The new plan introduced on Monday (July 25th) to fight transnational organised crime envisions a series of measures allowing authorities to deal more effectively with major crime networks that pose a threat to US security and the economy.
“Transnational organised crime (TOC) poses a significant and growing threat to national and international security, with dire implications for public safety, public health, democratic institutions, and economic stability across the globe,” according to the document.
Criminal organisations are expanding and are becoming increasingly sophisticated, US officials said. They know no borders and engage in a broad range of illicit, revenue-generating activities.
The strategy sets out 56 priority actions aimed at reducing the economic power of major transnational gangs and protecting the financial system from them. Noting that TOC is a global problem that manifests itself in various parts of the world in different ways, it lists seven regional priorities, including the Balkans, and calls for close co-operation with other countries.
“A traditional conduit for smuggling between east and west, the Balkans has become an ideal environment for the cultivation and expansion of TOC,” the document released on Monday said. “Weak institutions in Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina have enabled Balkan-based TOC groups to seize control of key drug and human trafficking routes and Western European markets.”
Aside from being a source of synthetic drugs, the region now serves as an entry point for Latin American cocaine and a transit area for heroin chemical precursors for use in the Caucasus and Afghanistan.
“Insufficient border controls and the ease of acquiring passports enable the transit of criminals and terrorist figures to Western Europe,” the document also noted. “Co-operation between the United States and the European Union, as well as bilateral co-operation with the countries in the region … will be key to eliminating the environment supporting TOC.”
“Transnational criminal networks are striking alliances with corrupt elements of national governments — including intelligence and security personnel — and they use the power and influence of those elements to further their criminal activities,” John Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s special adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, said on Monday.
“Transnational crime threatens the world economy. The sophistication and business savvy of these criminals permit them to enter markets and undermine legitimate competition and market integrity, which can damage and distort financial systems and legitimate competitiveness,” he added.
The new strategy was unveiled a day after Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on four major criminal gangs from different parts of the world.
The four criminal networks listed in the document include The Brothers’ Circle, a multi-ethnic criminal group largely based in countries of the former Soviet Union, and the Camorra from Naples in southern Italy, which is said to be making over 17 billion euros annually from illicit activities.
The other two are the Japanese Yakuza, which had more than 80,000 members as of 2008, and Los Zetas, an extremely violent transnational criminal network based primarily in Mexico, with members from a host of other countries, including the United States.