Our Issues: Illicit Markets and Crime Convergence

Illicit economies have a wide range of consequences. Criminal activities have the same, albeit different, impact on the entire system. Untapped market niches created by a new supply source, a new set of customers, or new technologies benefit organized crime syndicates. As a result, illegal trades in everything from wildlife to art are linked and operate in ways that are more similar than their disparate product offerings would suggest.

Illicit Trade and Financial Flows

Illicit trade refers to a wide range of heinous crimes, from narcotics smuggling to illegal arms trafficking to counterfeiting. Illicit trade endangers the integrity of the international trading system and allows organized crime to commit serious crimes such as money laundering, financing terrorism, murder, and corruption. Criminals launder funds through a variety of legal instruments including anonymous shell corporations, anonymous trust accounts, trade‑based money laundering, over‑invoiced services, bribery, and the creative use of international financial centers.

Environmental Crimes

Environmental crime is defined as any intentional act that harms the environment and undermines its social, economic, and cultural resilience. Environmental crimes typically have the following consequences: contaminated soil, water, or air; biodiversity loss; and human death or injury. Environmental crime has far‑reaching implications for social justice, economic growth, environmental sustainability, and human health. Environmental crimes are still committed by both state and non‑state actors.

Corruption and Impunity

Corruption fuels illegal economies. The mutual reinforcement cycle goes as follows: corrupt practices, which are beyond the reach of law enforcement, are used to facilitate crime. This weakens the state and legal economy, allowing criminal enterprises to gain a foothold. The illegal activity feeds the corrupt practices and allows them to grow, further eroding the state's ability to enforce its laws, and the vicious cycle continues.

Cybercrime and Technology

Cybercrime is a growing threat, owing primarily to the relative ease and low cost of such crimes for an offender. Criminals use the Internet and their computers to commit crimes that would be difficult or impossible to commit in the absence of computers, such as fraud, stalking, theft, and victim harassment. One of the factors contributing to these challenges is the growing role of criminal organizations in the cyberthreat landscape, which is especially visible in the field of Internet fraud. As a result, police investigations have become more difficult, complex, and expensive.

Human Mobility and Exploitation

Human mobility has always existed, but it is now a defining feature of the world, and not just because of the constant flow of refugees fleeing conflict or humanitarian crises. Migrants face harsh treatment and exploitation all over the world; in the worst cases, they are even trafficked or enslaved. Human trafficking and modern slavery take many forms and take place in a variety of settings and with a variety of actors. Human trafficking and exploitation generate approximately $150 billion in profits annually and affect millions of people worldwide.