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are motivated by their capacity to generate the
highest profit at the lowest risk across a number
of commodities or services. This is why they have
organised specialised subcontractors. These
operate on or within the margins of criminality,
providing services in two tiers. The first
includes legal assistance, banking, accountants,
stockbrokers, information technology, business
consultants and specialised chemists. The
second tier is composed of ‘expendable and
purchased supporters’. These include corrupt
customs officers, immigration officers,
politicians, judges, police, other officials, and
Transnational organised crime is globalised.
The ‘businesses’ are network oriented,
technologically sophisticated, entrepreneurial,
and have legal and illegal business wings, where
the legal businesses help launder money from
the illegal wing. Their structure mimics that of
normal multi-national businesses.
A well-established trend is that of
transnational organised crime groups providing
specialist services. These include importing and
concealing drugs, specialised administration,
such as provision of fraudulent documents, specialist money laundering
services, provision of ‘street enforcement’ such as the PNG rascal gangs
providing ‘muscle’ for Chinese transnational organised crime groups in
In the Pacific, criminal syndicates and networks routinely operate
using a convergence of these specialised and subcontracted skills. The
advantages are significant. Using this business model the transnational
organised crime enterprise is cellular. This improves security and protects
the brain and nervous system of the ‘business’ by providing expendable
arms. For example, if a rascal carrying out a sub-contract murder on behalf
of the ‘business’ is caught. Only the can subcontractor can be betrayed,
itself expendable. Such subcontracting generates trust between ethnically
disparate groups, minimises fratricide, encourages a reduction in violent
competition, and above all maximises profits.
The outcome is a lean, flat, flexible organisational structure, with
subcontractors assuming many of the higher risks. In turn, this encourages
modular behavior. A group can be assembled for one job, disbanded,
re-branded by a specialist subcontractor in identity theft, and then
reformed as part of a different group for another job. This is a law
enforcement nightmare. It makes law enforcement trans-jurisdictional,
and demands sophisticated identity forensic work, which Pacific island
states simply do not have.
Transnational criminals are not like the old mafia. They shun attention.
Lifestyles are ‘comfortable’, not lavish as in the past. Profits are invested
in legitimate businesses, property and shares. This is both good business
and good security. Such investments make the senior criminal staff
indistinguishable from legitimate businessmen, at least on the surface.
In turn, this makes law enforcement more difficult. It can also have the
additional ‘beneficial effect’ of forcing legitimate businesses into illegal
activities to remain competitive with the criminal-owned business. This
improves the camouflage of the transnational crime business. An example
is provided in the trade in smuggling counterfeit goods into Palau.
Originally started by transnational crime syndicates, legal businesses are
now forced to also import counterfeit goods in order to compete.
Academics have debated on criminal use of corporate and network
business models. The reality is, they just use whatever works best. They
mix and match to suit past experiences, current operations and the
environment, with the focus being reliable long-term income flow at
lowest risk. Transnational crime in the Pacific is composed of networks
which cross international boundaries, and which operate as a mixture
of networks and corporate hierarchies within various countries. As an
example, in PNG there is a logical structure where ethnic-based Chinese
illegal immigrants work within a legitimate businesses hierarchy. These
launder money from illegal businesses, which have a corporate hierarchy
at local level, linked by networks across PNG. They are supported by
a network of corrupt officials. The outcome is a flexible arrangement,
whereby local hierarchies are contained within an overall transnational
criminal network. This system is extremely resistant to law enforcement.
It is made nearly invulnerable by a carefully tended network of senior
corrupt officials. Senior officials are ‘handled’ by a local organised criminal
figure and who is also a legitimate businessman.
However, local cultural issues are important. In PNG, senior corrupt
officials such as Ministers are ‘big men’ in their own right. They cannot
be subordinated and act as business partners, and not simply underlings.
They have their own army of wantoks and are quite capable of having
any number of Chinese killed. This has occurred more than once in PNG.
They are not ‘on the payroll’, in the Singaporean business sense. They have
ample violent followers. They are never ‘blackmailable’. The relationship is
regarded by them, as an official doing favours for a legitimate businessman.
Naturally, he is rewarded for his assistance.
In this Melanesian ‘Big Man’ system, the Big Man is not abusing his
authority. He is using it to obtain a natural advantage for his kinship group,
his wantoks. This is why the organised criminal must be involved in local
business. However, what works in Melanesia does not necessarily fit in
Micronesia or Polynesia.
Royal Australian Navy Landing Craft Heavy HMAS Wewak departs from
Lae port, in Papua New Guinea during Operation PNG Assist.
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