Comparing and Contrasting Organized Crime: China, Russia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States

by Elizabeth Hall
Frank Costello, American mobster, testifying b...
Frank Costello, American mobster, testifying before the Kefauver Committee investigating organized crime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2012), reports that organized crime is a problem on a global scale that has many adverse effects on society, including risking peace and prosperity, human safety, and the “economic, social, cultural, political, and civil development” of the countries that have large organized crime groups operating within.  It has permeated society through intimidation, entrance into governmental positions, and bribery, to traffic in persons, firearms, and narcotics, along with the facilitation of money laundering and extreme violence.  This form of crime has grown exponentially with the ease that technology affords us to conduct transactions on a global scale.   Through corruption, extortion, and bribery this undermines legal systems on a global scale and delivers extreme power to organized crime bosses in many countries (Obama, 2011).  In this essay, we will compare and contrast the difference and similarities in the organizations that infiltrate China, Russia, Japan, Mexico, and the United States to determine global effects (UNODC, 2012).
Human trafficking. Main origin (red) and desti...
Human trafficking. Main origin (red) and destination countries (blue). Data from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2006 report (http://www.unodc.org/pdf/traffickinginpersons_report_2006-04.pdf) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Organized crime in China has cultural ties in the fact that in China allegiance to family and friends is the most important quality in society and must be adhered to (Abadinsky, 2009).  The Chinese society itself is hierarchal as is the structure of organized crime, which operates in the patron client style organization. The Triads comprised of secret societal Chinese clans is the name of the groups of organized criminals represented by the triangle, and the Chinese three pronged concepts of heaven, earth, and man.  They participated in armed robberies, kidnapping, and piracy in the earlier going.  In modern years, the Triads and Tongs have added extortion, human trafficking, and drug trafficking along with other criminal enterprises, such as gambling and prostitution, to their repertoire.  In the United States, the Triad offshoot, is known as the Tongs and are heavily involved in gambling and prostitution.  The tongs are linked to smaller Asian gangs as well (Abadinsky, 2009). 
English: Structure about Organized Crime Centr...
English: Structure about Organized Crime Central Area from Police of the Generalitat - Mossos d'Esquadra. Català: Organigrama de l'Àrea Central de Crim Organitzat de la Policia de la Generalitat - Mossos d'Esquadra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the most notable things to remember about Russian organized crime is that geographically it is Russian because of the history of countries overtaken and the sheer mass of the continent, but many nationalities, and ethnic groups comprise the term Russian organized crime (Abadinsky, 2009).  These nationalities include Chechen, Georgian, Jewish, and Ukrainian to name a few. The communist practices undermined the work ethic in the country, making organized crime more palatable to the common people and for many are necessary for survival.  The structure is that of a bureaucratic corporate model more than a patron client model although it is a looser system based on clans and the Vory.  When the Soviet Union stopped providing funding for professional sports the athletes turned to organized crime as well. Operation in the United States by Russian organized crime is a much looser framework with no loyalty among members, and they are very prone to turning on each other if caught to avoid the heavy sentences under the RICO Act (Abadinsky, 2009)
Organised crime - cash flow
Organised crime - cash flow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When the Soviet Union disbanded so did the formal law enforcement structure once utilized in the country leaving wide gaps in the system, and organized crime groups took full advantage merging their way into government and military, often having law enforcement on the payroll reports Abadinsky (2009).  Because the system is based on relationship and status along with governmental participation to some aspect, crimes are not necessarily punishable depending on the players involved.  This is in part due to the extreme violence that follows someone challenging authority of the group. There is some likeness to the Latin drug cartels in operational standards. Russian organized crime groups traffic in narcotics, human trafficking, money laundering, and infiltrate legitimate business ventures to operate.  There are three tiers to the structure, the Gruppirovki, who are bands of professional criminals operating as cells, the Prestupnaia, who are the middle level criminals comprised of the controller level, and finally, the central command center comprised of the Soobschestvo (Abadinsky, 2009).
List of criminal gangs in Los Angeles, California
List of criminal gangs in Los Angeles, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Organized crime in Japan goes back to the at least 300years beginning with the boryokudan groups, Yamagichi-Gumi, Kazou Taoka, and other groups states Abadinsky(2009).  The first criminals operating under these groups were displaced samurai needing a new mode of survival after Japan converted government to a centralized model.  Yamagichi-Gumi and others called the samurai yakuza, which translates into good for nothing, and each organized crime group have their own yakuza soldiers to carry out their deeds.  They are heavily tattooed and if they have committed any acts the yakuza deem wrong lose a part of their pinky finger.  Because of the control extended in declining to kill innocents, or even law enforcement members, the yakuza can conduct their business out in the open, even having headquarters with specific signage displayed.
 Initiation and promotion in the groups involves money given to the cause and an elaborate sake ritual instead of familial ties (Abadinsky, 2009).  Most of the soldiers come from backgrounds of poverty and are not well educated.  A lower ranking member of the yakuza may have to take the place of a boss who is charged with a crime, and serve the sentence given regardless of whether it means prison time or not.  This is a bureaucratic system, which operates for monetary gain and power.  This system is complete, with scouts who search local hangouts in order to recruit members to the group, which begin on the lower rungs of the ladder (Abadinsky, 2009).  
English: Organized crime brochure
English: Organized crime brochure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
According to Abadinsky (2009), Mexican culture and government functions like the Italians with patron-client relationships based on deep-seated immediate and extended familial ties.  This cultural effect along with accepted practices of governmental corruption affords organized criminal groups great power over the country, which is populated by approximately 100 million people, most living in extreme poverty. Obama (2011) notes that Mexican organized crime groups are growing exponentially expanding their operations to include smuggling of narcotics, persons, and weapons into the United States, and creating a large threat and extreme violence in our border towns.  Other criminal operations include extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and increased cooperation with terrorist groups, including those in the Middle East (Obama, 2011). 
The Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (MDTO), known as cartels are extremely violent, family run operations controlling most of the country through offering employment and necessities to the poor population (Abadinsky,2009).  Law enforcement are poorly paid and offered the chance to line their pockets by doing the cartel’s work. Because of the location, these organizations have formed ties with other South and Central American organized crime groups to facilitate narco-trafficking into the United States and other countries, particularly the Columbians who are responsible for most of the cocaine trafficking with some originating in Peru as well (Abadinsky, 2009). 
Differences in Organized Crime
English: Taggings of M-18
English: Taggings of M-18 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Differences in organized crime include structural differences, governmental influences, and cultural differences (Obama, 2011).  For example, in the United States organized crime has never been government sanctioned however, in Russia the government plays an integral part of the organizations.  Structural difference is also a huge factor as the Chinese and Mexicans use a patron client system much like the original organized crime groups in the United States, whereby Russia and Japan operate under the bureaucratic corporate style operation.  The style of organization denotes the rules and practices of the operation along with the cultural aspect, which also ties into differences.  China, the United States, and Mexico cultures denote family and friends as important ties to the organization, where the Japanese and Russians have less loyalty to these values and money is the most important factor in consideration (Obama, 2011).
Similarities in Organized Crime
In all areas of organized crime, there are also similarities, for example, they all operate to gain financial benefit and power even if the basis for doing so is different (UNDOC, 2012).  They all seem to traffic in narcotics, launder money, and gain influence over government officials through bribery and extortion. Another similarity is that they are rapidly gaining influence and power as the tools of crime are advanced by technology.  All of these groups have leaders, mid-level managers, and grunts or foot soldiers, and have methods for promotion within (UNDOC, 2012).
Norteños (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Through corruption, extortion, and bribery organized crime undermines legal systems on a global scale and delivers extreme power to organized crime bosses in many countries (Obama, 2011).  UNDOC (2012) reports that the growing global effect of organized crime undermines governments and stability most in countries where money laundering and exploitation of humans by trafficking, sex trade, and labor runs rampant such as in Russia. Other countries populous rely on narcotics to survive because of lack of available gainful employment like the countries of Central and South America whose populous is so poor without these “jobs” would starve.  In the last two decades, transnational crime has become so strong that often three or more countries maybe involved in a single transaction such as with human trafficking where the victim may come from Russia, transported through Mexico, and, sold into sex trafficking slavery in the United States, due to the increase in technological tools such as the internet.  In short, UNDOC (2012) notes that transnational organized crime has grown into such large proportions that it can no longer be combated in individual countries, crosses all cultural, social ,and language barriers along with any geographical borders, and consequently must be fought on multinational fronts. 

Abadinsky, H. (2009).  Organized crime (9th Ed.).  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning
ISBN: 0-495-59966-2
Obama, B.H., (2011).  Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security.  Retrieved From:  
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), (2012).  Organized Crime.  Retrieved From:  https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/organized-crime/index.html

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