Linkages of Organised Crime with Terrorism

This article deals with ‘Linkages of Organised Crime with Terrorism.’ This is part of our series on ‘Internal Security’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Like terrorism, there is no single uniformly accepted definition of organized crime. Even UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime does not define organized crime

According to Interpol, an Organised Crime Group can be defined as ‘any group having a corporate structure & whose primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities, often surviving on fear and corruption.’

Characteristics of Organised Crime Groups

Continuity These groups are structured to survive leadership changes. Due to their structured nature, they operate beyond the lifetime of an individual.
Structure These groups are highly structured with a properly defined hierarchy. The ranks are based on power and authority.
Membership Their membership is restricted and based on common traits like ethnicity, background, common interest or proximity with the leader. Scrutiny and probation are crucial parts of member recruitment.
Criminality Such groups rely on criminal activities to generate income. These groups are engaged in criminal activities like smuggling, murder, intimidation, drug trafficking, human trafficking etc.
Violence These groups use violence against opposition groups and also to protect their commercial interests.
Intimidation To get their job done criminal gangs indulge in intimidation against people or public officials.
Corruption Crime thrives in a corrupt atmosphere. Organised Crime Groups buy off law enforcement officers so that they can carry out their illegal activities without resistance.
Power & Profit Motives All the actions of the Organised Crime Group are aimed at maximising the power and profits of the group. For this, the group bribes the officials and leaders and even indulge in intimidation and violence.
Protectors These groups have protectors in form of public officials, attorneys and businessmen who collectively protect the criminal group.
Specialist support These groups are assisted by the specialists on an ad-hoc basis including chemists (in drug business), shooters (for murder), pilots (in smuggling) etc. who are nonetheless considered part of the group.

The degree of these characteristics may vary from group to group. The quintessential element of organized crime is continuing illegal activities for generating illegal proceeds.

Famous Organised Crime Groups of the World

Country Organised Group Important Points
Japan Yakuza Transnational Crime Syndicate with more than 28,000 members and a turnover of around $50 billion. It further has three more clans i.e. Yamaguchi Gumi,  Sumiyoshi-kai and  Inagawa-kai.
Italy Ndrangheta group – It has an annual turnover of €53 billion.
– It is engaged in wide-ranging activities like murder, extortion, drug trafficking and money laundering.
– Supply of cocaine in the whole of Europe is controlled by them. Membership relies on blood ties in the Calabria region of South Italy.
USA CRIPS African-American Organised Criminal Group in the USA with a turnover of $8 billion 
India D Company D Company is named after its leader Dawood Ibrahim.
It is the most powerful gang of Mumbai with abroad networks.
It is involved in extortion, narcotics, drugs, smuggling and contract killing.
Russian  Mafia  
Hong Kong Triads  
Famous Organised Crime Groups of the World

Main activities carried by Organised Crime

1 . Drug Trade

  • It is the biggest source of revenue for most the organised crime groups. 
  • It is quite widespread in India due to India’s geographical location between the golden triangle and golden crescent, the world’s leading producers of narcotics.
  • Apart from that, Opium is cultivated in India legally under licensing for medicinal purposes. Organised Criminal Groups siphon off this opium to be sold in the illicit market.
Go dem 
Golden Crescent & Triangle

Side Topic: Narco-Terrorism

  • According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), narco-terrorism is “a subset of terrorism,” where groups or individuals participate directly or indirectly in the cultivation, manufacture, transportation or distribution of controlled substances and the money derived from these activities”.

2. Smuggling

  • Goods are smuggled in and out of the country by Organised Crime Groups without paying the required taxes and dodging the customs.
  • The nature of smuggled goods depends on the fiscal policies adopted by the government. Eg: Textile items and electronic items were smuggled in the 1970s. Presently, gold is the major item that is smuggled into India.

3. Cyber Crimes

  • With increased dependence on computers, cyber-crimes have emerged as the main activity of Organised Crime Groups. They indulge in hacking, copyright piracy, software piracy, credit card frauds etc.

4. EnvironmentalCrime

  • There is a large scale poaching of animals due to organised crime. 50% of world species are facing the fastest man-made mass extinction because of animal poaching.
  • Timber poaching is also a multi-billion dollar avenue and organised crime groups.

5. Trafficking cultural property

  • Trafficking of cultural property is an important avenue for money laundering. Ancient Artefacts are stolen and sites are destroyed by the organised crime groups to erase the trails of theft.

6. Piracy

  • Piracy is widespread across the Horn of Africa, Malacca and Sundarbans.
  • Organised crime groups indulge in attacking the merchant ships to take crew hostage and then demand money for releasing the hostages. They earn millions of dollars through this route.

7. Prostitution

  • Trading in sex and girl-running is a very profitable business. Underworld is closely connected to brothels and call girl rackets. According to the WHO,  Bombay & Kolkata has 1 million and Pune & Delhi has 40,000 prostitutes.
  • It has to be noted that prostitution per se is not an offence in India. However, running brothels, inducing girls for the sake of prostitution, detaining girls in brothels or running brothels in the vicinity of public places is a criminal offence.

8. Contract Killing

  • Organised Crime Groups like D-Company and Yamaguchi Gumi are involved in contract killing as well. They are ready to kill anybody in return for certain fees.  It is also the preferred mode of killing as the conviction rate in contract killing is negligible.
  • Under the contract, the part amount is paid in advance called ‘supari’. The rest of the payment is made after the commission of the crime.

9. Money Laundering

  • Money laundering means the conversion of illegal and ill-gotten money into legal money. Organised Crime Groups provide services in this regard via placement, layering and integration of black money in return for fees.

10. Kidnapping

  • It is a highly organised crime. Crime groups kidnap children or adults and demand huge sums in return for releasing them.
  • This activity is mainly carried out in urban areas.

11. Organ trafficking

  • An organ transplant can save a life but there is a heavy demand-supply mismatch. Due to the desperate situation of the recipient, they are ready to pay the heavy amount. Organised Crime groups exploit this situation by indulging in organ trafficking.
  • Unlike other crimes, professionals like doctors, nurses etc. are also involved in this.

12. Light Arms Proliferation

  • Light arms proliferation is a global phenomenon. It has extracted a heavy toll in terms of human lives and socio-economic development of entire regions.
  • Organised Crime Groups are the main suppliers of illegal light arms like pistols, guns etc.

13. Intellectual Property Crime

  • Intellectual Property Crime (IPC) includes the manufacturing, storage and sale of counterfeit or pirated goods where the consent of the rights holder has not been obtained.
  • Some scholars argue that it constitutes the largest black-market economy, even surpassing the global narcotics trade.

Organised Crime and Terrorism

The intersection between terrorism and organised crime can be divided into three categories

1. Co – existence

  • It refers to a situation when both (Organised Crime Gangs & Terrorist Organisations) operate in the same theatre but remain separate entities.
Co-existence in Organised Crime and Terror

2. Cooperation

  • Generally Organised Crime Groups and Terrorist organisations don’t cooperate with each other as their motives are different. While Terrorists want a change in the political status quo, Organised Crime Groups want to change in the status quo only when it threatens them.
  • But when benefit outweighs risk they cooperate and these include specific operational supports which can be acquired in a cost-effective manner from each other. Eg:
    1. In Columbia, Medellin Drug Cartel hired ELN to implant car bombs because they didn’t have the expertise in bombs.
    2. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan allied with the Afghan drug mafia so that movement of drugs can occur safely to the Soviet Union.
    3. Terrorist Organisations frequently take the help of Organised Crime Groups for creating fake passports, smuggling terrorists into countries. Terrorist groups / Insurgents active in the North-Eastern States take the services of crime syndicates active in Cox Bazaar for such activities.
Cooperation in Organised Crime and Terror

3. Confluence

When both activities are done by a single entity

Organised crime When Organised Crime Group uses terror tactics to safeguard their business interest. Eg: D-Company’s terrorist activities.
Terrorist group When Terrorist Group uses organised crime to gather funds. Eg: Al Qaeda using drug trafficking and ISIS using women trafficking to fund their activities.
Confluence in Organised Crime and Terror

It is also known as ‘Black Hole Syndrome‘  where the terrorist groups and transnational organized crime group completely converge into each other. The black hole syndrome is thus described as the natural progression of these two criminal groups gaining economic and political control over the territory (Tamara Makarenko, 2005, p.129)

Black Hole Syndrome

Indian examples of Black Hole Syndrome

  • In the Northeast, extortion, drug trafficking and gun-running are the fundamental basis for funding all forms of terrorism.
  • D Company of Mumbai (as discussed above).

Similarities between Terrorism and Organised Crime

Similarities between Terrorism and Organised Crime
  • There is a similarity in the personality traits of members belonging to both terrorist organisations and Organised Crime Groups. Members of both the organisations are
    • From the marginal social groups exposed to and burdened by social or political frustrations.
    • They are the persons attracted by excitement and thrill.
    • They have the risk taking ability.
  • Terrorist Organisations and Organised Crime Groups have similarities in their modus operandi which involves
    • Secrecy and confidentiality.
    • Use of violence for the purpose of accomplishing certain goals or interests.
    • Detailed planning and preparation.
    • Respect for strict discipline.
    • Intimidating the surroundings.
  • Activities carried out by both i.e. Terrorists and Organised Crime Groups are punishable by law.

Differences between Terrorism and Organised Crime

Terrorist Organisations Organised Crime Groups
They want to overthrow the existing government by changing the present order. They don’t want to overthrow the state => Only wants to form a parallel government.
They use violent means. These groups generally remain non-violent. Violence is used as a last resort.
Terrorists are driven by political objectives. Organised Crime Groups are driven by economic objectives, devoid of any political dimension.
Terrorist organisations claim responsibility for terrorist attacks. Organised Crime Groups never claim responsibility for their criminal acts.
They try to seek media attention. They don’t seek media attention and remain low profile.
They attack government and law enforcement agencies. They generally don’t indulge in such activities.
They want to influence public opinion. They aren’t concerned with public opinion.

UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime

  • It was adopted in 2000 and came to force in 2003.
  • The Convention is supplemented by three supplementary protocols i.e.
    1. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children
    2. Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air
    3. Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms and Ammunition
  • As a signatory, the country is committed for
    1. Creation of domestic criminal offences for participation in an organised criminal group.
    2. Adoption of frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance and law-enforcement cooperation.
    3. Promotion of training and technical assistance for building or upgrading the necessary capacity of national authorities.

Legal position in India on organised crime

  • There is no national law specifically dealing with Organised Crime in India. Various provisions of IPC deal with it. But Government of India is planning to make Organised Crime Control Act.
  • Various states have enacted special legislation to tackle Organised Crime like Maharashtra (first to pass in 1999), Delhi, UP, Gujarat, Karnataka & Haryana (2019) etc.
  • Organised crime in India is predominantly an urban phenomenon.

Provisions of IPC

Criminal conspiracy It is defined by Section 120A of IPC.
When two or more person agrees to do or cause to be done an illegal act or an act which is not illegal by illegal means.
Dacoity Section 391 of IPC deals with it.
If 5 or more persons commit a robbery, it is termed as dacoity.
It is a punishable offence with imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment upto 10 years.

Provisions to tackle Human Trafficking (by Organised Crime Groups)

  • Anti-Trafficking Nodal Cell has been set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to act as a focal point for tackling Human Trafficking in the country.
  • The government of India has also signed agreements with Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bahrain etc. to curb Human Trafficking. 

Provisions to tackle Drug Trafficking (by Organised Crime Groups)

  • Acts: India has enacted the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988.
  • International Conventions: India is a signatory to all three UN Conventions namely
    1. Convention on Narcotics Drugs, 1962
    2. UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971
    3. UN Convention against Illicit Trafficking  of Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988

State Acts

  • Various states have passed State laws for the control of organised crime, notorious gangsters and crime syndicates in the state. Most notable among them is the Maharashtra Control of organized Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999.

Suggestions of Supreme Court

  • Supreme Court has recently directed the Centre to set up Organized Crime Investigating Agency (OCIA). This can be a positive step in combating organized crime

Problems in controlling Organised Crime in India

  • Inadequate Legal Structure: India does not have a special law to control/suppress organised crime. The existing law is inadequate as it targets individuals and not criminal groups or criminal enterprises.
  • Difficulties in Obtaining Proof: Organised Criminal groups are structured in a hierarchical manner and the higher echelons of leadership are insulated as there is hardly any documentary evidence against them.
  • Dual Criminality: Certain crimes, particularly drug trafficking, are planned in one part of the world and executed in another. Different nations have different legal structures and extradition of criminals from one country to another is very difficult.
  • Criminal, Political & Bureaucratic Nexus: Due to this, the investigating and prosecuting agencies are finding it extremely difficult to deal effectively with them.
  • Lack of Resources & Training:  Police comes under the State’s subject. Most of the States face a resource crunch and there is hardly any training facilities for  investigation of organised crime.
  • The police force in India is not trained to deal with organised crime. Their training involves dealing with conventional crime, and organised crime is neglected.
  • The technological sophistication of organized crimes due to new technologies like cryptocurrencies have opened up many possibilities for criminals to carry out traditional crimes without leaving a trail.
  • Weakness of financial system due to the prevalence of cash economy, parallel transactions through hawala, money laundering etc.

Leave a Comment