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Recent developments

More and more frequently, law enforcement authorities discover groups of offenders that do not qualify as organised crime under any extant definition, but who show a high degree of potential organisation. Networks for the distribution of child pornography are not motivated primarily by profit, but they operate in the same way as e.g. groups that sell stolen credit card information over the internet. For many motorcycle gangs, criminal conduct is part of their group identity, but cybercrime offences often only involve one or two offenders. Overall, a hybridization of organised crime groups is definitely noticeable.[1] So what should the implications be for extant definitions and instruments of crime prevention and prosecution?

Distinguishing organised crime from other phenomena

Terrorism

Terrorism is another concept for which there is no universally agreed definition, and since 11 September 2001 it has become harder and harder to distinguish terrorism from organised crime in a meaningful way, since terrorist networks have resorted to the traditional activities of organised crime such as illegal drugs, human trafficking, and money laundering in order to finance their activities. This leads to hybrid groups^[2] the Taliban and Al-Qaeda earned millions through the cultivation and preparation of poppies and opium.[3] [4] The so-called ‘Islamic State’ is not just in the business of destroying cultural property: it also sells it to finance its purposes. The classic differentiation between types of criminal group according to the purpose of the criminal activity also collapses here. At least theoretically, terrorist groups pursue radical changes to the social order by means of violence or threats. It can be seen as a communications strategy for one’s own ideological agenda, whereas organised crime is about making a profit.4i But with hybrid groups, this distinction can no longer be drawn, which has consequences for the legal treatment of this phenomenon. Prosecution, at least, will be greatly affected in practice, both structurally and tactically.

  • [1] Europol, Exploring Tomorrow’s Organised Crime, cited in note 20 above, p. 60; SOCTA 2013, citedin note 1 above, p. 45.
  • [2] EUROPOL, Exploring Tomorrow’s Organised Crime, cited in note 20 above, p. 60; SOCTA 2013, citedin note 1 above, p. 45.
  • [3] Bossert and Korte, Organisierte Kriminalitat und Auslanderextremismus/Terrorismus, cited in note28 above, pp. 282, 285.
  • [4] 41 Cf. Madsen, Transnational Organized Crime, cited in note 2 above, p. 63; Frank Bovenkerk andBashir Abou Chakra, ‘Terrorism and organised crime’, in Leslie Holmes (ed.), Terrorism, OrganisedCrime and Corruption, Camberley, Edward Elgar, 2007, p. 29; Zoller, ‘Verschwimmende Grenzen’, citedin note 3 above, p. 11.
 
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