Study: Transnational Crime Worth Between $1.6 to $2.2 Trillion Per Year

Transnational crime, or crimes committed across international borders, is growing at a faster pace than many realize, partly because the international community is not paying a lot of attention to it. That’s the conclusion from Global Financial Integrity or GFI, a non-profit Washington think tank that tracks illicit financial flows across borders.

The group’s latest findings estimate that transnational crime is worth between $1.6 to $2.2 trillion per year. GFI says the lion’s share of illicitly generated funds around the globe comes from counterfeiting, worth between $923 billion to $1.13 trillion per year, followed by drug trafficking which generates between $426 to $652 billion in illegal funds annually.

“Transnational crime is a business, and business is very good,” said Channing May, author of GFI’s “Transnational Crime and the Developing World.”  Less understood, said May, are the lasting and negative consequences for governments and the economies of developing countries.  

“Very rarely do the revenues from transnational crime have any long-term benefit to citizens, communities or economies of developing countries. Instead, the crimes undermine local and national economies, destroy the environment and jeopardize the health and well-being of the public,” said May.

Rounding out the top 10

Of the top 10 illegal revenue generators around the globe, human trafficking is ranked in fourth place, generating roughly $150 billion per year, followed by illegal mining, worth upwards of $48 billion. In eighth place, crude oil theft is valued between $5 to $12 billion, and in 10th place, the trafficking of human organs may be worth as much as $1.7 billion per year.

The report says shutting down the global shadow financial system that facilitates the movement and transfer of illicitly generated funds is technically not a difficult undertaking, but rather a matter of political will.

Complete report due March 29

GFI program manager Christine Clough said recommendations include greater financial transparency and regulations requiring all corporations to declare the nature and the ultimate beneficiaries of doing business within countries.

“Networks involved in these illicit markets are akin to major global corporations: they need access to finance and banking to be profitable to continue operating,” said Clough.

The complete GFI report will be released March 29 in Washington and is based on a compilation of statistics from various government and non-governmental bodies and law enforcement sources.

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