MAJOR TRANSNATIONAL CRIMINAL ORGANIZATIONS
THIS CHAPTER FOCUSES ON THE TRADITIONAL “Big Five” transnational criminal organizations—the Chinese triads, the Colombian cartels, the Italian Mafia, the Japanese Yakuza, and the Russian Mob. The analysis is composed of three parts—general organizational background, the choice of criminal tactics of corruption versus violence, and the criminal impact on individual/human security versus national/state security. The discussion intentionally encompasses brief summaries rather than detailed descriptions of the patterns described. This chapter does make a concerted effort to highlight changes in groups over time, differences among them, and prevailing trends and future directions in their development.
Three principal clarifications appear necessary to correct common misconceptions about these five major transnational criminal organizations. First, aside from key differences in the tactics chosen and the security impacts generated, these organizations vary considerably in terms of years of existence, membership size, geographical scope beyond their home base, cultural scope beyond their original nationality/ethnicity, range of activities, government ties, and principles of conduct. Second, none of these five organizations is monolithic, as each contains several discrete elements, and because each criminal group is increasingly fluid, decentralized, and highly adaptive to changing international circumstances, patterns are neither static nor uniform across countries. Third, in recent years transnational organized crime has diversified well beyond these five major players to include other large emerging criminal syndicates—such as Albanian, Mexican, and Nigerian criminal organizations—as well as a proliferation of “mom-and-pop” operations; the