Home > The globalization of crime: a transnational organized crime threat assessment.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2010) The globalization of crime: a transnational organized crime threat assessment. Vienna: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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In The globalization of crime: a transnational organized crime threat assessment, UNODC analyses a range of key transnational crime threats, including human trafficking, migrant smuggling, the illicit heroin and cocaine trades, cybercrime, maritime piracy.

The report’s main findings are that:
• There are an estimated 140,000 victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation in Europe alone, generating a gross annual income of US$3 billion for their exploiters. “World-wide there are millions of modern slaves traded at a price not higher in real terms than centuries ago,” said Mr. Costa.
• The two most prominent flows for smuggling migrants are from Africa to Europe and from Latin America to the US. Around 2.5-3 million migrants are smuggled from Latin America to the United States every year, generating US$6.6 billion for smugglers.
• Europe is the highest value regional heroin market (US$20 billion), while Russia is now the single largest national heroin consumer in the world (70 tons). “Narcotics kill 30,000-40,000 young Russians per year, twice the number of Red Army soldiers killed during the invasion of Afghanistan in the decade of the ‘80s,” said Mr. Costa.
• The North American cocaine market is shrinking, because of lower demand and greater law enforcement. This has generated a turf war among trafficking gangs, particularly in Mexico, and new drug routes. “Along the entire Atlantic coast of Latin America cocaine is trans-shipped into Europe via Africa,” said Mr. Costa. “Under attack, some west African nations risk failing.”
• The countries that grow most of the world’s illicit drugs, like Afghanistan (opium) and Colombia (coca), receive the most attention and criticism. Yet, most drug profits are made in the destination (rich) countries. For example, out of a global market of perhaps US$55 billion for Afghan heroin, only about 5 per cent (US$2.3 billions) accrues to Afghan farmers, traders and insurgents. Of the US$72 billion cocaine market in North America and Europe, some 70 per cent of the profits are made by mid-level dealers in the consumer countries, not in the Andean region.
• The global market for illicit fire-arms is estimated at US$170-320 million per year, which is 10-20 per cent of the licit market. Although the smuggling of arms tends to be episodic (i.e. related to specific conflicts), the amounts have been so large, to kill as many people as some pandemics.
• The illegal exploitation of natural resources and the trafficking in wildlife from Africa and South-east Asia are disrupting fragile eco-systems and driving species to extinction. UNODC estimates that illicit wood products imported from Asia to the EU and China were worth some US$2.5 billion in 2009.
• The number of counterfeit goods detected at the European border has gone up by a factor of ten over the past decade, for a yearly value of more than US$10 billion. As much as half of medications tested in Africa and South East Asia are counterfeited and substandard, increasing, rather than reducing the chance of illness.
• The number of piracy attacks off the Horn of Africa has doubled in the past year (from 111 in 2008 to 217 in 2009), and is still rising. Pirates from one of the world’s poorest countries (Somalia) are holding to ransom ships from some of the richest, despite the patrolling by the world’s most powerful navies. Of the more than US$100 million annual income generated by ransom, only a quarter goes to the pirates, the rest to organized crime.
• More than 1.5 million people a year suffer the theft of their identity for an economic loss estimated at US$1billion, while cybercrime is endangering the security of nations: power grids, air trafficking and nuclear installations have been penetrated.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
17 June 2010
303 p.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Corporate Creators
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Place of Publication
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)
Related (external) link

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