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The Globalization Reader, 5th Edition by John Boli, Frank J. Lechner

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29 Global Organized Crime

James H. Mittelman

The New Criminality

Clearly, there is a long history of organized crime transcending national borders; however, traditional patterns explain only part of the surge of illegal activities today. Globalizing tendencies emerging since the 1970s are transforming organized crime. There are newly prominent forms of illegality, such as computer crimes, money laundering, stealing nuclear materials mainly from the former Soviet Union, and “sophisticated fraud” (technological complexity among several parties using counterfeit bank instruments, credit cards, letters of credit, computer intrusion, and ingenuity of design – such as stock market “pump and dump” scams and pyramid schemes) that crop up between the established codes of international law, challenge existing norms, infiltrate licit businesses, and extend into international finance. Although some types of crime remain localized, what drives organized crime groups increasingly are efforts to exploit the growth mechanisms of globalization.

To take a single example of these dynamics at work, consider Chinese emigration to the United States. Triads (Chinese criminal networks) have smuggled people to America since the California gold rush in the 1840s. Moreover, there is a tradition of Chinese from the coastal province of Fujian, across from Taiwan, to draw on their extended families in California and other states and to move to America. As many as 90 percent of Chinese boat people originate ...

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