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Glenny - McMafia (2009) - Synopsis

Glenny - McMafia (2009) - Synopsis

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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Misha Glenny, McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underground (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, April 2009); originally published 2008. -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on September 14, 2009.
Synopsis of Misha Glenny, McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underground (New York: Vintage Books/Random House, April 2009); originally published 2008. -- Discussed at Digging Deeper (www.ufppc.org) on September 14, 2009.

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Sep 14, 2009
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) — Digging Deeper XCVSeptember 14, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
Misha Glenny,
McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underground 
(New York: Vintage Books/Random House, April 2009). Originally U.K.edition April 2008; German hardcover edition January 2008).
[
Thesis.
“It is not globalization in itself that has spurred the spectacular growthof organized crime in recent years butglobal markets that are eitherinsufficiently regulated, especially in thefinancial sector, or markets that are tooclosely regulated, as in the labor andagricultural sectors” (345).]
Foreword to the Vintage Edition.
Thefinancial crisis presents an opportunity toreform a global system that hasfacilitated the rise of McMafia (ix). Sincepublication, drug cartels have moved intoSierra Leone and Liberia, Chinesecriminal syndicates continue to infiltrateand contaminate production chains,northern Mexico has become a drug warslaughterhouse (x). The Sicilian Mafiahas collapsed, but other Italian crimesyndicates have filled the vacuum (x-xii).
Introduction.
The 1994 killing insouthern England of Karen Reed, sister of Alison Ponting, whose husband wasinvolved in a Chechen political mafia (xiii-xv). The dissolution of the post-WWIIorder had its roots in globalization’sliberalization of financial and commoditymarkets in the early 1980s (xv-xvi).Criminals, first from Russia and EasternEurope, then from other countries likeIndia, Colombia, and Japan, tookadvantage of opportunities, especially ina “thick belt of instability” stretchingfrom the Balkans to Western Pakistan andChina (xvii-xviii). Acc. figures from theWorld Bank and IMF, the illicit economynow makes up 15-20% of global GDP andhas links to licit economic and politicalinstitutions (xix). Crime is “incomparablymore damaging” to people’s lives thanterrorism (xix-xx).
PART I: THE FALL OF COMMUNISMCh. 1: Death of an American.
IlyaPavlov, a Bulgarian who became a U.S.citizen, murdered in March 2003 in Sofia,was an entrepreneur who devised a wayfor Communist elites to transition intocontrol of free-market economies (3-12).Car theft rings posed as insurancecompanies (12-16). Prostitution offers aneasy entry level for aspiring criminals(16-19). The U.N.’s economic sanctionson Serbia and Montenegro fostered thecriminal underground (19-20).
Ch. 2: Bloody Lucre.
Montenegro’spresident in the early 1990s, MiloDjukanovic, was typical of leadersinvolved with organized crime—in hiscase, cigarette smuggling (21-27). InCroatia, arms smuggling (27-29). VariousBalkan smuggling rings (29-33). Serbiangangs (Arkan; ‘Vanja’ Bokan; the Zemungang) were tougher and better organized(33-40). In 2000 they got involved incocaine smuggling from Colombia andBolivia (41-45).
Ch. 3: The Mafiya: Midwives of Capitalism.
Caviar smuggling inKazakhstan and Russia (46-53).Extortion rackets in Russia,
gruppiorovki,
“ in fact privatized law enforcementagencies,” (54; 53-56). Theappropriation of Russia’s wealth byrobber barons was facilitated bybureaucrats and organized crime (56-59).Disputes are resolved in
strelka
, orconferences, among
krysha
(protectionagencies); an inevitable outgrowth of theway Russia’s transition to capitalism washandled, they were much morewidespread and had a quasi-legitimacythat the Cosa Nostra never had (59-63).
 
“No societies are free from organizedcrime except for severely repressiveones” (61). Sergei Mikhailov presidedover the Solntsevo mob, an empire of gangs (known for throwing extravaganttasteless parties) that went into banking(63-67). In the 1990s security entitiesderiving from the Soviet Union farmedthemselves out to oligarchs and engagedin war; Putin, having restored theprestige of the KGB “in its novel guise asthe FSB,” tolerates former crime bossesbut has reigned in the oligarchs, creatinga sort of “market authoritarianism” (67-70).
Ch. 4: Spreading the Word.
TomasMachacek, an honest Czech policemenwhose work was sabotaged in the 1990sby organized crime (71-74). TamasBoros, murdered in Budapest in 1998,was involved in a heating oil scam (74-77). Semion Mogilevich, believed to bethe top figure in Russian organized crime(72-73, 77-78). The “mysterious,inscrutable” ETG scam, raking inhundreds of millions from Gazprom sales,exemplifies criminal activity with statebacking: “It is hard to ascertain whetherit was gross corruption or simply criminal,or, indeed, where the boundary betweenthe two lies” (80; 77-82). Organizedcrime in Ukraine (82-87). Odessa,controlled by mobster Karabas, is closeto Transnistria, a breakway province of Moldova that is “the quintessentialgangster state” (91; 87-93). A visit to Tiraspol, capital of Transnistria (93-96).
PART II: GOLD, MONEY, DIAMONDS,AND BANKSCh. 5: Aliyah.
[The Hebrew word forimmigration of Jews to Greater Israel;literally ‘ascent.’] Russian immigration toIsrael has created an organized crimeproblem there (99-105). The traffickingof “Ludmila Balbinova,” who ended up ina Tel Aviv brothel, with AIDS (105-10).Russian crime’s connection unsurprisingbecause “[a] disproportionate number of the most influential Russian oligarchs andgangsters were Jewish,” a fact manyprefer to pass over in silence, but whichGlenny explains by the glass ceiling for Jews in Soviet society (112; 110-14).Israel is “an ideal place to invest orlaunder money” (111; 120). Corruptionis on the increase in Israel, whereglobalization is undermining thecollectivist ethos of Zionist society (114-17). Gambling and drugs (117-20).
Ch. 6: Xanadu I.
[India & Dubai, a“stately pleasure dome for the world’ssuperrich” (153).] The bombing withRDX of the Bombay (since 1997 Mumbai)Stock Exchange on Mar. 12, 1993 (121-25). Dubai (125-27). Gold smugglingand Bombay gang wars; DawoodIbrahim’s criminal network (127-39).
Ch. 7: Xanadu II.
Rakesh Maria breaksthe stock exchange bombing case, whichwas carried out by a criminal syndicate(140-44). Interview with a Bombaycontract killer (144-46). Dubai is aninternational center of money laundering,facilitated by the deregulation of financialmarkets (146-60).
Ch. 8: The Theater of Crime.
[Nigeria]Nigerian “419” (from the Nigeriancriminal code) or advance fee scams,facilitated by deregulation (161-82).
Ch. 9: Black and White.
[South Africa]How South Africa became “the new pivotfor the international drug trade” bytaking advantage of the juxtaposition of first and third world populations, withadditional comments on criminalinvolvement in African resource wars inAngola and Congo (183-207).
PART III: DRUGS AND CYBERCRIMECh. 10: Buddies.
[British Columbia] The marijuana industry in BritishColumbia, a $5bn industry in 2006, 6% of its GDP (210-17). Canadian anti-Americanism fuels sentiment in favor of 
 
legalization (218-23). Narcotics is theheart of organized crime; the U.N.estimates it accounts for “70 percent of financial resources available to organizedcrime,” and legalization would underminethis (223; 223-27). British intelligencereports demonstrate the inefficacy of narcotics prohibition (227-31). DavidSoares, D.A. of Albany County in N.Y.State, advocates legalization (231-35). The U.S. war on drugs (235-39).
Ch. 11: March of Fear.
[Colombia]
Soldiers.
The 30-year war in Colombia,probably the most dangerous country onearth (240-45).
Narco-traffickers.
Unlike other drug-infested countries,Colombia is a rich country with asophisticated economy; drugs accountfor only 1 to 3% of GDP (246-52).
Guerrillas.
The FARC is “an organizedmilitary force” (254; 253-58).
Paramilitaries
“have long enjoyedimpunity and immunity for their role inthe narcotics trade” (260; 258-61).
Gringos.
The war on drugs has notreduced American consumption (261-63).
Ch. 12: Code Orange.
[Brazil] Brazilhas become a center of cybercrime,which uses music downloads,pornography, and fake emails to gainaccess to computers (264-73). Brazil’sfavelas and Brazilian organized crime(274-80). Brazil’s connection to Chinesecounterfeit contraband (280-84).
PART IV: THE FUTURE OF ORGANIZEDCRIMECh. 13: The Overunderworld.
[Japan] Japan’s
 yakuza
is “the largest and mostmeticulously organized protection racketin the world” (287-98; 300-12). DiegoGambetta’s
The Sicilian Mafia
is “anutterly convincing theory of the Mafia” asa “business of protection”; WolfgangHerbert has followed his lead in studyingOsaka’s underworld (298-300).
Yakuza
tattoos (301-02).
Yakuza
helps explainwhy Japan has so few lawyers (303).Relations to the state (304-05). Threeleading families (306). A struggle tocontrol pachinko gambling (307-08). The
 yakuza
is mostly limited to Japan (309-12).
Ch. 14: The Future of OrganizedCrime.
[China] The development of thePolitical Criminal Nexus (PCN) in Chinasince the 1990s, produced by theinexorable logic of China’s economicsystem (313-19). Fuzhou, the center of China’s illegal trade in migrant labor(319-25). Mao eradicated the opiumtrade but since Deng’s reforms heroinand organized crime are coming back(325-31). Shenzhen is a city of 12m thathas grown up in 20 years as a center of counterfeiting (331-33). “The EuropeanUnion Commission estimates that fakegoods around the world are worthbetween $250 and $500
billion
a year.Of these about 60 percent originate inthe People’s Republic of China—between20 and 25 percent of exports from Chinaare counterfeits, while between
85
and
90
percent of products sold in thedomestic Chinese market are fake” (333-34). Tony Tung’s cigarette smugglingoperation in southern Fujian paid off foreign officials, including North Koreanswho are emerging as counterfeiters andengaging with the global criminaleconomy (336-38). The ContainerSecurity Initiative is probably easilypenetrable by organized crime (338-41).
Epilogue.
All consumers are involved inthe world of transnational organizedcrime (343). Global regulation of financial markets is urgently needed(344-45). “It is not globalization in itselthat has spurred the spectacular growthof organized crime in recent years butglobal markets that are eitherinsufficiently regulated, especially in thefinancial sector, or markets that are tooclosely regulated, as in the labor andagricultural sectors” (345).
Acknowledgments.
 

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