Transnational Crime: Proceeds in the Billions - Victims in the Millions

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, said during the sixth session of the conference of parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which takes place from 15 to 19 October 2012, that crime preys on countries where the rule of law and other institutions are vulnerable to criminals. The victims of these crimes are the women and children trafficked for sex, local communities in developing countries devastated by illegal logging, and the loved ones and friends of the victims who have lost someone to illicit drugs.

The conference was attended by 800 people, including permanent representatives of many states and members of civil society. The Mexican Interior Minister, Alejandro Poiré, the Bolivian Justice Minister Cecilia L. Ayllon Quinteros and the Director General of the Austrian Ministry of Justice, Christian Pilnacek, were among the attendants at the opening session.

Mr. Fedotov said: “We are able to quantify the cost of transnational organized crime, it is US$870 billion, but we cannot calculate the misery and suffering caused to millions of people by these illicit activities. Crime was capable of moving when successfully challenged to prevent its perpetual displacement”.

He added: there was a need to deliver timely strategic activities in an integrated manner. Civil society also had an indispensible role to play in solving the challenges of transnational organized crime.

To achieve these aims, he called on Member States to be creative and proactive in the exchange of ideas and information on what is working in the global fight against drugs and crime. “We must take lessons learned and create practical policies,” noted Mr. Fedotov.

Mr. Fedotov stressed: “Our collective goal must be to end the ‘era of displacement’, which sees crime simply move elsewhere when challenged, and to begin a time of interconnected cooperation, coordination and communication against crime. Where the criminals are smart, we must be smarter, where the criminals are sophisticated, we must be even more sophisticated and where crime transcends borders, so must our cooperation.”

He completed his remarks by saying there needed to be greater intelligence sharing and better witness protection and assistance to the victims of transnational organized crime.

In his own speech, President Danilo Türk of Slovenia said: “International organized crime is a significant threat to international peace and prosperity. Despite our commitment twelve years ago in Palermo to work together to fight the scourge of transnational organized crime, the challenge still persists; organized crime is gaining in sophistication, range and viciousness. This shows that there are still gaps in our legislation, our law enforcement, and in the judicial and law enforcement cooperation among countries.”

Minister Poiré said: “Mexico is making progress in its fight against powerful drug cartels and they are becoming weaker as the crime bosses are killed or jailed. Since 2009, about two-thirds of those identified as Mexico’s 37 most- wanted criminals that year have either been killed or face legal action”.

Earlier this month, Mexico said that it had killed Heriberto Lazcano, the leader of the brutal Zetas gang and the most powerful kingpin to fall in the battle against cartels. The Zetas have carried out some of the worst atrocities in a drug war that has killed some 60,000 people during President Felipe Calderon’s six-year term, which ends in December.

Lazcano was one of Mexico’s most wanted men, synonymous with the Zetas’ gory brand of retribution, such as the beheading of rivals and a recent series of massacres. Hours after he was killed, an armed group snatched Lazcano’s body and that of another Zetas member from the funeral parlour.

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