I. The Global Crime Scene
All crime is local but in today’s globalized world, some crimes can have a global impact. In fact, with the increased use of information technology along with the liberalization of the movement of people, resources and trade, there are some domestic crimes that are more conducive to being committed across borders than strictly within one. For instance, three common domestic crimes that are increasing global in nature are trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime.
Trafficking refers to the smuggling or illegal movement of people or goods. While drug trafficking is perhaps the most well-known from of trafficking; it can also include the smuggling of weapons, counterfeit goods, animals, humans and even human organs. Globalization has facilitated the unprecedented growth of trafficking activity by allowing traffickers to exploit the economic disparity that globalization has caused, on the one hand; while also manipulating the increased freedom of movement around the world that is one of globalization’s fundamental aspects. Whereas in the past, trafficking activity might involve a drug dealer himself carrying drugs from one state to another; nowadays an average trafficking activity might include smuggling a person from China to Mexico, then having that person “sneak” into the U.S. carrying a bag of cocaine.
Money laundering, according to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is defined as the methods by which the financial proceeds of a criminal activity is hidden, disguised, and legitimized (FATF, 2015). Traditionally, money laundering might have involved a city drug dealer exchanging the small, money denominations he would get from his customers in bigger bills as a way to save space and avoid suspicion or detection from law enforcement. Today however, globalization’s loosening of financial regulatory rules allows criminals from one nation go to another nation and convert their illegally obtained fund into the legitimate local currency and deposit into the local bank. The criminals then return to their home country and withdraw the money from the remote bank legally using their bank ATM cards.
While the definition of organized crime has yet to be standardized, the U.S. Congress defines it as criminal activity perpetrated by structured group with restricted membership that often resort to the use violence or the threat of violence to carry out or maintain the goals and whose primary goal is to exist indefinitely (Finklea, 2010, pg. 1). The classic example of an organized criminal group is the Mafia as portrayed in such movies as “The Godfather.” Today, however, the same organization, corruption and violence that a local organized crime group might use to control the drug and sex industry of a local community, is now being put to use to control global networks of drugs and sex. Moreover, organized criminal groups are the primary actors in trafficking and money laundering. In fact, the same elements that are necessary to being an organized criminal group are extremely useful in carrying out the complex logistics involved in trafficking and money launder. This is one of the reasons that President Obama stated that organized criminal groups that operate transnationally, now comprise one of the major threats to our national security (Wyler, 2011).
In addition to common domestic crimes that have found new vitality and viability in a more globalized world, globalization has also allowed a number of crimes that have normally been regarded as more international in nature to be felt domestically. The two most common crimes of this nature are terrorism and cybercrime.
Like organized crime, terrorism has defied an easy and commonly accepted definition. However, most definitions of terrorism include the following common elements of an action: that is intended to cause fear, designed to influence beyond the immediate location of the victims, has a political, religious or ideological goal, and is in opposition to international or national laws. Under this definition, a terrorist act can be perpetrated by an individual, a group or even a state. Terrorism is not a new crime; however, the same elements of globalization that has helped facilitate the criminal activity described above, namely freedom of movement, economic disparity, and the development of services that support global connections, have also help to allow terrorists to strike anywhere.
Cybercrime refers to any criminal activity that targets or makes use of a computer or computer network. Unlike terrorism, cybercrime is a new form of criminal activity that has only become as problem as a result of the world’s increased connection through and reliance on computers and information technology. Moreover, due to the architecture of the Internet, cybercrime is the first and as yet only criminal activity that can be at once domestic and international, as well as local and global. To be sure, the fact that many and a growing number of the human population own and use computers, smartphones and other mobile devices to communicate with each other, to work, to do business and shop, means that a clever cybercriminal sitting in front of his computer in Moscow, has the potential to affect thousands of people in Japan, England, and the U.S. with the click of a button.
II. The Global Response
While globalization has worked to facilitate the growth and development of transnational crimes, it has also provided the means for the global criminal justice system to better respond to crime wherever it occurs. To be sure, as with crime, there are a numbers of aspects to globalization that has proven beneficial to law enforcement’s crime-fighting efforts including the expansion of cross-national cooperation, the development of policies and regulations that support international law enforcement, changes in political situations, advances in crime-fighting technology, and growing public concern about the expansion of transnational criminal activities.
Perhaps the single largest response to address the new world of transnational crime has been increased cross-national cooperation is the investigation and prosecution of known criminal activity. Cross-national cooperation can take on many forms and includes such acts as coordinated anti-crime campaigns, information sharing, mutual legal assistance and extradition agreements. Moreover, the internationalization of police activity has been supported by the United Nations including the drafting and enactment of anti-crime conventions such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). Such conventions support cross-national cooperation by standardizing the definitions of crimes, as well as procedures to fight crime. Moreover, they require state parties to cooperate and offer assistance when necessary. Cross-national cooperation has also lead to an increase in the development of policies that support international law enforcement. For example, the UNTOC requires state parties to criminalize under their domestic laws any and all activities that facilitate the occurrence organized criminal activity such as participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, corruption, and the obstruction of justice. Accordingly, as more states become members of UNTOC, organized groups will have less safe havens to escape to or enjoy the protection of.
Changes in the political situation can and have been beneficial to the international response to transnational crimes. For instance, in 2012, Xi Jinping became the new leader of China. Since his coming into power, one of his major political efforts has been to stop corruption in the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. According to the Chines government, many of the corrupt officials as well as a substantial amount of the money they illegally gained has ended up overseas. Accordingly, China begun and deepened cooperative efforts with other countries to catch the criminals and extradite them back to China or to assist China in recovering the assets that have been stolen (Xinhua, 2015).
III. Charlie Hebdo
On January 7, 2015 two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, armed with assault rifles forced their way into a meeting of the staff of the French newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” in its Paris headquarters and began firing indiscriminately killing a number of the magazine’s senior staff including the editor-in-chief. After the shootings, the two men ran out and escaped in a getaway car. At about the same time, Amedy Coulibaly shot a jogger in another part of Paris. The next day, as the city and national police were searching for the Kouachi brothers, Coulibaly shot and killed an unarmed French police and wounded a sanitation worker. Lastly, as the police were closing in on the Kouachis, Coulibaly invaded a supermarket, killing four while keeping the rest hostage while he demanded the release of the Kouachis. Eventually, the Kouachis were killed by police as was Coulibaly. It was learned that the Kouachis and Coulibaly were connected and that the attacks were made in support of terrorist organizations. It was also learned that Coulibaly was married and that his wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, had assisted him in at least one of the attacks, however her whereabouts were not initially known. Eventually, French police working with law enforcement officials from Spain, Turkey, and the U.S. were able to track her movements from December 2014, a month before the attacks, to January 8, 2015, the day that her husband shot the police officer. Officials now believe she is in Syria under the protection of terrorist organization ISIS.
The international response to tracking down Boumeddiene was quite impressive as it required coordination between law enforcement official from four nations using four different languages. Furthermore, it was done relatively quickly following the discovery that she existed. On the other hand, the response was questionable in that the authorities in at least France and Spain had prior knowledge of her radicalization but did not move on that information before the attacks had occurred. This included a visit she and her husband made to Saudi Arabia, yet French authorities failed to inform their Saudi counterparts of the couple’s terrorist ties (Birnbaum & Mehennet, 2015)
One of the aspects of globalization that transnational criminals rely on is gaps in attention that exist when going from nation to nation. This in essence, allows transnational criminals to escape surveillance of one nation. If authorities in one nation truly believe that a person is a threat or that criminal activity is about the cross a border, it is imperative that they inform the authorities in the destination nation so that attention can be continued. If this had occurred in the case of Boumeddiene, authorities might have been able to stop here before she entered Syria.
Birnbaum, M., & Mekhennet, S. (2015, Feb 2). Hayat Boumeddiene, wife of Paris attacker, becomes France’s most-wanted woman. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/wife-of-paris-attacker-now-frances-most-wanted-woman/2015/02/02/b03c6950-a7da-11e4-a162-121d06ca77f1_story.html
Financial Action Task Force – FATF. (2015). What is money laundering? Retrieved from http://www.fatf-gafi.org/pages/faq/moneylaundering/
Finklea, K.M. (2010, Dec. 22). Organized Crime in the United States: Trends and issues for Congress. Retrieved from https://www.fas.org/sgp/misc/R40525.pdf
United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime. (2015).United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, Retrieved from http://www.unodc.org/unodc/treaties/CTOC/
Wyler, G. (2011, Jul. 25). President Obama declares transnational organized crime threat a national emergency. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/obama-declares-organized-crime-threat-a-national-emergency-2011-7
Xinhua. (2015, Jun. 26). Xinhua Insight: Growing international cooperation boosts China’s anti-corruption drive. Retrieved from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-06/26/c_134359596.htm