEs” in Colombia. Each of them contains a hard core of fifteen to twenty associates; mostly young businessmen, hidden behind a scaffolding of legitimate SMEs and very much at ease in the hi tech world of the Internet and coded communications. So where are these “narco SMEs” established? Idiotically (twenty two out of forty three, according to the Colombian special services)… in Medellin.
A decentralized cartel always perfectly “maintains” the sale of cocaine or heroine at the kilo level. At this point of control, the 400 tons of cocaine undoubtedly sold to the United States in 1997 have earned $ 5 billions for the newlook cartels… Plus the promising new markets explored in recent years: Russia, South Africa, Japan.
A recent discovery of the newlook cartels: “black cocaine” (cocaine plus ground coal and iron filings) which fools the sniffer dogs as in service drugs detection tests. Transported as “fertilizer” or “pigment”, “black cocaine” become consumable again following a simple acetone bath…
However, the underground circuits established by the newlook cartels are “multifunctional” and allow real pipe lines of illegal immigrants, cocaine, heroine and “black” Dollars to be circulated.
- ln the South North direction, illegal emigrants (used as “couriers”) and drugs.
- In the opposite way, money to be laundered, arms, hi tech (communication) equipment etc.
- Finally, in developed countries, the feminine element of illegal immigration provides an abundant and docile spawning ground for prostitution a convenient source of immediate financing without great risk.
The Chinese Triads, the Jamaican, Dominican and Nigerian gangs have adopted this ingenious and profitable “model”. At the beginning of the twenty first century, such trans continental “multi functional” networks are a major concern for the Western police forces.
Finally, the leaders of these cartels sometimes have a sardonic sense of humor. In July 1998, the New York Daily News revealed that a new “brand” of ultra pure Colombian heroine had appeared in town. On the sachets, a drawing of the very tough New York judge Leslie Crocker Snyder, the terror of the dealers. The brand’s name is “twenty five to life” …
3°) “Gangsterrorists” : hybrids, mutants, etc. (“political” and “common” criminality)
Naples, the end of November 1994: 820 delegates from 136 countries, forty one Justice Ministers and twenty three Interior Ministers, thirty non governmental organizations and Boutros-Boutros Ghali, the UN Secretary General, are unanimous in denouncing a peril that through force of being under estimated has become a burning issue: major organized crime. April 1995, the 9th UN World Congress “on the prevention of crime and the treatment of delinquents” is being held in Cairo. Beneath this euphemistic title is a dramatic reality. For ten days, the delegates from 180 States, notably the Justice and Interior Ministers express the same cry of alarm.
What do they say? The world of crime has changed. It even has nothing in common with yesterdays world. As, today, due to immeasurable consequences, two criminal scenes that yesterday were perfectly distinct “political” on the one hand, Mafioso on the other have amalgamated into a single one. The abolition of the bi polar world order has caused more than walls to crumble, which, in Berlin and elsewhere, rendered impassable the frontiers of the former Eastern Bloc. Other, psychological, obstacles have disappeared. The binary representations of yesterday’s world West against East and political against criminal no longer make sense. The players in the “political” (guerrillas, militias, national liberation movements, terrorist groups) and “common” (organized crime, Mafia groups, cartels) arenas which yesterday were evolving in distinct worlds suddenly found themselves on the same stage sentenced to brusque mutation or disappearance.
This brutal evolution mainly took place throughout the nineteen eighties and nineties but the large international conferences of 1994 1995 revealed these hybrid entities half way between terrorism and gangsterism: degenerate guerrillas first of all and also those entities for which the media coined the phrase “gangsterrorists”.
- March 1993, in India: a wave of attacks, unprecedented in the history of terrorism, ravaged Bombay, the country’s economic capital. On 12tt’ March at 13.30 hours, thirteen booby trapped cars, motorcycles and suitcases, operated by state of the art electronic remote control systems, exploded simultaneously at the Stock Exchange, the headquarters of Air India, in large hotels and in the business district. There were 317 deaths and more than 1 200 injured. Shortly afterwards, the investigation led to the discovery of more than four tons of C4 a plastic explosive, several thousand electronic detonators, 500 grenades and hundreds of Kalashnikov assault rifles in various caches in the city. Again in April, twenty five rockets and thirty two very powerful home made bombs were found in the Bombay suburbs.
Armed groups abound in the region: Sikhs fighting for a “free Khalistan”, Kashmiri Mujahideen, Sri Lankan “Tigers” of Eelam Tamil. Which of them organized this terrorist maelstrom which as we said was at this time without precedent? If not them, which other known terrorist network disposes of these colossal reserves of arms and explosives? None. The perpetrators of the carnage were simple gangsters, obeying Dawood Ibrahim, a “godfather” of the Bombay underworld, himself a refugee in Dubai for several years.
Is this an exotic trend, with no influence at all in Europe? Quite the opposite. In France itself, a first “gangsterrorist” group operated simultaneously in Nice. In fact, the investigation into the wave of attacks that shook this city in January 1993 closed two months later with the arrest of twenty local gangsters. The bombings, seven in total, targeted businesses and the chambers of a barrister, two rockets were also fired on a local prison and there was an arson attack on police warehouses. At the time, a “political” terrorist group, the “Corsican Revolutionary Armed Front” claimed responsibility for these actions. But for the Nice police, the guilty party was Jean Claude Oliveiro 6 , an “ambitious and violent” local gangster. And the campaign of attacks was in reality just an episode in the war of succession of Sébastien Bonventre, a Nice gang leader assassinated in 1989. To impose its law on Nice, the Oliveiro gang first of all traditionally eliminated its rivals: four murders between September and October 1992. The settling of accounts was insufficient, Oliveiro then resorted to the supreme weapon of this end of century: terrorism.
Since then, the gangsterrorist reality has imposed itself via several other spectacular cases.
- In Corsica: in January 1997, the chief prosecutor at the Bastia Court of Appeal announced that there had been 574 bomb attacks on the Island in 1996, 148 of which were “political” (602 in 1995, 154 of which were “political”). Now’ said the magistrate, “political” or otherwise, the bombings are the doing of the same individuals whose activities appear to be 25% terrorism and 75% plain gangsterism.
- In Roubaix: between the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996, the north of France witnessed several bloody, messy “hold ups” showing a great amateurism. The investigations revealed that those guilty of these armed robberies were young Frenchmen who had converted to Islam. In conjunction with re Islamisized “French born North Africans”. They thus financed the Islamist cause, more specifically the Bosnian “Jihad”. In fact, the mentors of the Roubaix “gangsterrorists” were some extremist Bosnian Imams close to the Egyptian Jama’a islamiya. In March 1997, two members of the group, Lionel Dumont and Mouloud Boughelane, were arrested in Zenica, in Bosnia itself, for a series of local hold ups between November 1996 and February 1997.
French officials and journalists greatly hesitated before acknowledging the real origin of these “gangsterrorists” action : Islamist fanaticism. In february 1996, a newspaper spoke of the “bandits of the North”, whilst in April 1997, a newsmagazine remained evasive: “For certain police and magistrates, the series of hold ups in the North and the shooting in Roubaix would be the work of gangsters. But, in the rubble of the criminals’house, the investigators found important clues leading to a terrorist trail.” In both cases, there was a difficulty in accepting new concepts, in understanding that it really was a question of hybrids by construction, of mutants being simultaneously terrorists and crooks.
- The United States. April 1997, Bridgeport, Texas: police arrested four individuals (an unemployed person, a tattooist and his wife, an apprentice plumber), unknown to the regional security services, although vaguely affiliated to the Ku Klux Klan. They were denounced by a stooge whilst preparing to blow up the municipal gas works. ln the panic caused by the escape of fatal gasses, they would have attacked a bank. There was a real risk that this affair would finish with hundreds of deaths.
1 The new war. the web of crime that threatens America’s security, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1997.
2 Christopher Seymour, Yakuza diary, doing time in the Japanese underworld, New York, The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996. See also Murray Sayle, The social contradictions of Japanese capitalism, The Atlantic Monthly, June 1998. During the summer of 1998, experts estimated that the “bad loans” of the Japanese banks amounted to 1 000 thousand million Dollars; an unknown but significant part of these loans comes from criminal extortion and directly benefited the Yakuzas.
2 A highly documented investigation of the daily newspaper Ittefaq in Dacca, Bangladesh, published at the beginning of June 1997.
2 See “La pax mafiosa”, Courrier international, 11/6/1998.
2 In its traditional sense, a cartel is a group of companies combining all the phases of a given economic activity, from production to distribution via all the processing stages.
2 Jean-Claude Oliveiro was assassinated in Nice on july 16th, 1997. Whilst stopped in his car at a traffic light, he was riddled with 9 mm. parabellum bullets by two motorcycle assassins who subsequently disappeared.