Monday, 23 June 2014

A threat to us all: tackling organised crime a priority for Home Secretary

On the 11 June the Home Secretary gave a speech about organised crime and illicit finance, as you might expect drugs played an important part in her analysis of the problems that society faces as a result of the activities of these sorts of criminals.

As you’ll see she’s keen to portray organised crime as something that affects us all:

Most people don’t think of themselves as being a victim of organised crime, but the chances are that everyone in this room has been affected by organised crime in one form or another. Maybe you were caught up in their activities. Maybe your house was burgled by somebody addicted to drugs shipped here by a criminal gang. Maybe your emails were hacked. Maybe your insurance premiums are inflated because of organised scams. Maybe your taxes are higher because of fraud. Whatever your precise experience or experiences, the chances are that organised crime has affected all of us here today. 

She also suggested that it poses an existential threat to national security.

The threat from serious and organised crime is very significant and it is forever changing. Whether it is online or offline, overseas or at home, whether we are talking about drugs, stolen goods or trafficked people, organised crime amounts to a serious threat to our national security.

Her analysis of how those in organised crime create or use hollowed out states to create a alternative power structures (including justice, housing and jobs) is similar to that set out by Nils Gillman in his interesting lecture on deviant globalisation that you can hear here.

While decrying their value system May recognises that there is innovation in the ways that people involved in organised crime attempt to subvert the control systems that are in place.

Niche skills are bought to order – last year, for example, a drugs trafficking network brazenly hired cyber criminals to alter cargo manifests in an attempt to smuggle their goods in containers.

Her view of how this leaks into the legitimate market seemed to focus on individual corruption or exploitation rather than suggesting that there is systemic collusion between business and this huge illicit market.  But she announced there will be a cross-government anti-corruption plan in the next few weeks, which may take things further, meanwhile the approach she set out sees partnership rather than regulation being the way to reduce the threat of organised crime’s involvement in the financial sector.  She said that she’d recently met with chief executives from the financial services sector and there was going to be a Financial Sector Forum set up to share information on the “criminal finance and cyber threats we face”.

More broadly than the anti-corruption plan the Home Secretary also talked about the new Serious Crime Bill that was announced in the Queen’s Speech, and how this would close some loopholes in recovering the proceeds and assets of crime, and the wider strategy that the government have been pursuing in relation to serious and organised crime.

The take home messages for me were:

  • Her analysis of the problems posed by organised crime – that it affects us all, that organised crime can supplant the state if we don’t take care, and that there is innovation that needs to be countered – seems strong.
  • While drugs made up an important theme in her speech there’s no sense that I had that May is interested in really doing anything different to change drug policy other than to have a much stronger central control over serious crime enforcement responses.
  • She sees the financial sector as an important partner in addressing serious crime but recognises that corruption is an important tool that organised crime uses to enable it to operate.

Andrew Brown
Director of Policy, Influence and Engagement

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