James Bond’s Spectre does not exist. But FIFA probably comes close :-)

Why? Read few comments.


1. In the James Bond world Spectre is a global criminal organization, usually also with some political agenda. Of course, organization like Spectre is heavily fictional, but if you look at the world of transnational crime could we describe some organizations as global, is it possible to shortly describe how do they operate?

2. In general, what are the best ways how to tackle the transnational crime organizations? I suppose not sending a single agent agent, thought with license to kill like James Bond.


Vanda Felbab-BrownSenior Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution

1. The public impression of organized crime groups is often one of a much more centralized directed hierarchical organization with detailed strategic analysis decision-making. In many ways, the idea of an organized crime group as a multinational business corporation with local franchises was popularized in the 1960s in the great TV show The Man from UNCLE. In reality, there is a huge variation in organized crime groups organizations: Very few are truly centralized with strategic level analysis. Many are small, decentralized, often in a reactive ad hoc mode. The Sinaloa Cartel of El Chapo today exhibits far greatest strategic level analysis and planning capacity than many other Mexican drug groups. Many human smuggling groups from Asia are very ad hoc small family-bases enterprises, often of fleeting nature. Few groups are truly polycrime — often the tough guys on the block merely try to tax a variety of legal and illegal enterprises, licensing preexisting or evolving local crime enterprises rather than setting up new ones. At the same time, organized crime groups often have political goals and effects: not in the sense of an ideology or a desire to topple a government and bring about a revolution. But since they control bullets and money on the street, they have political effects. And they have political objectives in the sense that they try to cultivate politicians, officials, and institutions which do not act against them.

2. Undercover work by courageous individuals, or flipped informants, is often critical for dismantling criminal  organizations. However, one agent neither arrests them or shoots them all up. Behind the work of an undercover agent and crucial for her or his effectiveness are scores of forensic handlers, control, forensic experts, prosecutors and judges, as well as regular beat cops. They too need to be recognized, appreciated, and rewarded, including in movies.

Diego Gambetta, Professor of Social Theory, European University Institute, Professor of Sociology, University oof Oxford

1. Spectre is the fruit of Fleming’s imagination, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to any criminal organisation in the real world.

I also do not know of any other type of criminal organisation that can be described accurately as ‘global (except for FIFA until recent times perhaps? 🙂 ).

‘Transnationality’ is a generic umbrella term to describe different forms of trade between different often independent organisations, notably in the market for narcotics or for smuggling prostitutes from poorer to richer countries.

An interesting case of transnationality is found in the football betting market, studied by my former student Declan Hill. Gamblers bet in Malaysia, say, and betting firms send their representatives to bribe footballers in Europe. The emergence of side betting – betting not on the overall outcome but on smaller events in a match like how many goals will be scored – has aided this forms of criminality very much as players can ‘sell’ not the match but some event in it, which makes it easier for them.

Some organisation may have ‘families’ in more than one location or country which trade between each other, but as in the case of the Sicilian mafia which had families in Sicily and the US, these are not ruled by one central authority and gain local independence. It is just too difficult, being illegal, to run such an overarching entity.

Mafias keep a very strong local basis in their ancestral towns and villages where they have total control and from which they derive their meta-local force too (I recommend the great movie Anime Nere, Black Souls, by Francesco Munzi, on the Calabrian mafia known as ‘Ndgrangheta, that illustrates how the ‘archaic’ rules over the ‘modern’).

2. Of course, as  you wrote, this vast and diverse galaxy cannot be tackled by individual agents like 007. The fight has to be targeted to the goods being traded, each of which has its own peculiar market, and the counter strategies need to use a menu of means, from traditional enforcement means of policing to legislation to incentivise turncoats, from nationalisation of certain markets of some narcotics for instance to busting cartels of legal entrepreneurs who use mafias as enforcers.

Gretchen Peters, Senior Fellow on Transnational Crime at Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, George Mason University

1. James Bond movies often create villains with a political agenda. In the real world, criminal networks are motivated by profit, but they often pay off high-level political figures in order to operate. In some parts of the world, organized crime has hollowed out entire states and regions.

2. The worst thing you can do to a criminal network is take away its money. I believe more transnational crime networks should be targeted in asset seizure campaigns.

Neil Boister, Professor, University of Waikato

In general global criminal organisations operate in a wide variety of ways. Some are well organized and very heavily structured, some very loosely organized, some are run like families with bonds of loyalty (many are families), some are run like businesses… in fact the cliché of the mafia is probably the most inapt way of thinking about global organized crime because from a legal point of view all that is required is three or more people, pursuing a material benefit, who commit serious offences (carrying four years or more imprisonment) and their actions cross borders – the definition in the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime!


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