Chapter V

The Future of International Crime

In 10 years, driven by globalization and the erosion of state authority, the international criminal threat to US interests is most likely to be more diversified and impact even more directly on US strategic interests. The extent and magnitude of the problem will depend on the global political and economic conditions prevailing at the time, the extent and effectiveness of measures taken to reduce societal or systemic vulnerabilities, and the degree to which national law enforcement and security institutions around the world develop appropriate cooperative mechanisms enabling them to operate--as international criminals will be able to--outside the parameters of national sovereignty and legal jurisdictions. For example:

Globalization and technological innovation will continue to change the nature of organized crime. While large criminal syndicates--Russian organized crime groups like Solntsevo, Italian criminal groups like the Sicilian Mafia, ethnic Chinese criminal groups including triads, and others--will remain powerful players with worldwide networks, law enforcement agencies probably will also be forced to cope with a very large number of highly skilled criminal entrepreneurs whose activities can have far-reaching impact.

Drug trafficking, alien smuggling, contraband smuggling, the trafficking of women and children, and many other traditional criminal rackets will continue to be a staple of organized crime groups worldwide. By 2010, however, organized crime groups are most likely to be a greater threat with regard to security issues that directly affect US strategic interests.

International criminal groups will keep pace with changes in technology and the world economy to enhance their capability in traditional organized crime activities and to move into new criminal business areas. Advances in computer and financial technology will increase the anonymity and speed of commercial and financial transactions, offering criminals more efficient and secure ways to smuggle illicit drugs and contraband, penetrate legitimate businesses, and launder and move money.

Many countries are likely to be at risk of organized crime groups gaining significant leverage or even control over political and economic systems. Criminal organizations are likely to penetrate troubled banking and commercial sectors. Unscrupulous politicians and political parties may align themselves with criminal organizations for financial and other support. Once in office, they are likely to have difficulty constraining the activities of organized crime. Organized crime groups themselves may promote their own political agenda as the price of support.