500+ participants / 80+ speakers / 20+ panels


Transparency is a Key Factor in the Fight Against Organized Crime

October 31, 2022 by BSC

There are many ways in which organized criminal groups can take advantage of the freedoms afforded to individuals in democratic societies. Some argue that the non-democratic and authoritarian nature of organized crime groups allows them to thrive in environments dominated by corrupt governance. In authoritarian regimes, the line between the state and organized criminal groups is becoming increasingly blurred. The panelists discussed how it might be possible to reverse the trend of state capture and a close linkage between the state and organized crime.   

Clay Fuller, a network member of the Global Initiative Against Transnational and Organized Crime, initiated the panel by outlining how organized crime and the state have always possessed a “symbiotic relationship,” particularly in autocracies. Cocaine plays a central role in the development and survival of organized crime. There is close cooperation between organized crime groups in Latin America and the Balkans. These groups receive a vast majority of their financial proceeds from Western European countries. Fuller highlighted that organized crime groups prefer to hold their illicit wealth in democratic countries, where it is easier to convert illegal profits into legitimate assets. Fuller further described how the war in Ukraine has facilitated various illicit activities, such as human trafficking.  

“In non-democratic states it is very difficult to distinguish between organized crime and corruption,” noted Alexander Kapanadze, an associate professor at King’s College London. He argued that the fight against organized crime can certainly be reversed, citing European and post-Soviet examples.   Kapanadze agreed with Fuller’s position on the war in Ukraine: the conflict has been profitable for the transnational crime market. Kapanadze also noted that when trying to break the cycle of organized crime, strong institutions are critical. An exorbitant amount of money has been spent in trying to fight corruption. However, these efforts have been futile without strong institutional support.  

Vanja Calovic, Executive Director of the Network for Affirmation of the Non-Governmental Sector MANS, outlined the close connection between politicians and organized crime groups. She contended: “the political will to examine the relationship between state, politicians and organized crime in the Western Balkans is missing.” In many instances, even after state-sanctioned organized crime ends, organized crime groups continue to take part in illicit activities. The key to combatting organized crime is a “radical transparency” that would hinder organized crime and money laundering organizations. While it is possible to change the institutions, such as the judiciary, this does not deter Politicians from continuing to enable organized crime. She summarized the main issues as being “crime has captured the state that was supposed to fight against the crime.” 

All panelists agreed that low level of transparency is the most important factor that hinders the fight against organized crime. Additionally, political and international cooperation are important factors in increasing the efficiency of the fight against organized crime. Despite the consensus between panelists, the question of how to tackle these problems remained unanswered.