Organized Crime Guide
In this preview of GIJN’s forthcoming Guide to Investigating Organized Crime in Africa, Cameroonian data journalist Madeleine Ngeunga offers reporting tips and expert advice for covering illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, and other environmental crimes.
Organized Crime Reporting Tools & Tips
In concert with GIJC21’s panel on the “New Organized Crime,” GIJN has released a comprehensive, multi-part reporting guide to investigating organized crime around the world, looking at nine key areas: criminal finance, narcotics, arms trade, environmental crime, forced disappearances, cybercrime, mafia states, human trafficking, and art and antiquities.
Cybercrime is any criminal activity perpetrated in a digital realm. While we often think of cybercrime as defined by “hacking,” there are many other types of crimes that are part of this world, and everything from trafficking in child pornography, to withdrawing illicit funds, to the theft of source code, falls into the category of “cyber” crimes.
Disappearing people benefits the perpetrators in several ways: it considerably complicates any investigation, the person — dead or alive — remains hidden most of the time, and it can be mixed or confused with other crimes, such as kidnapping, child abduction, human trafficking, forced recruitment, murder, or desecration of a human corpse.
National laws that govern arms dealing are uneven, contradictory, influenced by corrupted leadership, and rife with loopholes. Other barriers to exposing the weapons trade range from maritime and aviation secrecy concealing the transportation of arms; corporate entities that shield dealers and operators; the role of neighboring countries as conduits, and a barter system that allows one illicit commodity, such as ivory, to be exchanged for another.
Networks of business interests, government officials, and criminal groups run illegal operations that harm the environment in multiple ways. They drive worldwide illegal trafficking in wildlife and seafood, timber, minerals, hazardous waste, and toxic chemicals. Such environmental crimes are sometimes connected with other criminal activity, such as drug trafficking and money laundering.
The illicit trade in antiquities is a form of transnational crime that connects the theft at heritage sites to the elite world of the global art market, often via a web of organized crime.
Covering drug trafficking is inherently difficult and can be dangerous. Information is also scant. In most cases, it is best to begin by getting the best data possible. However, in all cases, proceed with caution: data on drug trafficking, especially drug seizures, gives you only a small part of the picture and can even distort reality in some cases.
GIJN’s forthcoming guide to investigating organized crime features a chapter on what we call mafia states – countries that essentially operate as a criminal cartel and run the affairs of state much as a crime syndicate runs rackets. To explore this topic, we asked GIJN’s executive director David Kaplan to interview Drew Sullivan, co-founder and editor of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.