The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Margaret. E. Beare

Margaret Beare is an associate professor in the Sociology Department of York University and the Director of the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University. What follows is a summary of a recently published book entitled Critical Reflections on Transnational Organized Crime, Money Laundering, and Corruption, published in 2003 by the University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada. Dr. Beare’s e-mail address is

This book features the work of eleven international scholars who were asked to examine the policing and politics that surround transnational crime, organized crime, money laundering and corruption. Most countries are under pressure to respond to such criminal challenges in a uniform manner in accordance with numerous international agreements, conventions, and guidelines; but some critics are concerned about what might be described as a gradual “Americanization” of international policing practices and policies1 . They are especially concerned about the high priority placed on proceeds of crime and money laundering. This book emphasizes the significance of transnational crimes or organized criminal activity, the impact of illegal proceeds of crime upon specific markets, and the diverse forms of corruption they create. The various articles challenge some of the current political preoccupations with these issues and attempt to compare rhetoric with more empirically-based realities.

Themes and Structure of the Book

The book explores a number of common themes: the exploitable nature of taking organized crime as problem; the non-empirical basis for much of the media, police, and political responses; and the unintended consequences that can result from well-intentioned enforcement initiatives. Of additional interest are the policing and security industries that have grown up to “combat” organized crime and corruption, and whose livelihoods benefit from the high priority assigned to these forms of criminality.

Contributing Authors

Chapter One on “Transnational Organized Crime: The Strange Career of an American Concept” is written by Michael Woodiwiss.2 He provides us with a historical mapping of the American roots of our current understanding of what has become known as organized crime, and traces not only the antiquity of concern over organized crime but the distortion of our current focus. Power and politics have a determining influence on the definitions of ‘organized crime’ in the present international community.

Chapter Two by Tom Naylor,3 is entitled “Predators, Parasites, or Free-market Pioneers: Reflections on the Nature and Analysis of Profit-Driven Crime”. It asks the reader to re-examine at a more micro-level the claims that are typically made about profit-driven crimes. He establishes three classifications of profit-driven crimes: predatory crimes for profit, which involve involuntary transfers; market-based exchanges in which illegal goods or services are sold for profit; and commercial exchanges which are the illegal production or illegal distribution of otherwise legal goods or services. Each of these categories of profit-driven crime has a different impact on society, and that impact is not always negative. Hence, societal responses, particularly those of law enforcement agencies, might be wise to differentiate rather than to group together all profit-driven criminal activity under the heading of “organized crime”.

Chapter Three, “From National to Global, from Empirical to Legal: The Ambivalent Concept of Transnational Organized Crime”, is written by Valsimas Mitsilegas.4 His chapter provides the current European interpretation of legislation in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nations. He documents the vague, ill-defined national and organizational responses. His analysis outlines the emergence of the organized-crime offence at the global level, and examines anti-organized crime initiatives against a backdrop of fundamental legal principles, thereby revealing the negotiations and compromises that go into obtaining multi-jurisdictional agreements.

Chapter Four, “The Business of Bribery: Globalization, Economic Liberalization, and the ‘Problem’ of Corruption”, is written by James Williams5 and Margaret Beare,6 and takes on the issue of transparency. The chapter examines the role of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other international organizations such as Transparency International in packaging the current focus on one specific form of corruption, namely that which hinders the economies of the more developed countries. The chapter traces the growing response of international communities to corruption, and argues that globalization has created new political and economic spaces that are being largely filled by initiatives that conform to an economic logic defined by the developed world. International organizations that appear to have separate voices are all reading from the same script: a script that supports global business and finance.

Chapter Five is entitled “Against Transnational Organized Crime, and is written by James Sheptycki.7 It examines the language that has grown around the activities subsumed under “transnational organized crime”. Sheptycki describes the veil being drawn over police work as policing becomes increasingly international and takes on a new rhetoric of transnational organized crime. The police apparatus now includes security forces and elite squads operating according to diverse international standards. In this new order, traditional accountability mechanisms are no longer adequate. The hard-won advances towards visibility in domestic policing are undermined by the call for all-out war against transnational organized crime.

Chapter Six by Kyle Grayson8 on “Discourse, Identity, and the US ‘War on Drugs’”, analyses from a Foucaultian perspective the foreign policies of the United States against drug trafficking. He examines the rhetoric of both the “war on drugs” and the “security-threat” that has succeeded in merging drugs with the traditional discourses of transnational crime. His objective in this chapter is to understand both the reasons why the United States has chosen to link drugs with security and the methods by which this linkage has been made.

Chapter Seven on ‘Global Markets and Crime”, is written by Vincenzo Ruggiero.9 It presents case materials that illustrate the role of ‘legitimate’ professionals in facilitating many ‘transnational’ crimes. He argues that white-collar crime and organized crime are increasingly blurred within the international cross-jurisdictional criminal environment. Vincenzo Ruggiero emphasizes the close links between legitimate business and illegitimate operations and argues that forms of social control help to determine the forms that crime will take. He sees “globalization” changing social control mechanisms, in turn causing changes in criminal activity. One result is an increasingly blurred relationship between the concepts of white-collar crime and organized crime. Cases are presented that illustrate the role of corporations and other ‘legitimate’ segments of society in supporting or facilitating criminal activity.

After these somewhat theoretical papers, the remaining four chapters examine more concrete law enforcement issues. In Chapter eight, “Organized Corporate Criminality: Corporate Complicity in Tobacco Smuggling”, Margaret Beare examines in detail one example of a white-collar-organized crime. The tobacco industry has been shown to have operated in identical ways to more traditional notions of organized criminals: actively engaged in smuggling, fraud, money laundering and violence. The revelations concerning the tobacco corporations lead us to question why they have avoided being labelled criminal for so long. While some of their immunity relates to the general difficulty with proving white-collar crime, other equally valid reasons relate to the power of the corporations, and the limited range of people to whom we apply the term “organized criminal” or, for that, matter apply the criminal law.

Chapter Nine, “The War on Drugs and the Military: The Case of Colombia”, by Juan Gabriel Ronderos,10 challenges the rhetoric of the “war” on drugs, and law-enforcement responses arising from the foreign policies that underlie the rhetoric. He examines the consequences of such policies and law enforcement on a country such as Colombia, and shows the unintended consequences of misdirected enforcement strategies or misguided priorities.

Chapter Ten is entitled “Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in Canada: A Study of High-level Drug Networks” ad is written by Fred Desroches.11 He demonstrates empirically that the popular rhetoric about so-called “high-level drug traffickers” is largely false. His study12 is part of a growing body of empirical research suggesting that even high-level drug traffickers come in many different types and that the members of a network engage in many different working arrangements among its members. The key finding is that the majority of traffickers are individual entrepreneurs who could quit, aspire to move up in the illicit occupational chain, or change and work with the competition. His study, based on interviews with high-level drug traffickers in prisons across Canada, dispels some of the myths about these criminals and their relationship to the larger entity collectively termed “organized crime”. If these criminals are not as imagined, perhaps other unverified assumptions about organized criminal groups should be questioned.

Chapter Eleven brings the book to an end with “Follow-the-Money Methods in Crime Control Policy”, a second chapter by Tom Naylor. It was written specifically for the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption on discusses the inherent fallacies of enforcement strategies directed against money laundering and proceeds of crime. Naylor examines forfeiture laws and the prime international policing strategy of going after illicit money. He challenges the assumptions upon which the prioritizing of anti-money laundering initiatives is based and suggests alternative approaches.


1. M. Beare and Frederick Martens, “Policing Organized Crime: The Comparative Structures, Traditions and Policies within the United States and Canada”, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Vol. 14, No. 4, November 1998, 398-427

2. Michael Woodiwiss is a senior lecturer at the School of History, University of the West of England.

3. Tom Naylor is Professor of Economics, McGill University, Montreal.

4. Valsimas Mitsilegas is Research Associate at the Centre for European Politics and Institutions at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom.

5. James Williams is Assistant Professor, Windsor University, Ontario.

6. Margaret Beare is Associate Professor in Law and Sociology, York University, Toronto.

7. James Sheptycki is Assistant Professor, Criminology Program, York University, Toronto.

8. Kyle Grayson is a Ph.D candidate in Political Science at York University, Toronto.

9. Vincenzo Ruggiero is Professor of Sociology, Middlesex University, London, England.

10. Juan Gabriel Ronderos is in the Department of Institutional Integrity, INT, The World Bank.

11. Fred Desroches is Director of Legal Studies and Criminology at the University of Waterloo.

12. Fred Desroches, “Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in Canada: A Study of High Level Drug Networks”, a paper prepared for the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption, Toronto: 1999, York University. The paper can be found at