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Crime Victimizes Both Society and Democracy

NCJ Number
Global Issues Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: August 2001 Pages: 19-21
Louise Shelley
Date Published
August 2001
3 pages
This article identifies organized crime's costs to society and democracy in the former Soviet States.
Organized crime in the former Soviet States has emerged with an intensity and diversity of activities unmatched by other transnational crime groups in the international arena. In these newly independent States, crime groups number in the thousands. Rather than the rigid hierarchical structure of the prototypical organized crime family, the groups are based on network structures, often using violence as part of their business strategy. Unlike other countries where established crime syndicates have specialized in particular goods and services, post-Soviet organized crime has infiltrated a full range of illicit activities. These groups have also penetrated deeply into the legitimate economy, including many companies that formerly belonged to the State and have been privatized. Post-Soviet organized crime exploits the traditional market in illicit goods and services that include prostitution; gambling; drugs; contract killings; supply of cheap, illegal labor; stolen automobiles; and extortion of legitimate business. It has also branched out to include such diverse activities as the illegal export of oil and raw materials, as well as the smuggling of weapons, nuclear materials, and human beings. These groups are often comprised of unusual coalitions of professional criminals, former members of the underground economy, and members of the Communist Party elite and security apparatus. Their ranks contain highly trained specialists, such as statisticians and money launderers, not readily accessible to transnational crime groups in other parts of the world. Organized crime has penetrated these States, from the municipal to the Federal level, by financing selected political campaigns and the election of their members to parliament. Criminal groups have corrupted officials of the government; and in some cases, the groups have supplanted the state by providing the protection, employment, and social services no longer available from the struggling new government. The hijacking of the privatization process by organized crime and corrupt officials has resulted in economically polarized societies in many of the Soviet successor States. Instead of an emerging middle class, there is now a small, extremely rich, new elite coexisting with a large, impoverished population. The pervasive corruption and penetration of organized crime into the political process are inhibiting the development of new laws needed as a foundation for a democratic free market economy. It is clear that despite the challenges posed by crime groups around the world, the international community has a large stake in assisting the ability of nations to address their rising political and economic power.