Organized Crime

Transnational organized crime is considered as one of the major threats to human security, impeding the social, economic, political and cultural development of societies worldwide. It is a multi-faceted phenomenon and has manifested itself in different activities, among others, drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings; trafficking in firearms; smuggling of migrants; money laundering, etc.

Organized crime groups exploit human mobility to smuggle migrants and undermine financial systems through money laundering. The vast sums of money involved can compromise legitimate economies and directly impact public processes by ‘buying’ elections through corruption. It yields high profits for its culprits and results in high risks for individuals who fall victim to it. Every year, countless individuals lose their lives at the hand of criminals involved in organized crime, succumbing to drug-related health problems or injuries inflicted by firearms, or losing their lives as a result of the unscrupulous methods and motives of human traffickers and smugglers of migrants.

Organized crime has diversified, gone global and reached macro-economic proportions: illicit goods may be sourced from one continent, trafficked across another, and marketed in a third. Transnational organized crime can permeate government agencies and institutions, fuelling corruption, infiltrating business and politics, and hindering economic and social development. And it is undermining governance and democracy by empowering those who operate outside the law.

The transnational nature of organized crime means that criminal networks forge bonds across borders as well as overcome cultural and linguistic differences in the commission of their crime. Organized crime is not stagnant, but adapts as new crimes emerge and as relationships between criminal networks become both more flexible, and more sophisticated, with ever-greater reach around the globe.

In short, transnational organized crime transcends cultural, social, linguistic and geographical borders and must be met with a concerted response.

In particular drug trafficking is one of the main activities of organized crime groups, generating enormous profits. As globalization has expanded international trade, so the range of organized crime activities has broadened and diversified. The traditional hierarchical forms of organized crime groups have diminished; replaced with loose networks who work together in order to exploit new market opportunities. For example, organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking are commonly engaged in smuggling of other illegal goods. The links between drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime calls for a more integrated approach to address this nexus.

The geographic location of the Southern Caucasus makes the region attractive as a transit zone for the trafficking of opiates from Afghanistan to the major consumer markets of Europe. Afghanistan is the leading global producer of illicit opium with annual production estimated by UNODC at 4,770 metric tons in 2015. This constitutes around 90% of the total global opium output.

One of the main drug abuse problems relates to the abuse of subutex (buprenorphine). This semi-synthetic opioid, used to treat narcotic addiction as a substitute to heroin, is frequently used by injecting drug users. Additionally the abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) smuggled into the country from Europe is problematic. It appears that the drug abuse situation is a major concern yet no reliable data appears to exist, particularly on the extent of trafficking.

In addition to the lack of data on the drug situation, it should be mentioned that Georgia now has a national anti-drug strategy and action plan to address the drug problem, however, there are no formal reports how this action plan has been implemented; the current legislation is not in line with the UN Drug Control Conventions and needs to be reviewed and amended. The importance of ensuring that effective legislation is in place together with the development and implementation of a comprehensive and balanced strategy with clear objectives and targets is essential to provide the necessary foundation for tackling the drug problem effectively.

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