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A World of Trouble.

From copyright infringement in Brazil to organized crime in Macau, the world can be a minefield for business travelers and investors. The following is the second of a two-part look at crime trends worldwide as set out in a recent National Security Council report (the report can be viewed by clicking on "Beyond Print" at www.securitymanagement.com)

South Asia/Turkey. Afghan drugs still move primarily through Iran to make their way to Western European markets, but Iran is trying to combat the problem to protect its own population from drug abuse by interdicting traffickers and punishing them severely.

India has been targeted by criminals for its supply of raw materials and precursor chemicals to fuel the illicit drug trade. In addition, its transportation infrastructure, long and porous coastline, and lax controls have fostered the smuggling not only of drugs but also of gems and other contraband from the country's interior to large trading ports. Turkey "remains a linchpin in the region's heroin trade" as well.

Middle East. The United Arab Emirates is an entrepot linking Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. With its open business environment, it is an increasingly attractive focus of contraband, and it is becoming a more important avenue of drug shipments from Southwest Asia on their way to Turkey, Europe, and Africa. In addition, because of its cash economy, the area is attracting Russian criminal groups and others who have been using banks in Dubai to launder money and conduct major transactions.

Russian organizations, an estimated 10 to 15 so far, have also been taking advantage of Israel's large Russian immigrant community to commit crimes in that country, such as illegal production and importation of Ds, and money laundering of the proceeds. They then hide behind Israeli citizenship to avoid extradition. Money laundering is not a crime there, though legislators are considering such a statute.

Terrorism is another concern in the region. Lebanon remains a "haven for terrorist training," especially in the Bekaa Valley.

Questionable financial operations are also flourishing. With its minimal regulations, some 24,000 offshore firms have registered in Cyprus. "Banking and corporate secrecy, little or no taxes, and simplified incorporation procedures have made it easy for states of concern, terrorist groups, and organized crime groups to set up numerous front companies to facilitate illicit arms transshipments, acquire prescribed technologies, and launder funds," the report says.

Southeast Asia. Counterfeiting and other violations of intellectual property rights are ongoing concerns in Southeast Asia. Malaysia is particularly active in counterfeiting U.S. audio, visual, and software products. Also, almost one-third of all women and children used for the worldwide sex industry come from Southeast Asia. Another problem is that young, unskilled male migrants from northeastern Thailand and impoverished areas of Burma and Cambodia are recruited by criminal organizations.

As one of the world's busiest container ports, Singapore is an "increasingly important hub for drug and other contraband smuggling." Burma and Laos are rich sources of opium, and drug traffickers in Burma have become "significant investors in infrastructure development," according to the report. This infrastructure "can be used to facilitate both drug smuggling and money laundering."

Money earned by criminal groups is an important source of funding for new investment in some of these regions, which, along with the liberal paying of bribes, makes the local authorities reluctant to go after these groups. For example, Russian criminal groups fund much of the tourist industry in Ban Phattha Ya, Thailand. Also, widespread bribery of politicians, bureaucrats, police, and military figures has almost completely eviscerated law enforcement.

China/Japan. As it has opened to foreign investment, China has suffered greater criminal activity. Lacking modern equipment and training, Chinese police are unable to keep up. Among the problems is an increase in smuggling. For example, brokers based in Fujian Province ship illegal immigrants to the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Australia.

In addition, corrupt officials in government and state-run business enterprises are smuggling petroleum products into the country, and drug companies are diverting methamphetamine precursors to the international illicit narcotics-producing market.

Intellectual property crimes abound as well. Legitimate factories in Guangdong Province are "major producers of pirated and counterfeit products." China's triads (criminal groups) are heavily involved in this activity, as they are with entertainment businesses such as prostitution, gambling, and nightclubs, which "provide excellent cover for money-laundering schemes."

A black market in small arms also flourishes. Military weapons are sold to criminal groups in East Asia, and firearms are showing up in increasing supply in China itself Police have encountered some gangs that were armed with assault rifles.

The picture is mixed in Hong Kong. Its crime problems have not diminished since its bandover in 1997. Money laundering continues to thrive, fueled largely by heroin proceeds. Triads continue to control much of the civil service, media, and stock exchange. Yet Hong Kong has made headway against corruption. Authorities have also been cracking down on rampant organized crime in Macau, with the murder rate dropping sharply in the first ten months of 2000. Similar reforms have been promised in Taiwan.

Japan's organized crime syndicates, known as yakuza, and their practice of "sokaiya" (corporate extortion) have long been tolerated by Japanese society, but that has begun to change. Ethnic Chinese criminal gangs linked to illegal immigration and arms trafficking are publicly perceived as the biggest criminal threats to Japan.

South America. In the criminal world, cocaine is still king in South America. But criminal syndicates have been branching out and foreign groups have been coming in. Growing problems in the region include counterfeiting and money laundering.

In Colombia, "surging drug production is providing substantial resources to insurgent and paramilitary groups that threaten the country s stability," says the report. The country is also the world leader in the production of counterfeit U.S. money. If the Colombian government succeeds in diminishing coca production, the report's authors contend, coca cultivation may well spread to Ecuador and Venezuela, which in turn may trigger Peru and Bolivia to follow suit.

Brazil has become a haven of illegal CDs, videos, and cassettes, which are produced there and in Argentina. Illegal importation of firearms, rising street crime, kidnapping for profit, and drug addiction all bedevil Brazil.

Caribbean/Central America. Reliant on financial services, tourism, and gambling, Caribbean nations are "particularly vulnerable to high-level influence" of criminal groups. With weak law enforcement in place, few islands can fight entrenched money laundering and the overall ethos of corruption.

Panama has become an offshore money-laundering center, though the government recently passed tougher money-laundering legislation. Alien smuggling proliferates throughout the region, as countries are happy to relieve the burden on their economies. For most of the region, it is not a crime to aid and abet illegal migrants.

Mexico. NAFTA has opened doors for smuggling of drugs, alcohol, and other contraband. Mexico also remains the top money-laundering country in Latin America. Corruption in government remains deeply rooted, though the election of Vicente Fox has brought hope to the beleaguered country.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:review of global trends in crime
Author:GIPS, MICHAEL A.
Publication:Security Management
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:1167
Previous Article:Letters.
Next Article:Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Spy.
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