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18 October 2010

Countries to Address Global Toll of Transnational Organized Crime

VIENNA, 18 October (UN Information Service) - Calling for more vigorous and universal implementation of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocols, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, today said that organized crime had "ballooned to global proportions". A decade after the adoption of the Palermo Convention as it is also known, States parties are meeting in Vienna from 18 to 22 October to review global progress in fighting this scourge.

Amid fears that globalization is extending the reach of crime in unprecedented ways, Mr. Fedotov opened the Conference by saying that the Convention was a powerful but underutilized tool. Although 157 States have ratified the instrument, which forms the global basis for extradition and mutual legal assistance, Mr. Fedotov remarked that more awareness was needed of how States could make more effective use of the Convention and realize its potential for cooperation.

The Convention provides new possibilities and frameworks for law enforcement agencies to coordinate their efforts, including trans-border intelligence-sharing and joint investigations. But the Convention is highly adaptable in providing effective responses since its definition of transnational organized crime is broad enough to encompass new and emerging forms of crime. With its detailed measures to combat money-laundering; go after plundered assets; and to end banking secrecy, UNTOC can hit criminals where it hurts - by helping cut off their cash lifeblood.

Drug trafficking continues to be the most lucrative line of business for criminals. As UNODC reported in its 2010 Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment,

  • Cocaine trafficked from the Andean region to North America and Europe is worth US$72 billion annually, and
  • Heroin trafficked from Afghanistan to Europe has a street value of US$33 billion.

Combined, these figures exceed US$100 billion, money diverted from the United Nations development goals and which are invested in criminal businesses or fuel terrorism. Or, to put it another way: cocaine and heroin traffickers are earning almost US$280 million every day, almost US$12 million every hour, and almost US$200,000 every minute.

Looking at the crimes covered by the protocols of the Convention, the human and material cost is staggering, for example:

Human trafficking. Trafficking in persons to Europe for sexual exploitation brings in US$3 billion annually and involves 140,000 victims, mostly women and children.

Smuggling of migrants from Latin America to North America earns US$6.6 billion from 3 million illegal entries each year.

Illicit trade in firearms brings in more than US$53 million annually, puts handguns and assault rifles in the hands of criminals and insurgents, and wreaks havoc in vulnerable urban communities.

New and emerging crimes

Criminal entrepreneurs are nimble and market-driven.  Adroitly exploiting open borders and communications, they can adapt to cater to the demands of the day - endangered species, cultural artefacts, timber, counterfeit medicines, blood diamonds, child pornography or cheap labour. As goods, services and people migrate, criminal justice systems and law enforcement methods are often no match for powerful criminal networks.

Following are examples of the cost of new and emerging crimes on society:

  • Trafficking in natural resources: timber from South East Asia to the European Union and Asia accounts for criminal revenues of US$3.5 billion annually-and contributes to deforestation, loss of habitat and loss of species, climate change and increased rural poverty.
  • Counterfeit medicines from Asia valued at US$1.6 billion end up in South-East Asia and Africa, where instead of curing people, they kill them. Counterfeit medicines can also foster drug-resistance among deadly infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.
  • Cybercrime: Identity theft produces US$1 billion for criminals each year, with a far-reaching impact on the economy and online commerce. The Internet also feeds the market for child pornography, with profits of US$250 million annually-and untold costs in terms of the victimization of children.

Underscoring the need for robust regional responses to stem illicit activity, Mr. Fedotov concluded, "We also need a comprehensive, system-wide response that strengthens resistance to organized crime at its points of origin, along trafficking routes, and at the final destinations for its illicit goods."

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Reminder: media events

  • Press conference today, Monday 18 October by UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov at 1p.m. in Room M2 (M-building)
  • A special media briefing on Tuesday 19 October will take place on Human Trafficking at 9.30a.m. in Room M2 (M-building) with the participation of the United States Ambassador against human trafficking, Luis CdeBaca.


For more information please contact:

Preeta Bannerjee
Public Information Officer, UNODC
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5764


Alun Jones
Chief of Communications, UNODC
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5726