Corruption as a widely named term has no universal definition however it can be described as a dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power or an abuse of entrusted power for private gains. Widely spread in developing countries, it wires the propagation of organised criminal groups, enabling its activities and illicit operations and this occurs in developing countries with weak governance and state institutions. Organised criminal groups penetrate political, economic and social levels all over the world using all forms of corruption as well as avoiding investigation and escape prosecution. Invariably, corruption becomes rooted in the society when instrumentalised by organised crime.
Various definitions have been given by different scholars, institutions, legislations and academic bodies about the definition of organised crime however, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime defines it as “structured groups committing serious crime for profit”. Pertinent characteristics to note amongst various definitions of organised crime include:
- They are subjected to rules and codes of secrecy.
- They use tactical and strategic or long-term planning to reach their goals.
- They use legal businesses as fronts for illegal activities.
- They engage in money laundering.
- They engage in more than one illicit activity (diversity in business).
In the face of an economic downturn, an increasing number of business entities turn to the shadow economy for capitalisation. Over time, various organised criminal groups have grown through their activities and used various means to gain their grounds in the society. Corruption was the major factor through which they established themselves.
Organised Crime in Russia
Organised criminal groups grew in the society through criminal sources such as drugs and weapons, but Russia flourished beyond this as it exercised its power over all the economy. The period of transition from a state-owned economy to a market economy created an environment conducive for the expansion of organised crime and provided numerous opportunities for the misuse of public power. Its privatization sector turned the country’s assets to criminals because the investors who participated in privatization were from the shadow economy. 70-80% of private and commercial firms were forced to pay criminal groups and corrupt officials.
In the Russian government, there was little or no difference between crime and politics as they were often intertwined. Organised criminal groups often influenced police and custom organizations, military establishments and financial institutions and spread to the highest levels of government.
Larger criminal groups were eager to transform their wealth into political influence because they had the resources to finance a candidate in election at both local and national levels which resulted in the election of more authoritarian governments.
Furthermore, the Russian criminal group thrived and flourished as a result of numerous other flaws of the Russian government .
They had the power to infiltrate the various ministries as well as the courts. This occurred as a result of corrupt government officials and the financial gains they received from the activities of the group.
Organised crime flourished because they provided a certain kind of stability to the economy. They contributed to the infrastructure of the community and payment for the construction of hospitals and schools as a means of insurance against co-operation of community members with law enforcement.
They have superseded many functions of the state and represented the fully functioning social institution of the economy. Organized crime provides many of the services the citizens expect from the state.
The judicial statutes needed to fight organised crime such as banking laws, regulation of securities market and specific measures as law against corruption have been hindered by corrupt legislators and a reliable and effective system for combating organised crime and corruption can only be built upon a solid legal and regulatory foundation.
Organised Crime in the Balkans
Organised crime in the Balkans which is dated back to the wars in the former Yusgoslav, began developing and has grown over the years to become a part of the state. Geographically situated, various other factors contributed to the expansion of organised crime; Historical, economic, political and social factors is a contributory evidence to its growth . Centrally situated between Asia and Europe, dealers in drugs created a channel through which it will be smuggled.
Surrounded by different states such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo organised crime has grown to be known as a legal business in the state. Smuggling of all sorts became the order of the day through which organised crime flourished. Albania was known for the smuggling of cocaine and cannabis, Bosnia and Herzegovina smuggled migrants, drugs and money, Serbia was known for trafficking and repackaging of cigarette, also known as “a hub for cigarette trafficking and repackaging”, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo were also known for smuggling of drugs.
Social factors which contributed to the growth of organised crime in the Balkans included the links which were established between the security sector and criminals in all the countries. The activities of the black market and smuggling channels saw to the needs of the people which the state was unable to meet.
Security operatives, a weak border control and governmental institution inadvertently gave way to smuggling. They took part in illegal trade of alcohol, cigarettes and various consumer goods across the border. Visa requirement which is an important document for every individual to cross between countries was not required to travel between the Balkan countries.
The 1990 Yugoslav war gave rise to the growth of organised crime in the Balkan. In September 1991, a ban was placed on the distribution of arms and ammunitions which subsequently led to the formation of several smuggling routes and black market. Weapons were smuggled in from other countries. The ban on oil in Serbia and Montenegro which also occurred in May 1992 also gave rise to the development of organised crime from countries like Bulgaria and Romania. These countries acted as intermediaries as a result of the profits they got through smuggling and later became dealers in organised crime.
In conclusion, corruptible actions could be seen in the various activities of organised criminal groups. Actions arising from the state involving top government officials down to the ordinary citizen of the state, organised crime developed through various means which later became a known part of the system.
The need to address the issue of corruption in the various states through organised crime is important. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized crime between the year 2003 and 2005 adopted various protocol by the general assembly resolution 55/25 and same were entered into force . Various other means through which corruption could be curbed in the system is by having a strong independent anti-corruption agency. The actions of government officials who believe they could commit an offence and get away with it could be dealt with through the agency however, the powers of these agencies also need to be put in check to ensure they don’t get overtaken by members of organised crime groups. Furthermore, there is the need for law enforcement agencies to come together to work hand in hand with each other in order to improve the border security. There is also a need for the restructuring of the Justice sector.