In Claire Sterling’s Thieves’ World, new light is shed on the current status of organized crime in the world today. The days of crime families battling it out in the streets is a thing of the past. The fall of communism in Soviet Russia and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in Germany opened the doors to a land of endless wealth and opportunity that all the major crime syndicates have taken advantage of. Sterling suggests that the early 90’s was the beginning of a convergence of all great crime syndicates. “The Sicilians, Russians, Chinese Triads, Japanese Yakusa, and many other smaller groups began moving toward an agreement to avoid conflict, devise common strategies, and work the planet peaceably together.” This is referred to as a broader pax mafiosa. With this agreement now in place, the Italians and Colombians combined forces and moved in on the western half of the Europe and flooded it with supplies of cocaine. Since the Italians no longer had quite the stronghold in the United States that they used to have and because Europe was their home turf, it only made sense for them to supply the country with cocaine from the Colombians. This partnership between the two most importantly strengthened bonds between the two criminal giants and provided a greater opportunity to take advantage of the newly spawned opportunities in ex-communist Russia.
With the downfall of communist Russia, the mafia only increased it’s regular activities in the former U.S.S.R. This was especially true when it came to laundering dirty money. The money was used to buy Rubles and then reinvested into real estate and other ventures in Russia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin was even quoted as saying that, “nearly two-thirds of Russia’s commercial structure has ties to the criminal world.” At one time the mafia in Russia was considered to be the fastest growing crime organization on the planet, with more than five thousand different groups. “It’s like the old Texas oil-boom towns, a constant parade of con men, promoters, and shady customers?the greatest collection of sleazebags in the world,” remarked U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Robert Strauss.
In America, law enforcement has been battling organized crime for the last 3 decades, but it seems that the battle has just begun. The battle now, according to the author, is not as much directly with the Cosa Nostra, as it is with the small gangs that hire out for them. The Hispanics, Asians, Mexicans, black street gangs, such as the Crips and the Bloods, as well as motorcycles gangs like the Hell’s Angel and Pagans are it’s “working partners”. Along with the problems these smaller less organized gangs is the concern of supposed huge influx of what the author calls the Cosa Nostra’s true peers, the Triads, Yakusa, and Russian mafias with twice if not quadruple the membership as the original Italian crime families. Taking this into consideration, it has become the main strategy of the FBI to “ensure that no other criminal organization can ever achieve a comparable level of power,” as the Cosa Nostra.
The weak point of all these organized crime groups seems to be their money, with out money, they have no power. One high ranking informer from and Italian crime family stated, “What bothers us most is when you take our money away. We’d rather stay in jail and keep the money than be free without the money.” However, the biggest problem is finding the money. The DEA claims that it “might” be seizing about 2 percent of the Colombians cocaine money. Any amount of money can be sent from anywhere in the world. Roughly a trillion dollars a day moves in and out of the United States, be it legal as well as illegal.
Sterling suggests that just as these criminal mastermind organizations are joining forces to increase business, this is exactly the way in which they have to be dealt with. One of the biggest problems deals with that of personally privacy. With the rapid pace at which technology is moving, it is becoming increasingly easier to gather information of some type on everyone. It is paramount, suggests the author, that governments provide the means necessary for obtaining this information, especially to those agencies that are charged with fighting organized crime today.