Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

5 - Transnational Organized Crime



Organized crime is difficult to define. In 1919, the Chicago Crime Commission began referring to certain patterns of behavior as “organized crime,” and in 1929, U.S. President Herbert Hoover talked about the concept.

In 1975, the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch invoked the term “transnational crime” to identify certain criminal phenomena transcending international borders, transgressing laws of several states, or having an international impact. Until the 2000 passage of the Palermo Convention, “transnational crime” and “transnational organized crime” (TOC) were largely criminological terms used to discuss a crime with different definitions in different states, but that transcended the jursidiction of a given state.

In 1994, the UN Secretariat, as part of the Fourth UN Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, identified eighteen categories of transnational – and mostly organized – criminality: money laundering; illicit drug trafficking and corruption and bribery of public officials; infiltration of legal business; bankruptcy fraud; insurance fraud; computer crime; theft of intellectual property; illicit traffic in arms; terrorist activities; aircraft hijacking; sea piracy; hijacking on land; trafficking in persons; trade in human body parts; theft of art and cultural objects; environmental crime; and other offenses committed by organized criminal groups.

On December 15, 2000, the U.S. National Security Council issued a report outlining the impact of transnational crime on U.S. and international strategic interests.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Additional Reading
Internet Resources
Na, James J., Resources on Transnational Organized Crime on the World Wide Web, 2 Transnat'l Org. Crime 81 (Spring 1996).
,Resources on the Internet on Organized Crime, 1 Trends in Organized Crime 126 (No. 1 Fall 1995) (
,For corruption and organized crime, see Special Section: Corruption and Organized Crime, 2 Trends Org. Crime 4–68 (No. 4 1997).
,Two periodicals that monitor TOC trends are: Transnational Organized Crime and Trends in Organized Crime.
67 Int'l Rev. Penal L. The Criminal Justice Systems Facing the Challenge of Organised Crime, Preparatory for the XVI International Congress of Penal (Nos. 3–4 1996).
68 Int'l Rev. Penal L. The Criminal Justice Systems Facing the Challenge of Organised Crime, Topic I, General Part (Nos. 3 & 4 1997).
69 Int'l Rev. Penal L. The Criminal Justice Systems Facing the Challenge of Organised Crime, Topic II, Procedural Part (Nos. 3 & 4 1998).
70 Int'l Rev. Penal L. The Criminal Justice Systems Facing the Challenge of Organised Crime, Topic IV International Criminal Law (Nos. 1 & 2 1999).
Bassiouni, M. Cherif, Organized Crime: A Compilation of U.N. Documents 1975–1998, (Transnational Publishers, 1998).
Clawson, Patrick L & Lee, Rensselaer W III, The Andean Cocaine Industry (1996).
The Illicit Global Economy and State Power (Friman, Richard R & Andreas, Peter eds., Rowman & Littlefield, 1999).
Gray Area Phenomena: Confronting the New World Disorder (Manwaring, Max ed., Westview Press, 1993).
Handelman, Stephen, Comrade Criminal: Russia's New Mafiya (Yale U. Press, 1995).
Organized Crime: A Global Perspective (Kelly, Robert J ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 1986).
Kirkpatrick, Sidney R, Lords of Sipan: A True Story of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime (Henry Holt and Co., 1992).
Lacey, Robert, Little Man: Meyer Lansky and Gangster Life (Little Brown & Co., 1991).
Organized Crime, Democratic Governability: Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands (Bailey, John & Godson, Roy eds., University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001).
Robinson, Jeffrey, The Merger: The Conglomeration of International Organized Crime (Overlook Press, 2000).
Russian Organized Crime: The New Threat (Williams, Phil ed., Frank Cass Publishers, 1997).
Sterling, Claire, Octopus: The Long Reach of the Sicilian Mafia (W. W. Norton, 1990).
Thoumi, Francisco, Economía, Política y Narcotráfico (Economy, Policy, and Narcotrafficking (Tercer Mundo, 1994).
Vaksberg, Arkady, The Soviet Mafia (St. Martin's Press, 1991).
,White House, International Crime Threat Assessment (Dec. 2000),
Williams, Phil & Vlassis, Dimitri, Introduction and Overview, 4 Transnat'l Organized Crime – Special Issue Combating Transnational Crime: Concepts, Activities, and Responses 1 (Phil Williams & Dimitri Vlassis eds., 1998)
Chin, Ko-Lin, Zhang, Sheldon, & Kelly, Robert J., Transnational Chinese Organized Crime Activities: Patterns and Emerging Trends, 4 Transnat'l Org. Crime Special Issue Combating Transnational Crime: Concepts, Activities and Responses127 (Nos. 3 & 4 1998)
Bovenker, Frank, Organized Crime and Ethnic Minorities: Is There a Link, 4 Transnat'l Org. Crime109 (Nos. 3 & 4 1998)
Paoli, Letzia, Criminal Fraternities or Criminal Enterprises?, 4 Transnat'l Org. Crime88 (Nos. 3 & 4 1998)
Stanley, Alessandra, Palermo Shows Off as a Cleaned-Up Mafia Capital, N.Y. Times, Dec. 13, 2000, at A3, col. 1
Bassiouni, M. Cherif, Effective National and International Action against Organized Crime and Terrorist Criminal Activities, 4 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 9 (1990)
Cain, Alexander, Section 1963(A)(1) of RICO and Article 240 of the Italian Penal Code: Two Potential Weapons against Russian Organized Crime, New Eng. Int'l & Comp. L. Ann. 1996