Transnational Organized Crime and International Security: Business as Usual?

By Mats Berdal; Mónica Serrano | Go to book overview

4
Liberalization and
Transnational Financial Crime
Michael Levi

The term “organized crime” is frequently used, but difficult to define. It shifts between discourses about activities—as in common usage of the term “crime”—and discourses about evil associations, as in common usage of the term “mafia. ” In the case of transnational organized financial and other crime, the appropriate question is: Why do people and/or their money crossing national borders assume a particular role in a particular crime at a particular time? Of course, the bigger the country and the more indigenous criminal precursors it has available, 1 the less the need for border crossing, except where this is a prerequisite, as with fraud against the financial interests of the European Community 2 (see van Duyne 1993b).

In the United States, federal insurance and deposit/investor protection, as well as money-laundering controls, give the federal government an enhanced role in relation to financial crime, though federal jurisdiction is premised legally on the liberal construction of the use of mail and interstate communications. However, the state and its actions—and, for that matter, the private sector and its actions 3—are properly part of the parcel of factors that influence the level and nature of transnational crime (see Chapter 3). This chapter argues first for an expansion to the transnational crime arena of the “routine activities” perspective (Felson 1998), for which it is only within the context of the general social and commercial arrangements that give rise to crime opportunities that one makes sense of such crime (see also McIntosh 1975); and second for the activities of state agencies (and the private-sector agencies that lobby governments for the furtherance of their commercial interests) to be included as the object of study sui generis.

In the international arena, it may serve the interests of a government (as well as the economic interests underpinning it) to offer the facilities of a pirate jurisdiction, whether for laundering the proceeds of crime or for the

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