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3 Questions to… Sandro Calvani

3 Questions to…
Sandro Calvani, director of UNICRI

Organized crime could have a place in the G8!

Sandro Calvani, the director of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), recently held a briefing in cooperation with the Madariaga – College of Europe Foundation in Brussels on new trends in international crimes, such as maritime piracy, counterfeiting, crimes of cultural heritage and environmental crimes. He answered UNRIC Magazine’s three questions:

How would you describe the situation regarding international crime today?

In a number of countries a nexus has emerged between organized crime, corruption and terrorism. Criminal organizations have expanded into a variety of criminal activities and new groups have emerged in several new and specialized sectors. Shifts have taken place in organizational structures and in the approaches of organized criminal groups. For example: on the basis of research it has appears that illicit capital, organized crime and failed states strongly connect. Organized crime seeks those places that are most vulnerable and where illegal activities can be deployed very easily. Once lawmakers/police/peace forces turn up, organized crime swiftly moves to new areas. In a number of cases we saw that ethnic infighting was promoted to cause chaos in which illegal activities can thrive more easily.

How successful is organized crime?

The total revenue of organized crime amounts to a figure that lies somewhere between the GDP of Italy and the UK. This means that organized crime could have a place in the G8! What is more, organized crime works very efficiently because it is only aimed at personal enrichment and does not take any rules for granted; it doesn’t have any respect for human, environmental or social rights.

Counterfeiting, environmental crime, illicit trade of art and antiquities and piracy are the most popular emerging crimes that have come under the scope of UNICRI. Counterfeiting especially is a growing and increasingly dangerous phenomenon. We witness an explosion in the trade in fakes as criminals can produce them on an industrial scale – from mass production of car parts to clothes and medication. It has become as profitable as narcotics, theft and arms trafficking. As it involves less risk than the already mentioned crimes, counterfeiting is extremely profitable. We also see that counterfeiting is often used for money laundering of crime revenues or to finance organized crime activities.

Over the last couple of months ’Maritime Piracy’ has become a hot topic in the international news. What are the possible counter-strategies that can be undertaken by the international community?

We need a threefold approach of detection, deterrence and an active response. International legislation needs to be improved. There are still some “safe havens” in countries hosting pirates that need to be removed to deal with, and prevent, the further spread of maritime piracy. The creation of a permanent task force with rapid deployment teams is needed to act ’in the field’. As regards the shipping companies, they are urged to invest in Security Awareness and Detection Trainings for their crews. A simple thing such as a ship tracking device can make a huge difference.

Until recently there was no sense of urgency at all, which proved detrimental to cooperation among states. Coordination among international organizations was too weak and many countries weren’t willing to commit themselves to tackle the problem. This has led to the situation wherein organized crime could exploit the weak links in the system and could change its modus operandi very fast.

UNICRI would like to see more cooperation among the various players involved; countries, international organizations and the private sector. With our institute we perform applied research on advancing security, serving justice and building peace because without sustainable development, peace and security are unattainable.

UNRIC Magazine, Issue No. 29, Mar 2009

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