US sanctions global organized crime
The United States has unveiled a series of tough sanctions aimed at cracking down on international organized crime, including gangs from Russia, Japan and Mexico and the Italian Mafia.
The Japanese Yakuza, the Camorra from Naples and Mexico's Zetas as well as The Brothers' Circle, based mainly in the former Soviet Union, were among those slapped with economic sanctions, the White House said.
US President Barack Obama signed an executive order setting out 56 priority actions aimed at smashing transnational criminal organizations by breaking their economic power and protecting the financial system.
It froze all property belonging to those groups designated as transnational criminal organizations, and barred American citizens from engaging in any business with them.
"Organized crime is no longer a local or regional problem; it has become a danger to international stability," Obama wrote in a letter to Congress outlining his new order.
"Significant transnational criminal organizations have become increasingly sophisticated and dangerous to the United States and their activities have reach such scope and gravity that they destabilize the international system."
He warned that such gangs were taking advantage of globalization to spread their activities around the world, deepening their ties to some governments and the international financial system.
Cybercrime, people smuggling and drugs-trafficking were three major activities as well as the theft of intellectual property which can "not only erode US competitiveness, but also endanger the public health and safety through the distribution of tainted and counterfeit goods."
Proposed new laws would arm US authorities to investigate illegal criminal networks and prosecute their members.
And the United States would seek to build a global consensus to defeat transnational organized crime, as well as boost intelligence and information sharing.
In a sign of the globalization of such mafias, Latin American drug cartels were now exploiting local gangs in West Africa to smuggle cocaine to Western Europe and the Middle East, the US administration said.
Afghan groups meanwhile have been operating with networks in West Africa to traffic heroin to Europe and the United States.
"The demand for illicit drugs, both in the United States and abroad, fuels the power, impunity and violence of criminal organizations around the globe," the White House's Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime said.
The US Treasury said the Yakuza has about 80,000 members and is very active in drug-trafficking and money-laundering in the United States.
The Italian Camorra, which has spread out from Naples in southern Italy, makes 10 percent of its annual earnings of $25 billion thanks to selling pirated goods on European and American markets, it said.
And The Brothers' Circle was described as "multi-ethnic criminal group... largely based in countries of the former Soviet Union but extending to the Middle East, Africa and Latin America."
Finally, the new strategy also named Los Zetas, a violent Mexican drugs cartel, heavily engaged in people smuggling and money laundering as it fights a bloody turf war with rival Mexican gangs.