McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underworld [NOOK Book]

Overview

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the deregulation of international financial markets in 1989, governments and entrepreneurs alike became intoxicated by dreams of newly opened markets. But no one could have foreseen that the greatest success story to arise from these events would be the worldwide rise of organized crime. Today, it is estimated that illegal trade accounts for one-fifth of the global GDP.

In...
See more details below
McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underworld

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$13.99
BN.com price

Overview

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the deregulation of international financial markets in 1989, governments and entrepreneurs alike became intoxicated by dreams of newly opened markets. But no one could have foreseen that the greatest success story to arise from these events would be the worldwide rise of organized crime. Today, it is estimated that illegal trade accounts for one-fifth of the global GDP.

In this fearless and wholly authoritative investigation of the seemingly insatiable demand for illegal wares, veteran reporter Misha Glenny travels across five continents to speak with participants from every level of the global underworld—police, victims, politicians, and even the criminals themselves. What follows is a groundbreaking, propulsive look at an unprecedented phenomenon from a savvy, street-wise guide.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jonathan Yardley
This immensely informative and more than slightly scary book describes in all too vivid detail the "gold mine" that the fall of the Soviet Union opened for "criminals, organized and disorganized," who "were also good capitalists and entrepreneurs." If there is a law of unintended consequences, there must also be a law of unanticipated ones, and here we have one of the clearest examples. The downfall of international communism was indeed "a great victory for the West," but "initial euphoria was soon dampened by indications, admittedly in rather obscure places, that the new world of peace and democracy would face some teething problems." That, as Misha Glenny makes plain a bit later, is putting it mildly…
—The Washington Post
William Grimes
Mr. Glenny sets a fast pace as he races from one criminal hot spot to another, riding with marijuana traffickers in British Columbia, walking into pachinko parlors in Tokyo, visiting brothels in Tel Aviv and scoping out the sex clubs in Dubai. For sheer enterprise he is hard to beat…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Former BBC World correspondent Glenny (The Balkans, 1804-1999) presents a riveting and chilling journey through the myriad criminal syndicates flourishing in our increasingly globalized world, which make up as much as 20% of global GNP. Tracing the growth of organized crime-ranging from the burgeoning sex trade in volatile, postcommunist Bulgaria to elaborate Internet frauds in Nigeria-Glenny expertly combines interviews with key players, economic studies and sociological analysis. He argues that the chaos and political upheaval following the demise of communism in Eastern Europe, along with increasing demand in the West and the easy flow of money and people provided the perfect opportunity for organized crime to gain a foothold on the dark side of the globalizing economy. Glenny's achievement is in introducing readers to the less familiar aspects of global crime, from Kazakhstan's "caviar mafia" to the flourishing marijuana trade in British Columbia. Consequently, his interview subjects are equally varied: sex slaves in Tel Aviv, a co-conspirator in the deadly 1993 Mumbai bombings and top Washington policy makers share the pages. Readers yearning for a deeper understanding of the real-life, international counterparts to The Sopranosneed look no further than Glenny's engrossing study. 16 pages of photos; maps. 100,000announced first printing. (Apr. 10)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Today's international crime syndicates are more powerful than ever, and likely to become more so. So warns Glenny (The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999, 2000, etc.), formerly a BBC correspondent in Central Europe. That region's particular brand of organized crime is spreading around the world, he demonstrates in persuasive, alarming detail. When ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia finally subsided, it left in its wake "a wrecked local economy and a society dominated by testosterone-driven young men who [were] suddenly unemployed." This combination, which quickly led to society-wide corruption and crime in the Balkans, proved just as toxic in parts of the disintegrated Soviet Union and civil war-ravaged Africa and Latin America. Glenny's animated prose describes a slew of countries stretching from Bulgaria to Brazil and Nigeria in which the shadow economy of protection, kidnapping, gambling and smuggling threatens to overtake legitimate business-if it hasn't already done so. (Globalization and web-based technologies have opened opportunities for gangsters as well as entrepreneurs.) Based on the author's skillful investigative journalism, this survey of international wrongdoing makes for fantastic reading that surprises on more than one occasion: Who knew that western Canada had more organized criminal syndicates per capita than any other nation? In this world, gangsters and politicians, criminals and law-abiding citizens are rarely far apart. Highlighting those links, Glenny writes, "no organized criminal is as successful as the one who enjoys the backing of the state." He loses his cool when tying all the bloodletting back to those who consider themselves quiteapart from such things: Western consumers who, wittingly or not, feed the beast with their appetites for everything from drugs to prostitutes to cheap plastic goods. In his view, globally organized crime is a worldwide crisis linked to and nearly eclipsing terrorism as a threat. A bracing, frightening ride through a dark world experiencing "a vigorous springtime."First printing of 100,000. Agent: Clare Agent: Agent: Clare Conville/Conville & Walsh
From the Publisher
“A smart, outraged, and vividly described whirlwind tour of criminal conspiracy…. Clear, compelling, and scary.” —The Christian Science Monitor “Glenny's obsessive interest in his subject is infections, and his colorful writing and eye for detail give [McMafia] the feel of a juicy tell-all.” —The Washington Post“Riveting. . . . Provides insightful sociological perspectives about why certain nations spawn especially widespread and virulent organized crime networks.” —The Seattle Times“Daring. . . . A bravura piece of globe-trotting reportage.” —San Francisco Chronicle“A terrifying tour of the violent underworld of globalized crime.”—New York Post“Eye-opening…Engrossing.”—The Miami Herald“A vividly recounted journey through a dozen of the world's most potent gangs, cartels and transnational mafias.”—The Wall Street JournalFor anyone who wants to understand the 21st century, this illuminating and page-turning book is essential reading. —Emma Thompson“‘Behind every great fortune,’ said Balzac, ‘there lies a great crime.’ Misha Glenny has updated this aperçu for our own time.”—Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great“A riveting and chilling journey . . . Readers yearning for a deeper understanding of the real-life, international counterparts to The Sopranos need look no further than Glenny's engrossing study.”—Publishers Weekly “In this well-researched and riveting account, Glenny does for crime what he did for the Balkans. He dissects the international criminal organizations that run much of the world’s economy and explains how the criminal underworld has both benefited from and contributed to globalization.”—Joseph Stiglitz, author of Making Globalization Work
The Barnes & Noble Review
Misha Glenny, the British journalist and historian who so memorably reported on the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s for the BBC, has written some disturbing books in his time. The Rebirth of History, The Fall of Yugoslavia, The Balkans 1804-1999 -- these superb histories of eastern Europe are inevitably, though not entirely, grim portraits of humanity. This book, however, may be his most chilling. McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld is a guided tour of organized crime worldwide, from Russia to South America, from China to the Middle East, from Africa to India. From the ends of the earth to where you live, to where we all live. "As consumers, we are all involved," Glenny observes toward the end of his journey. He is not preaching, merely inviting us to peel back the veneer of our everyday life and examine what lies beneath.

"It was the evening of April 30, 1994, and spring had settled on Woking in Surrey," Glenny begins. "[A]s dusk fell on Willow Way...families sat down for dinner and Saturday night television." At nine o'clock, a man emerged from a red Toyota and knocked on the door of number 31. When Karen Reed, a thirty-three-year-old geophysicist, opened the door she was shot several times in the head. The assassin had mistaken Karen for her sister, a BBC producer who, through marriage to an Armenian criminal, had become the target of Chechen gangsters. As Glenny puts it, Woking had just been visited by "the whirlwind of death, imperialism, civil war, oil, gangsterism, and nationalist struggle known as the North Caucasus."

In a pattern repeated to great effect throughout the book, Glenny first grabs our attention with dramatic action, then holds it with succinct explanation and keen analysis. The Ponting murder, for example, allows him to describe briefly the rise of organized crime in eastern Europe following the collapse of communism and the advent of globalization. "This was the new Silk Route," he writes of the unstable region stretching from the Balkans, across the Caucasus, to the edge of China and Pakistan, "a multilane criminal highway...which permitted the swift and easy transfer of people, narcotics, cash, endangered species and precious hardwood from Asia to Europe and farther to the United States."

With illicit profits and political power symbiotically linked, the scale and strength of the new decentralized crime syndicates grew in tandem with burgeoning globalized trade and the deregulation of international financial markets. It continues to grow -- illegal trade is currently estimated to account for nearly one-fifth of global GDP -- and at tremendous human cost. By comparison "in terms of death and misery caused," Glenny notes, "terrorism is a primitive and relatively insignificant species."

The first leg of his journey covers mainly Bulgaria, the Balkans, Russia, and Ukraine, logical starting places given Glenny's conclusion that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the "single most important event prompting the exponential growth of organized crime around the world in the last two decades...as a new class of capitalists exploited the vacuum of power by seizing whole industries and raiding the state coffers."

The free-for-all is described in impressive detail. A labyrinthine diagram, for example, depicts the structure of Eural Trans Gas as a cobweb involving France, Cyprus, Germany, and the USA among other interests. A simpler yet far more disturbing map introduces the subsequent chapter on the Middle East, with arrows tracing a main sex trafficking route from Moldova/Transnistria through Odessa to Moscow to Cairo and finally Israel. The squalor of this trade is powerfully evoked when Glenny spends an evening touring Tel Aviv's brothels. Here Ludmilla, a young Moldovan woman "recruited" by a friend and promptly enslaved, "...was kept locked in an apartment from six-thirty in the morning. At five-thirty in the afternoon, she was driven to a brothel above a pizza parlor on Bugashov Street, where she was forced to work for twelve hours in the high-volume second shift... Ludmilla was raped twenty times a night." When she finally escaped and was deported, Ludmilla was destitute, traumatized, and HIV-positive.

Such stories and vivid scenes not only animate the weight of detail, they also sustain the illusion that we are following a seasoned guide on a grim and hazardous expedition. Glenny conducted over 100 interviews for this book, many of them dangerous, all of them risky, some with lawmen, some with criminals. He sips tea with a polite contract killer in Mumbai, India, wondering how he can "warm to a murderer." He drives at night into a South African township, "the ultimate nightmare for South African whites;" he meets "Django" or Wolfgang, an Austrian academic who led a double life as a member of "the largest and most meticulously organized protection racket in the world," the Japanese Yakuza; he admits to being spooked by Colombia, where he interviews a representative of the FARC guerrilla group.

Where other writers might swagger, Glenny simply reports, invariably with a disarming hint of self-deprecation. His tone is dry, occasionally sardonic, yet never cold; it is always engaging in its plainness and honesty. Whether describing the Russian Mafia's 2004 "Soviet Union nostalgia party" in Paris, which included "French peasants dressed as collective farm workers from the 1930's" and coke-sniffing, barely clad prostitutes writhing to Soviet-era patriotic songs; or the gang "muscle" that was critical to Japan's economic bubble; or China's vast underground cigarette factories; or Dubai's slave labor camps; or the Japanese slot-machine game pachinko, which generates an annual turnover of "about $300 billion, twice the value of the entire Japanese automobile industry, and somewhere in the region of the total global narcotics market!," Glenny compels you to feel his mixed sense of wonder and horror.

If the overall effect of McMafia is illuminating rather than downright terrifying, that is to Glenny's credit. His aim is not to shock but to reveal how these "violent entrepreneurs" follow and create markets, however foul, on the dark side of the global corporate economy. This perspective results in occasional repetition and unevenness of pace and tone. It is unfair, however, to expect McMafia to have the passionate despair of Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah or the elegant intensity of Peter Robb's Midnight in Sicily. The underworld through which Glenny travels is too varied and complex to be neatly encompassed. It is an ironic and telling fact that McMafia has already been translated into 25 languages. Each one of them doubtless has its own word for its new Mafia. --Anna Mundow

Anna Mundow writes "The Interview" and the "Historical Novels" columns for The Boston Globe and is a contributor to The Irish Times.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307268624
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 235,882
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Misha Glenny is an award-winning journalist and scholar who was educated at Bristol University in England and charles University in Prague. A former BBC central Europe correspondent, he covered the fall of Communism and the wars in the former Yugoslavia. He has contributed to most major news publications in Europe and the United States and is the author of The Rebirth of History: The Fall of Yugoslavia (which won the Overseas Press Club Award in 1993 for Best Book on Foreign Affairs) and The Balkans: Nationalism, War & The Great Powers, 1804-1999. During the 1990s, he was an International Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. He has also worked as a political consultant in southeastern Europe and is regularly consulted by U.S. and European governments on Balkan issues. Misha Glenny lives in London.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

It was the evening of April 30, 1994, and spring had settled on Woking in Surrey. The Barnesbury Estate is not quite middle management, but there is no shortage of aspiration in this part of southern England. And as dusk fell on Willow Way, a quiet road of terraced housing, cars had already been garaged and families sat down for dinner and Saturday night television.

At nine o’clock, a man emerged from his red Toyota outside number 31. Carrying a flat blue and white box, he strolled up to the front door and tapped on it. Inside Karen Reed, a thirty-three-year-old geophysicist who analyzed seismic data for a living, was enjoying a glass of white wine and a chat with a friend when they heard the man’s muffled voice through the window. “Have you ordered a pizza?” he inquired. Karen opened the door, whereupon the pizza deliverer drew a .38 pistol and shot her several times in the head with calm deliberation. The killer then ran back to the car and drove off.

Karen Reed was not the intended victim that night. There was a reason for the murderer’s confusion, however. His real target was Karen’s sister, Alison Ponting, a producer at the BBC World Service, who was living with Karen at the time but happened to be out that evening. The killing had probably been carried out at the instigation of Djokar Dudayev, president of the Republic of Chechnya.

In 1986, Alison had married a chubby Armenian charmer, Gacic Ter-Oganisyan, whom she had met a couple of years earlier while studying Russian at a university. The marriage triggered a chain of improbable events that eight years later unleashed the whirlwind of death, imperialism, civil war, oil, gangsterism, and nationalist struggle known as the North Caucasus upon the sleepy commuter town of Woking.

Eighteen months before Karen’s murder, two brothers, Ruslan and Nazarbeg Utsiev, had arrived in London as envoys of President Dudayev with a brief to arrange the printing of passports and banknotes for the new Chechen state. Ruslan was the volatile Dudayev’s most trusted adviser and a hard-liner in the faction-ridden administration. His brother was a martial arts expert and general muscle-for-hire. Along with their public mandate to print the documents of the putative Chechen state, they had a number of other missions: to secure a $250 million loan from an American businessman for the modernization of Chechnya’s huge oil refineries; to conclude negotiations with the German energy company Stinnes AG for the quick sale of Chechen oil at world prices; and as investigators later discovered, to purchase 2,000 ground-to-air Stinger missiles. To embark on such complex negotiations, the Chechen government representatives needed a skilled interpreter and fixer. Ruslan remembered that he was once interviewed by a BBC producer, Alison Ponting, and he turned to her for help. She suggested her husband, Ter-Oganisyan, hoping, perhaps, that he would find gainful employment.

During his time in London, Alison’s Armenian husband had developed into the consummate chancer. Ter-Oganisyan was ducking and diving: smuggling, setting up fake companies for money laundering, and also doing menial work when his tentative criminal activities dried up. Initially the macho Caucasian trio hit it off, holding raucous parties to which a stream of call girls were invited. Not surprisingly, Alison was increasingly unhappy at the behavior of her husband and the two Chechens, as were the wealthy occupants of Bickenhall Mansions, the apartment block a stone’s throw from Sherlock Holmes’s reputed domicile at 221B Baker Street in central London where the Utsiev brothers had found a flat.

At some point, relations between the Armenian and the Chechens soured. Later, England’s Crown Prosecution Service insisted that Ter-Oganisyan had discovered that the Stinger missiles were destined for Azerbaijan to be deployed in the war against his home country, Armenia. There was a second theory: that the Stingers were indeed bound for Chechnya and that the Utsiev brothers and Ter-Oganisyan fell out over money. What is certain is that Ter-Oganisyan alerted senior members of the Armenian KGB to the Utsiev brothers’ activities and a couple of hitmen were dispatched from Los Angeles, the center of the Armenian diaspora in the United States, to London.

The Utsiev brothers were murdered in gruesome fashion (Ruslan’s body was dismembered and only discovered when it fell out of a packing case en route to the north London suburb of Harrow). Ter-Oganisyan is now doing life for their murders, while a codefendant, an officer of Armenia’s KGB, hanged himself at Belmarsh Prison while awaiting trial.

I was appalled when reading about this case at the time, not least because I discovered that Alison and Karen’s father was David Ponting, a lecturer in drama at Bristol University. His one-man show about Dylan Thomas had made a great impression on me when I studied there. David had taught me radio production, skills I would later employ as the BBC’s central Europe correspondent.

After Karen’s murder, Alison accepted an offer to go into a witness protection scheme. Deprived of his children, David moved to the United States, where he worked for a while as an actor. Later, he too went underground.

The Pontings were gentle and unassuming. It is hard to imagine a family less likely to be involved in a political mafia killing from the former Soviet Union. But one of the officers involved in the Utsiev brothers’ case pointed out at the time, “We were suddenly dealing with crime and politics from a part of the world that, to be honest, none of us in the Metropolitan or Surrey police had ever heard of. We knew nothing about the wars, about the crime, and about the politics—we were frankly all at sea.”

It was 1994, and the failing state, an unknown concept to most, was visiting Britain for the first time.


The post–World War II order began to crumble in the first half of the 1980s. Its dissolution followed no obvious pattern, occurring instead as a series of seemingly disparate events: the spectacular rise of the Japanese car industry; Communist Hungary’s clandestine approach to the International Monetary Fund to explore a possible application for membership; the stagnation of India’s economy; President F. W. de Clerk’s first discreet contacts with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela; the advent of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in China; Margaret Thatcher’s decisive confrontation with Britain’s trades union movement.

Individually, these and other events seemed to reflect the everyday ups and downs of politics; at most they were adjustments to the world order. In fact, powerful currents below the surface had provoked a number of economic crises and opportunities, especially outside the great citadels of power in Western Europe and the United States, that were to have profound consequences for the emergence of what we now call globalization.

There was one development, however, that had its roots firmly in America and in its primary European ally, Britain. The world was taking its first steps toward the liberalization of international financial and commodity markets. Western corporations and banks had begun to pry open markets that had hitherto maintained strict controls on foreign investment and currency exchange. Then came the fall of Communism in 1989, first in Eastern Europe and then in the mighty Soviet Union itself. Out of ideas, short of money, and beaten in the race for technological superiority, Communism fizzled out in days rather than years. This was a monumental event that fused with the processes of globalization to trigger an exponential rise in the shadow economy.

These huge economic and political shifts affected every part of the planet. In some areas, such as the United States, the early 1990s saw a dramatic increase in personal income. South Africa prepared for the end of apartheid, the most excoriated political system in the world. The people of the Soviet Union—effectively closed to the West for seventy years—had to adjust to a new life, one in which their government no longer exercised control over them from cradle to grave. In Latin America, the military regimes and their brutal abuse of human rights fell into disfavor, to be replaced by the immense political test of managing capricious national debt.

Overall, there was a significant worldwide upsurge in trade, investment, and the creation of wealth. The latter was, however, distributed very unevenly. Countless states found themselves cast into the purgatory that became known as “transition,” a territory with ever-shifting borders. In these badlands, economic survival frequently involved grabbing a gun and snatching what you could to survive.

The fall of Communism was, of course, a great victory for the West, demonstrating the superiority of the world’s democracies over Communist dictatorship in every respect. Europe celebrated the unification of Germany and the liberation of many East European countries. The new Russia was quite content, it seemed, to give up its military dominance of the region, disbanding NATO’s erstwhile rival, the Warsaw Pact. Initially reluctant, Moscow then allowed the other peoples of the dying Soviet Union to form their own independent states, fulfilling their national aspirations. Looking back, this was the high point of my own life. In my teens, I had become involved in Western organizations supporting the beleaguered opposition throughout Eastern Europe, such as Poland’s Solidarity or Czechoslovakia’s Charter 77. I had done everything from translating documents to smuggling dismembered photocopying machines across the Iron Curtain to the dissidents. And so when I stood five yards behind Czechoslovakia’s great moral leaders,Václav Havel and Alexander Dubcek, as they addressed their public from a balcony above Prague’s Wenceslas Square in November 1989, I felt both a sense of real achievement and cautious optimism about the future of Europe and the world.

This initial euphoria was soon dampened by indications, admittedly in rather obscure places, that the new world of peace and democracy might face some teething problems. In the Caucasus along Russia’s southern border, sporadic reports emerged of fighting in obscure pockets of the region. In parts of Africa, such as Angola, wars that had started as proxy conflicts between American- and Soviet-backed forces did not mimic the cold war by coming to an end—if anything, they intensified. Then the former Yugoslavia dissolved into a murderous civil war, presenting the new united Europe with a challenge that it was entirely unable to meet.

The new circumstances bewildered old international institutions. All had to improvise and no party quite understood the implications of its actions or their unintended consequences.

One group of people, however, saw real opportunity in this dazzling mixture of upheaval, hope, and uncertainty. These men, and occasionally women, understood instinctively that rising living standards in the West, increased trade and migration flows, and the greatly reduced ability of many governments to police their countries combined to form a gold mine. They were criminals, organized and disorganized, but they were also good capitalists and entrepreneurs, intent on obeying the laws of supply and demand. As such, they valued economies of scale, just as multinational corporations did, and so they sought out overseas partners and markets to develop industries that were every bit as cosmopolitan as Shell, Nike, or McDonald’s. The title of this book reflects this global reach, as criminal corporations aspire to penetrate markets the world over, mirroring the global goals of legal entities such as McDonald’s.

They first became visible in Russia and Eastern Europe, but they were also exerting an influence on countries as far away from one another as India, Colombia, and Japan.

I spotted them in the early 1990s when I was covering the wars in the former Yugoslavia for the BBC. The booty paramilitary units brought home with them after destroying towns and villages in Croatia and Bosnia was used as capital to establish large criminal empires. The bosses of these syndicates became rich very quickly. Soon they established smuggling franchises that conveyed illicit goods and services from all over the world and into the consumer paradise of the European Union.

As a writer on the Balkans, I was invited to many conferences to discuss the political issues behind the disastrous wars in the region. It was not long before I received invitations to gatherings discussing security issues. Politicians, policemen, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were all hoping to learn what lay behind the immense power of organized crime in the Balkans and beyond. However, most knowledge of the new wave of global crime was anecdotal at best. Nobody had connected the dots.

Initially, I looked at the networks and motives of criminal groups in the Balkans but quickly realized that in order to understand crime there, I would have to extend my research to other parts of the world: the regions that produce criminal goods, such as Russia, South America, Africa, India, and China; as well as the regions that consume them, such as the European Union, North America, Japan, and the Middle East.

Among the many consequences of the Soviet collapse was the emergence of a thick belt of instability that began in the Balkans and stretched all the way across the Caucasus, the so-called stans of Soviet central Asia, and on to the western edge of China and the North-West Frontier of Pakistan.

This was the New Silk Route, a multilane criminal highway that linked the belt with other troubled regions such as Afghanistan and which permitted the swift and easy transfer of people, narcotics, cash, endangered species, and precious hardwood from Asia to Europe and farther to the United States.

This clutch of uncertain new states on the southern periphery of the former Russian empire was born as the pace of globalization accelerated. Countries in Western Europe and the Mediterranean proved a powerful magnet for those scrambling to seize power along the New Silk Route.Money translated directly into political power and vice versa. And so those harboring ambition in the failing states needed the New Silk Route for three related transactions: to transfer cash to the sanctity of Western banks and real estate; to sell illicit goods and services into the European Union, the United States, and eastward to Japan; and to buy and sell arms within the former Soviet Union and to export them into the world’s trouble spots.

“In ’93–’94 I started working in law enforcement, knowing that globalization was beginning to have an impact on a whole range of issues,” said Jon Winer in his plush office a couple of blocks from the White House. The architect of the Clinton administration’s organized crime strategy, Winer had spotted these new developments earlier than most.“The paradigm was El Salvador. After the war, people decided to use their arms caches to make money in criminal gangs. And then we saw that the right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas began working together! Burglary, carjacking plus kidnapping, car theft...”

Winer had stumbled across something that still plagues peace initiatives aiming to stop wars that engulf failed states. When diplomats succeed in bringing the fighting to a halt, they are confronted with a wrecked local economy and a society dominated by testosterone-driven young men who are suddenly unemployed but have grown accustomed to their omnipotence. If you want lasting stability, you have to find useful jobs to occupy them. Otherwise these people find the temptation to retrain themselves as organized criminal units irresistible. In retrospect, Winer argued, the extent of this problem in El Salvador and other conflicts from the 1980s was a stroll in the park compared with what the 1990s had in store: “The main sources of revenue in Salvador was not carjacking or drugs. But when you got to the Balkans or the Caucasus, the main source of revenue in society was criminal. Now you had a very different model!”

The deepening links in a globalizing world magnify the impact of immense disruptions to the international order like the collapse of the Soviet Union. And for the first few years after the event, nobody had the slightest notion what the sudden injection of huge sums of mineral wealth and criminal profits into the legitimate and shadow economies actually implied. And those who did observe some changes in the way the world worked were frequently baffled by it. What was a cop on the beat in leafy Woking expected to know about the internecine struggles of the Caucasus?

Academics and researchers have channeled considerable energy into understanding the process of “licit” globalization, a process that is largely regulated and quantifiable, although hedge funds and private equity sometimes appear to have slipped their moorings. But since the liberalization of international financial and commodity markets on the one hand and the fall of Communism on the other, the shadow economy has shot up as a percentage of global GDP. According to figures culled from the IMF, the World Bank, and research institutes in Europe and North America, it now accounts for between 15 and 20 percent of global turnover.

Of course, this includes a multitude of sins, such as tax avoidance, that cannot be ascribed to a growth in transnational criminal conspiracies. But given that the shadow economy has become such an important economic force in our world, it is surprising that we devote so little effort to a systematic understanding of how it works and how it connects with the licit economy. This shadow world is by no means distinct from its partner in the light, which is itself often far less transparent than one might suspect or desire. In both banking and commodity trading, the criminal operates much closer to home than we think.

That vast unregulated economic area is a swamp that contains protein-rich nutrients for a host of security problems. International terrorism certainly feeds in these same grounds, but in terms of the death and misery caused, terrorism is a primitive and relatively insignificant species. Crime and the pursuit of money or political power have proved incomparably more damaging over the last two decades. The concentration of huge resources on fighting terrorism to the neglect of other security problems is the consequence of chronic mismanagement, especially under the administration of President George W. Bush. It is striking how all opinion polls in Iraq since the invasion have placed corruption and crime in equal first place with terrorism as the major concern for citizens. The impact of the former—not just in Iraq alone but across the Middle East—will last long after the latter has diminished.

From the Balkans, which I knew well, I embarked on a journey around the world in an attempt to trace the history of the astonishing growth in organized crime and the shadow economy over the last twenty years. On my travels, I met fascinating characters of great intelligence, vitality, courage, wit, and spirit. Many were criminals, some were victims, others were politicians, policemen, or lawyers. Almost all were happy to tell their strange, frightening, and even funny stories. The nature of the topic means that many were only willing to speak anonymously and names have often been changed.* I would like to thank all those I interviewed and consulted for their time and their profound insights.

I hope their stories contribute to solving the puzzle of how organized crime fits in to a globalized planet. I also hope they offer some clues as to how politicians and police might address these problems to prevent men and women, such as Karen Reed, from falling victim to this shadow world.

*Indicated by the italicization of a name on first appearance.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Introduction     ix
The Fall of Communism
Death of an American     3
Bloody Lucre     21
The Mafiya: Midwives of Capitalism     47
Spreading the Word     71
Gold, Money, Diamonds, and Banks
Aliyah     99
Xanadu I     121
Xanadu II     140
The Theater of Crime     161
Black and White     183
Drugs and Cybercrime
Buddies     211
March of Fear     240
Code Orange     264
The Future of Organized Crime
The Overunderworld     287
The Future of Organized Crime     313
Epilogue     343
Acknowledgments     347
A Note on Sources     351
Index     355
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)