Government and organized crime: history of co-existence

A government is the organization which is the governing authority of a political unit, also the ruling power in a political society, and the apparatus through which a governing body functions and exercises authority. Government have the authority to make laws, to arbitrate disputes, to issue administrative decisions, and a monopoly in authorizing force.

A State, depending on size can have local, regional and national government. There are many types of governments, such as: Monarchy, Despotism, Dictatorship, Oligarchy, Plutocracy, Democracy, Theocracy, and Anarchy. A Government depending on type can by headed by politicians, monarchs, dictators, group of people (families), wealthy class, and religious elite. History does not have the exact date of the formation of the first governments, though; it holds some records of formation of very first governments 3000 years ago.

Organized crime or criminal organizations are groups or operations run by controversial individuals most commonly for the purpose of generating a financial profit and social power (influence). Organized crime, however defined, is characterized by a few basic qualities including durability over time, diversified interests, hierarchical structure, capital accumulation, reinvestment, access to political protection and the use of violence to protect interests. The best known criminal organizations are: Cosa Nostra commonly known as Mafia (the Italian or the Sicilian), the Russian Mafia, the Japanese Yakuza, the Chinese Triads, the Colombian and the Mexican drug cartel, the Chechen Mafia, and young Mara Salvatrucha, among others. History has it, that the first sign of organized crime was seen 3000 years ago.

It is important to make a distinction between organized crime (criminal organizations) and terrorist organizations, military organizations, resistance organizations, political and paramilitary organizations, such as: Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, IRA, and Irgun, which usually fight for the liberation of their lands and people from foreign invaders. In relation, we should not forget the Nuremberg Trials in Germany, famous for prosecution of leadership of Nazi Germany. The best known was the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in 1945. On this trial followed were indicted as criminal organizations:

the Nationalsozialismus Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDP), the Nazi party - National Socialist German Workers Party.

the Schutzstaffel (SS), Protective Squadron – military organization.

the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), Security Service – intelligence service of SS and NSDP.

the Gestapo, secret state police.

the Sturmabteilung (SA), Storm Division – paramilitary organization.

the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), Supreme Command of the Armed Forces.

This concept of criminal organizations was, and still continues to be controversial, and it was not used in International Human Rights Law since then.

Throughout history there has been constant struggle, but also connection between governments and organized crime. In addition, many world famous political and military leaders have been accused of running their countries like criminal organizations, for instance: Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Nicolae Ceausescu, Idi Amin Dada, Manuel Antonio Noriega Moreno, Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, among others. For many top government politicians is believed to grow enormous wealth by running a kleptrocracy, a government that extends the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class at the expense of the population.

Few years ago an unofficial list has been released of the people for who is believed to be the most self-enriching political leaders, top of which are: Suharto (former President of Indonesia/$15-$35 billion USD), Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralín Marcos (former President of the Philippines/$5-$10 billion USD), Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga (former President of Zaire/$5 billion USD), among many others.

What make governments and organized crime to be so connected?

Governments have Head of States, Leaders, military, laws, taxes, customs, punishments;governments control States and go into wars, among others. On the other side criminal organizations (organized crime) has bosses, dons, families, soldiers, gangs, codes and outs, a protection racket and extortion, punishments, they also control territories and small cities, and they also go into wars with other criminal organizations, among others.

Looking at these examples we can see that there is many similarities in structure of government and organized crime. Many governments have been involved in criminal activities trough politicians, such as: weapons sales, narcotics, international loans, confiscation of private property, and corruption. A socio-political phenomenon called "Political corruption" is visible in all forms of governments, and includes extortion, nepotism, bribery, cronyism, patronage, graft and embezzlement. Global corruption is estimated at one trillion US Dollars, which is equal to what organized crime makes per year around the world.

According to history, ancient civilizations like Summer, Indus Valley Civilization, Babylon, Maya Civilization, Yellow River, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome had governments, military, Laws, and crimes. The Summer Civilization had the first ever written code of Law, and it was written by the ruler Urukagina who was best known for his reforms to combat corruption. Later King Ur-Nammu wrote "the Code of Ur-Nammu", which is oldest surviving code of Law in the world. His code of Law is considered remarkably advanced, and the capital crimes of murder, robbery, adultery and rape were punished with death.

Many people mostly historians believe that organized crime emerged from piracy and banditry in 17th century or from some famous warriors and conquers earlier, however, if we look at this ancient Laws, we can see that organized crime and crime generally existed long before piracy and banditry period, even Julius Cesar was kidnapped and held prisoner in 75BC by Cilician pirates, he was later released when requested ransom was paid. Afterwards, Cesar raised fleet and captured the pirates, pirates was first imprisoned and later crucified on his authority.

Pertinent historical question: so, what was formed first and what did set up the model for other; a government or organized crime?

It is evident that crime and organized crime existed long before the formation of the first government. Governments implemented Laws because of the crime activities that were visible in their society, in relation to that; we can say that crime is older than the first Law and government. If tree of more individuals organize them self's to commit a crime, that crime is characterized as organized crime.

It was very hard, for example, in Twenty-fourth Century BC to distinguish between what was right and what was wrong, however, people held something deep inside of themselves for centuries of human evolution, and that is the sense for righteousness on which civilizations were able to build their respective society.

Did governments learned from organized crime or did organized crime learned from governments?

They learned from each other, government's establishers applied some of the main principles of criminal organizations structure for the greater cause. In fact, many Laws and Government bodies were made because of crime activities. Criminal organizations followed the evolution of governments and learned to be more effective in criminal activities.

Throughout history crime walked along governments, it was present in every known society, including dynasties, imperialism, colonialism, monarchism, communism, socialism, and modern democracy. In the contemporary world criminal organizations are still successful in their business. Some governments, on the other hand, cannot be distinguished from organized crime because of their inherent corruption and lawlessness in their activities.

Today, many world governments, the United Nations and various law enforcement agencies are fighting criminal organizations and corruption, but as long as we have politicians and government official behaving like criminals and taking bribes, criminal organizations will continue to grow.

Ivan Simic
Belgrade, Serbia

Author`s name Alex Naumov