SA is one of world’s worst nations on global organised crime index

Index paints a gloomy picture of the global scourge, which has increased during the pandemic

29 September 2021 - 17:11
The endangered pangolin has become a poster child in the scourge of global organised crime.
The endangered pangolin has become a poster child in the scourge of global organised crime.
Image: Supplied

What do SA, Venezuela and Libya have in common? (Hint: it’s not warlords, black-market oil or rhino poachers.)

All three countries occupy the last three places of the top 20 nations afflicted by organised crime out of a total 193 on the global organised crime index.

The index, published on Wednesday by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC), puts Venezuela in 18th position followed by SA and then Libya out of 193 countries.

The five countries with the highest (or worst) scores were Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in top place, followed by Colombia, Myanmar, Mexico and Nigeria.

The index is the first assessment of illicit economies in the UN’s 193 member states, showing by means of an interactive world map the prevalence of criminal markets, the risks posed by organised crime and resilience in dealing with the problem.

“For years we have been chasing shadows; for the first time this index gives us a global picture of organised crime,” said Global Initiative director Mark Shaw.

Shaw, who wrote the definitive account of how a rogue high-ranking SAPS officer armed the warring gangs on the Cape Flats with thousands of 9mm Z88 pistols stolen from SAPS armouries, said the index showed organised crime had become a global problem that needed a global response.

“The index strengthens the evidence based on which to take more effective remedial action,” he said.

The index found that more three-quarters of the world’s population live in countries with high levels of criminality, and in countries with low resilience to organised crime, with Asia reporting the highest levels of criminality of all the continents. 

Democracies tended to have higher levels of resilience to organised crime than authoritarian states, while state actors were the most dominant agents in blocking resilience and instead facilitated the growth of illicit economies.

The index also found that human trafficking was the “most pervasive of all criminal markets globally”.

Organised crime and criminal networks had blossomed during the Covid-19 pandemic as criminals found new ways to move contraband and took advantage of ports with low staffing levels.

The interactive map is based on 26 criminality and resilience indicators, and allows users to compare and analyse data and scores at macro as well as local levels.

Crime was divided into 10 commodity-based criminal markets, and four criminal actor typologies - mafia-style groups, criminal networks, state-embedded actors and foreign actors.

The 10 “commodity-based” criminal markets were human trafficking and smuggling, arms trafficking, crimes against flora and fauna, crimes involving nonrenewable resources, and then the separate trades in heroin, cocaine, cannabis and synthetic drugs.

While criminal dynamics varied between countries and regions, the index highlighted the multidimensional and complex nature of global organised crime, the report said.

“The analysis conclusively demonstrates that organised crime is the most pernicious threat to human security, development and justice in the world today.” 

Though criminal enterprise continued to prosper during the pandemic, there was at least one silver lining, the authors said.

“Perhaps more than anything, Covid-19 allowed us to see the basic laws of organised crime in stark relief, against a new, radically different backdrop — and potentially pointed towards the best response,” they wrote.

“The pandemic shone a spotlight on the inequalities, vulnerabilities and systemic risk around the world, but it also showed us the need for global collaboration.”

To see the interactive tool, click here and here for the full report.


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