Sunday 6 November 2011

Report on Illicit Financial Flows Resulting from Trafficking and Other Transnational Organized Crimes

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) has recently produced a report giving some quite shocking estimates of the scale of the annual proceeds generated globally by transnational crime: 'Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crimes'. From this (Table 29, page 236) we learn that trafficking illicit art and cultural property (in the period 2000-2009) accounted for a minimum estimate 3.4 billion US dollars annually (while the maximum estimate was 6.3 billion US dollars annually). These are quite staggering figures, though they pale into insignificance against the sums generated by transnational organized crime in general. This totals 645 billion dollars annually in the same period and the main contributions to this sum were drugs (320 billion, 50%) and counterfeit goods (250 billion, 39%). Third on the list was human trafficking, which generated for organized criminal groups 32 billion dollars (5%). Illicit oil (11 billion, 2%), wildlife and fish (together 14-20 billion, c. 3%) and timber (7 billion, 1.1%) were all generating more revenue than illicit art and cultural goods (which contribute slightly less than one percent of the total estimate of profits). Does that mean that the problem of the trafficking of illicit art is any the less important? Do we measure the damage done by an illegal act only by the profits that can be made by doing it - is money the only index of importance? Below "art" on the UN list are gold, human organs, arms and weapons, and diamonds and gems.

The executive summary of the document (page 9) makes clear:
The issue of illicit capital flows has emerged as one that is central to the mandate of UNDOC. Garnered through the proceeds of illicit trafficking and other forms of profit-motivated crime, dirty money promotes bribery and corruption, finances insurgency and, in some cases, terrorist activities. It also destabilises and deters legitimate enterprise, foreign investment and development.
Notable, in the context of the preferred 'solutions' suggested by no-questions-asking antiquity collectors and dealers, is the statement that dirty money from trafficking promotes, rather than results from corruption.  

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