Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Sept 2010 Contents BORDER SECURITY
Asia Pacific Defence Reporter | 19
IT’S ALL JUST BUSINESS
So, today in Asia and the Pacific, ethnicity relates more to human
resources management within the illegal business. What makes it
important is trust and how to minimise risk. In the Pacific, you can
most easily trust your wantoks. That is the major significance of
ethnicity in organised crime. For example, in Fiji, Indian organised
crime has strong links to other organised criminal ‘companies’
based in India. So they insert trusted insiders into the Republic
of Fiji Customs Service and avoid duties on legal imports and
exports, and smuggle people as well. In Tonga, Tongan organised
crime has transnational links to the Tongan émigré communities
in the USA and Australia-New Zealand. So it is unsurprising that
Tongan transnational criminals have for years organised a heroin
and cocaine flow from the Americas to a stockpile in Tonga, from
which they maintain a routine cocaine and heroin trade to Australia
and New Zealand, where they link to ‘retail networks’ run by the
locals. Many of these are themselves Tongan, or Tongans who have
developed existing ‘trusted networks’ of locals.
Even if there is little personal trust involved, they can and do deal
with each other. After all, both businesses will profit by stable business
arrangements. So these entities increasingly deal with each other as
The terms ‘organised crime’ and ‘transnational crime’ can be
misleading. Above the individual level there is nothing disorganised
about crime, as the terms imply. It can be regarded as a business, for
it follows a rational economic pattern. Like any business, organised
crime works to maximise profit and seeks to expand into new markets
in any non-chaotic environment. During the 1980s, Tongan and
Fijian organised crime expanded outside their national and émigré
community boundaries. During the 1990s, Chinese organised crime
organisations realised that the Pacific formed a new market into
which they could expand. But this was not the main game. The Pacific
was not only uniquely vulnerable, it also offered excellent access to
profitable targets like Australia, and finally formed a highway by which
a number of massively profitable trades could be developed between
America and Asia.
The perceived ethnic divisions between organised crime entities
are a barrier to understanding them. Chinese transnational criminal
businesses employ European, Malay and Persian specialists, often on
a sub-contract basis with access to criminal ‘contractor and human
resources companies’. They work in business relationships with West
African, Australian, Mexican, Columbian, Russian and Israeli criminal
businesses. What price, then, ethnic exclusivity?
According to the head of the Australian Crime Commission, John
Lawler “...if organized crime was a country, it would be the 11th largest
economy in the world”. Just in Australia, he thinks it turns over $A11-15
billion annually, with at least $A6 billion being sent offshore each year.
He has publicly stated that transnational crime expanded quickly
following the end of the Cold war, as once-sealed borders opened and
long pent up market demands were unleashed. As the Vladivostok
Centre has noted, a semi-legal operation smuggling jeans and second-
hand cars into the Marianas and smuggling logs out has established a
logistics supply chain. They can expand their profits by offering this
service to others, or by smuggling drugs themselves. And they can
also provide others with training on how to corrupt their ‘business
opposition’ and attack it from all sides.
All of this generated large flows of illegal goods (half being drugs
according to the ACC) and services (half being trafficked people).
They also generated new criminal industries, especially in money
laundering. This was needed to deal with the vast cash flows the
new trades generated. Here in Asia, this linked seamlessly with the
traditional Chinese hui kan underground banking system, used by
criminal organisations for a thousand years.
Today, in the Pacific, this means suborning the Customs Service,
Police, legal system and politicians all at once. Where governance is
fragile, this is lethal to the state.
Papua-New Guinea is a case in point, as the latest major corruption
scandal shows. Something like Kina 300 million has been stolen from
the public purse by corrupt politicians working with a corrupt legal
system. The current Commissioner of PNG Customs, Mr. Gary Jufa,
is widely thought of as an honest reformer. But what real chance
does even a paladin of virtue really have in such an environment? If
a major logging company can allegedly buy the Prime Minister and
his Forestry Minister for $US20 million and allegedly obtain Royal
PNG Constabulary special squads to murder local opponents and so
enforce clear felling, exactly what is the difference between that ‘legal
timber company’ and an organised crime ‘company’?
A boarding party carries out an Approach, Assist and Visit (AAV) procedure with a vessel located by HMAS Parramatta.
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