A Cardiff University academic is at the forefront of the fight against serious organised crime in Europe.

Dr Mike Levi, Professor of Criminology in the School of Social
Sciences, analyzes the risk of such crime, advises the Council of Europe and has contributed to the Council’s latest Annual Organised Crime Report.

The 2005 Report includes a section focusing on economic crime in Europe written by Professor Levi, Dr. Nicholas Dorn (a Research Fellow in the department) and Professor Leonid Fituni from Moscow.

” Serious organised economic crime, that is crime which affects people on a large scale, is an increasing problem in countries where there are unstable governments and emerging capitalist economies, such as those in Eastern Europe, ” said Professor Levi.

“The Report looks at the conditions under which economic crime can flourish, and lessons that can be learned to prevent it from happening. This involves taking a strategic look at the factors that make frauds and other transnational crimes easier, from the crime organisers and their collaborators such as lawyers and transport companies to how the police are organised and how little interest in the media there is in investigative journalism against major political figures in Eastern Europe, ” he added.

Professor Levi is keen to dispel the mythical image of organised crime. He said: ” It is particularly important that we escape the mental silos in which we place ‘organised crime’ – committed by ‘people in dark glasses carrying violin cases’ – in one category and ‘white-collar/economic crime’ – committed by ‘respectables’ – in another.

“The Council of Europe has recognised that there is a large section in the middle where the same sorts of people are involved in both, and the social threat from economic crime can be immense.”

One of the world’s leading experts on serious organised crime,
Professor Levi has taught at Cardiff University since 1991 and is one of few academics who specialise in this area.

” Until recently, little research was being done on organised crime as there wasn’t a great deal of funding available. Also, the researcher needs to have broad knowledge of several fields including law, sociology, business and politics.

” However, since the rise of casino capitalism in Eastern Europe and big scandals such as Parmalat in Italy and Enron in the USA, there has been a growing interest in the subject and more research is being funded and carried out with a view to reducing the problem and improving the criminal justice process, ” he said.



Street gangs have become a top cause of insecurity in Central America, exacerbating pre-existing problems with clandestine death squads, organized crime, high rates of unemployment, and rampant corruption. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is actively seeking solutions to break this 20-year cycle, but the US authorities and their Central American colleagues face a difficult game of catch-up.

Read the two-part series on MS-13 street gangs: Street gangs, a transnational security threatand Recruitment, redemption in the MS-13 from the ISN website.


Cuba faces increased exploitation by organised crime and drug trafficking groups – a situation that could deteriorate further with the political changes that are likely to follow the eventual death of communist leader Fidel Castro. Mark Galeotti reports. Read the full article (PDF).


Organised crime, corruption and other forms of economic and serious crime will remain priority concerns of European societies in the years to come. The heads of states and governments participating in the 3rd summit of the Council of Europe (Warsaw, 16 – 17 May 2005) therefore tasked the Council of Europe to further develop its activities in these fields.
On 20 January 2006 the Council of Europe published its Organised crime situation report 2005. It can be downloaded from here (right-click-save, PDF format)


31 January 2006

Around £12 million in criminal assets have been targeted and 28 criminal gangs have been disrupted in Northern Ireland last year by agencies working to thwart organised crime. Security Minister and Chair of the Organised Crime Task Force, Shaun Woodward, made the announcement at the launch of launch of PWC Global Economic Crime Survey in Belfast.

Speaking to representatives of the business community in Northern Ireland, Mr Woodward said: “I believe the business community have a vital role to play. I am delighted that the Confederation of British Industry, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses have joined the Task Force. I am confident that their contribution will significantly add to our collective response.
“Only by working in partnership with law enforcement and harnessing public awareness and support can we change perceptions, drive down tolerance of criminals and rid our community of the economic and human cost of organised crime.”
Outlining how the efforts of the Government and law enforcement agencies were impacting on organised criminal gangs, he said: “The Task Force has made good progress in crucial areas. During 2004/05 28 top level criminal gangs were disrupted or dismantled; criminal assets totalling almost £12 million were collectively restrained or confiscated by the Assets Recovery Agency, police and Revenue & Customs; £7 million of counterfeit goods were seized in 2004/05 by PSNI and legitimate fuel deliveries increased by 6%.”
However, the Minister said that more needed to be done: “While these achievements are extremely encouraging, there is more to be done by all of us. Not just by the law enforcement agencies and government but by industry, by the public and their political representatives.
“There are no quick fixes. Organised crime is complex and embedded in communities. Criminals show a blatant disregard for public safety and often prey on the most vulnerable in our society. Their only concern is to make money and it is in all our interests to prevent that happening.”


MIDDLE EASTERN gangs are more violent and of greater concern than any other group in Sydney, senior police say. But difficulties with obtaining evidence is the main problem in bringing criminals to justice, not any directives to go “soft on ethnic crime” as claimed by the Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, police say.

The NSW Police operations manager for the state crime command, Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Dein, has described as “outrageous and disgraceful” a lack of respect towards authority shown by members of teenage and organised Middle Eastern gangs. “Middle Eastern [criminals] are worse than other ethnic groups in NSW from what I have seen,” Mr Dein said. “The crime committed … is much worse, much more violent. The violent incidences are a lot more in number.”

But Mr Dein said that the peaks for problems with the gangs were in 1998, when the Lakemba police station was shot at, and in 2003, when a spate of drive-by shootings resulted in Task Force Gain being set up. The gangs were not as serious a problem now as they were then, after a series of prominent arrests, he said.

Last week the Premier, Morris Iemma, announced the formation of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad. It makes permanent the work of Task Force Gain, which has had its number of officers cut from 150 to 60 since it was set up in in 2003.
Mr Iemma and the Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, also announced that Strike Force Enoggera would have its numbers increased from 28 to 100 as it aimed to do more to capture revenge attackers after the Cronulla riots. One detective who has been investigating organised Middle Eastern crime told the Herald: “They’re prone to use violence … They’ll get in your face a lot more than normal crooks will. “They’ll tell you they’re going to go f— your mother. Normal crooks will have a bit more respect. The young blokes … a lot of it is drug-related. It’s easy money; they don’t have to work.”

Gangs were becoming more canny about the presence of listening devices and phone taps, he said. Talking about problems with evidence, Mr Dein said: “There is a very strong perception that because everybody knows about something occurring [someone should be arrested but] it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s evidence … Identification is a very [difficult] issue.”
Police believe some people involved in organised crime might have taken part in the revenge attacks following the Cronulla riot, but that they were mainly the work of angry young men. Mr Dein was at pains to point out: “We don’t target people because of their background; we target the crime.”

Task Force Gain has made more than 1300 arrests, including 10 for murder and attempted murder. Since 1998 six strike forces, focusing mostly on crime in the Middle Eastern community, have made more than 250 arrests relating to drug operations, shootings and car rebirthing. In the past two years almost 300 people of Middle Eastern background have been arrested by state crime command squads.

In the past six months Gain has pressed 124 charges, including one for murder, five for attempted murder, four for the discharge of weapons, three for arson and 57 for drug supply. The figures run counter to claims by Mr Debnam that there have been “almost no arrests” of “Middle Eastern thugs” in 10 years.

But a defence lawyer, Brett Galloway, who has worked on several matters brought by Task Force Gain, said police were failing in their prosecutions. “I have had every Task Force Gain prosecution against my clients go sideways so far,” he said. Mr Galloway told of one case where a client was charged over a drive-by shooting but the case was dropped after problems with prosecution witnesses. The Crown was likely to pay costs of more than $1 million.

Mr Galloway said police were often turning people they arrested into informants, but their stories were inconsistent so they did not present as good witnesses. Told of the police comments on Middle Eastern crime, Mr Galloway said: “I’d actually be more concerned with Asian crime.”

A former Bankstown police crime manager, Acting Superintendent Jim Johnson, said problems in the area had declined. “In Bankstown, for 10 years, it was a situation where you would walk around the area with some concern,” he said.
“[Now] you’d walk around any time there” in uniform. “Gangs were formed because they saw it as an opportunity of not only making money but actually being recognised. “That’s no different from our own culture with the Bra Boys, the Surfies and the Sharpies.”

Another police source agreed: “We used to have two shootings a week … we’re down to one every three months.” The co-author of the book Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime, Scott Poynting, a University of Western Sydney associate professor, said Mr Dein’s comments were counterproductive. “No one makes such comments about gangs that happen to all have [people of] Anglo-Celtic origin in them.”

Evidence gathered by Task Force Gain will be tested this year in several trials, some relating to shootings in Sydney’s south-west. The difficulties in making charges stick became apparent when alleged revenge attackers appeared in court this week. The police case against Wael Tahan, 20, and Mohammed Eid, 19, accused of involvement in an attack on a pedestrian, was questioned in court. The prosecutor said it was unlikely the victim could identify his attackers. “I would suggest that the prosecution case was not strong,” said the magistrate, Paul Falzon. “I dare say there would be some appreciable difficulties in attacking the defence … ”

Copyright © 2006. The Sydney Morning Herald.


Friday January 27, 2006
The Guardian

Robberies rose by 11% as part of a general 4% rise in violent incidents in England and Wales over the past 12 months, according to crime figures recorded by the police released yesterday.
But this partial picture contrasted sharply with results from the British Crime Survey – seen by criminologists as more authoritative – which measures people’s experience of crime. These showed that violent crime fell by 5% over the same period and overall crime, including burglary and car theft, was down by 2%. The latest quarterly police figures also suggest a 1% fall in overall crime in the same period – the 12 months to September 2005.

Discrepancies between the two sets of crime data prompted the home secretary, Charles Clarke, to announce a cross-party group of experts to look at ways of increasing public confidence in the crime figures. “Despite the fact that most crime categories are falling, fear of crime is still too high and public perception is often at odds with reality,” said Mr Clarke.

“I want to get to a situation, on a cross-party basis, where we all agree on how crime in this country is going to be measured and are produced in a way that commands public credibility.”

He acknowledged that the 11% rise in robberies recorded by the police to 92,000 incidents in England and Wales caused the most concern among the public but insisted that it followed reductions thanks to the recent street crime initiative. Educational packs are going to schools warning teenagers to protect personal possessions, including mobiles and MP3 players.

Police recorded crime figures also show drug offences up by 19% over the year to September, but continuing falls in burglary (down 7%) and car crime (down 4%).

The BCS results, which are based on interviews with 46,000 people over 16, show the risk of being a victim of crime, at 23%, is the lowest since the survey started in 1981. The long-term trend shows that crime in England and Wales rose between 1981 and 1995 and has been falling every year since. The BCS estimates that violent crime has fallen by 43% in the last decade.

The latest murder figures show that there were 839 homicides in England and Wales – a fall of 20 over the previous year. Gun crime rose by 1% from 10,950 to 11,110 incidents, with about 4,000 of them resulting in physical injury.

Home Office research published yesterday showed that the deployment of 6,000 community support officers has made the public feel safer but found no evidence that they were having any impact on levels of crime and disorder.

Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and senior police officers welcomed the cross-party review. But Tory MP Nick Herbert said the figures showed that the government was continuing to fail on gun crime and violent crime.


Experts are not hopeful that a new law can root out Georgia’s pervasive organised criminals.

The Georgian government has passed a new law to tackle organised crime, revealing the extent to which it permeates the whole of society. The bill “on organised crime and racketeering” was adopted on Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s personal initiative. He then signed the law on December 29 in a ceremony broadcast live on television.

“The previous authorities were linked to ‘thieves in law’ [a Soviet-era term for an organised crime boss], but we will put an end to these flourishing thieves,” said Saakashvili. The president said that the new law will ensure criminal kingpins are rooted out and their property confiscated by the state. The president also announced plans to build a new prison in the capital Tbilisi to hold 3,000 inmates.

The new authorities that came to power in Georgia following the November 2003 “Rose Revolution” declared that tackling organised crime was one of their top priorities. The interior ministry was overhauled and in 2005, it was merged with the security ministry, resulting in many staff being dismissed.

Police operations to arrest suspected criminals are regularly shown on television. According to official figures, more than 160 people accused of abduction, hostage-taking, smuggling, extortion and using or selling drugs were arrested in 2004 and the first nine months of 2005. However, some experts say that the official statistics disguise the continuing gravity of the crime situation.

Irakli Artilakva of the Young Lawyers Association of Georgia said, “Basically the situation has not changed. Crimes are still being committed as before. But so as to improve the statistics and show everyone that they are active in fighting organised crime, the authorities are imprisoning people who might have been eligible for a different kind of sentence.

“The prisons are full. There are 78 inmates in a cell meant for 15 people, so they take it in turns to sleep. We did not have that situation even in Communist times. Very often people are imprisoned for fear that they might abscond.” In light of this overcrowding, Artiklava argue that the new law is not well thought out, and was adopted too hastily. “The crimes for which so-called ‘thieves in law’ can be convicted were punishable previously as well,” he said. “The inclusion of such criminal concepts in the law is not justifiable at all.”

Levan Bezhashvili, one of the authors of the new bill and chairman of the Georgian parliament’s legal issues Committee, told IWPR that the law drew on the experience of the United States, Poland, and, in particular, Italy. As in Italy, the major innovation is that the heads of organised crime groups can be given long jail sentences and their property confiscated.

In Georgia, “representatives of the criminal world” can now be imprisoned from three to eight years and “thieves in law” from five to ten years. The law threatens not only “thieves in law” and members of their groups but also their supporters. Some lawyers have criticised the way the law uses slang words such as “thief in law”, “shadow world” and “criminal score-settling”.

“‘Thief in law’ is criminal slang. There is no such concept in law. It means that parliament has legalised thieves’ usage,” said Professor Otar Gamkrelidze, who as one of those who drafted Georgia’s Criminal Code is unhappy that he was not consulted about the new law.

Bezhashvili dismissed this line of criticism, saying the law had been approved by the audit chamber, the presidential state protection service and 13 parliamentary committees. He added, “The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association has said that their recommendations have not been taken into account, but I can state with full responsibility that the authors of the draft law never received these critical comments.”

A 2004 study entitled “Thieves in law in Georgia” by well-known lawyers Givi Lobzhanidze and Giorgi Zhgenti outlined the extent of the power of the crime lords, estimating that around 30 per cent of revenues in Georgia’s banking system, 40 per cent of income from hotels and restaurants, 60 per cent of the gambling business, 15 per cent of the energy sector, and 40 per cent in the construction industry are in the hands of mafia groups.

It also concluded that organised criminals wield strong political influence, controlling crime groups in Russia and various European cities as well as at home. Last June, Spanish police simultaneously arrested 22 alleged members of the Georgian mafia.

Organised crime is so pervasive that many ordinary people fear the law will hurt them too.

“A couple of ‘thieves in law’ live in my area,” said Tbilisi resident Andro Alpaidze, 60. “One of them spends most of his time in Europe, but if something is stolen from anyone of his neighbours or someone offends them, he’s always ready to help – unlike the police.

“The new law says that not only these criminals but their ‘supporters’ too can be punished. That means that they should arrest me too.”

According to political analyst Gia Nodia, the role of public protectors played by mafia bosses is an institution left over from the Soviet past. “‘Thieves in law’ were encouraged in Communist times, as the authorities used them to control both the criminal world and the public. Their influence among the public has been unlimited up to now,” he said. “The population is intimidated by the criminal world. Most likely, the main aim of the law when it was adopted was to enable citizens not to be afraid to give evidence against criminal leaders.”

In recent times, Georgia has had a number of politicians with strong links to organised crime. For example, Jaba Ioseliani, an influential criminal kingpin who in Soviet times spent 25 years in prison, led the Mkhedrioni paramilitary organisation in the early Nineties and played a leading political role before he was sidelined. He died in 2003 aged 77.

Otar Kvantrishvili, a well-known “thief in law” crime boss based in Russia was described as a “public figure” in Georgia thanks to his philanthropic activities. He was shot dead in Moscow in 1994.

Zaza Alavidze, who has a relative in Tbilisi’s Ortachala prison, thinks crime bosses are better than the police. “Investigators beat my cousin because he refused to denounce a ‘thief in law’,” he said. “Why should he speak badly of him, if he’s done nothing bad to him?

“’Thieves in law’ have been a lot fairer than policemen up to now. When the police search you, they can plant drugs or a weapon in you pocket and that’s the end of you. Nothing can help you if you don’t have a protector or if you don’t pay to get released.”

This commonly-held opinion – that that mafia structures are somehow beneficial – is very dangerous, commented David Darchiashvili, head of Open Society Georgia, the Tbilisi branch of the Soros foundation.

“The strengthening of the mafia is directly proportionate to the weakening of the state, since in contrast to a weak government the mafia offers a model of social protection,” said Darchiashvili. “So it goes without saying that a state machine that considers itself to be normal has decided to root out this system. The state should control the prisons, and not the other way round. And if we want to have a state at all, we should help it in this fight.”

(CRS No. 323, 19-Jan-06)


The Caucasus Office of Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) organized the conference on the following topic: “Transnational Crime and Corruption in Georgia”. The conference was held on Tuesday, January 17, 2006 in Sympatia Hotel in Tbilisi. TraCCC Grantees presented their research results on corruption in vital sectors of the Georgian economy, in the political sphere, and in different fields of social life in Georgia, and made recommendations on how to combat it. Representatives of the Government of Georgia, foreign government organizations, NGOs, and mass media participated in the conference.
More information and papers on OC in Georgia (TraCCC Caucasus Office).


The Oxford University Organised Crime and Corruption Discussion Group meets every Wednesday at St Antony’s College. It is a multidisciplinary group designed to bring together researchers working on similar issues at the university, but also welcomes experts from outside the university. Each presenter provides a list of recommended readings a week in advance, and the meetings work as informal seminars. The group is open to members of the university departments as well as to graduate students

Programme for Hilary Term 2006
Wednesdays at 1.30pm, Deakin Room, St Antony’s College

18th January
State-Organised Illegality
‘Honourable Crooks: Tommies Behind Enemy Lines in the Cold War’
Col. Roy Giles (Former Army officer and civil servant, latterly a Senior
Associate & Cody Fellow, St Antony’s College)

25th January

1st February
Title tbc (Topic: The Criminalisation of International Money Transfers)
Edwina Thompson (DPhil Candidate in International Relations, St Cross)

8th February
‘Agency Relations Within the Mafia’
Dr Federico Varese (University Lecturer in Criminology)

15th February
‘The Economic Impact of Organised Crime in the South of Italy’
Silvia Palano (DPhil Candidate, Economics Department)

22nd February
‘Why Criminals Should Organise’
Andrew Mell (MPhil, Economics Department)

1st March
‘The Black Economy in Occupied France’
Dr Paul Sanders (Tutor, Continuing Education Department)

8th March
Corrupt Economies in Africa
‘Petty Corruption: An Experimental Investigation’
Danila Serra (PRS, Economics Department)

For more information, contact Sappho Xenakis:

SGOC | News