Organised crime is seen as a major problem in Europe and on a global scale. Thus far, there is no universally accepted definition of organised crime. Without a definition of the problem, one can not estimate its scale and expect effective law enforcement. Law enforcers and policy makers need to be able to collect information about the problem to estimate its threat. For this reason a theoretical understanding and discussion has gone beyond the traditional archetypes. Up to date we have seen a difference between laws, the judicial systems, regulations and police activities across several countries. However, as a result of the development of Europol and Frontex we are leading to a more transnational co-operative body (den Boer, 2001). Despite the different national approaches, there still is the common problem of finding the most valid characteristics that can describe organised crime. The theoretical discussion has drawn numerous areas of academia: economical perspective, criminological approach, social and ethnic studies. Foremost, one comes to think that the following characteristics define the phenomena of “organised crime”: it is pre-meditated, involves lots of money, exploits the existing system, involves corruption, networks, and it is often seen as a victimless crime. Amongst the many academics, Maltz (1976) and Hobbs (1998) studied the definition of organised crime.
First of all, Maltz (1976) highlights the multiplicity of the definition of organized crime. The dispute about a universal definition leads to the inconsistency in how we observe organized crime. To have an insight into the affect of organized crime on the economy and on social-political behavior, it needs to have a “guide” or a pattern to compare it with. This would increase the chance to measure those things that are claimed to be organized crime: such as money laundering, human trafficking, drug-trafficking, organ-trafficking, fraud, cigarette smuggling etc. They have been declared by media, politics and society as organized crime issues. But since all of these involve a contemporary condition, it is clear, that whatever universal conclusion we will come to, it has to be “fluid (von Lampe, 2001)
Maltz (1976) questions whether the problem of defining organised crime lies within its literal meaning. Committing a crime is when a specific act is performed. However when organised crime is mentioned it is usually in describing “an entity, a group of (unspecified) people” (Maltz 1976, p.339). This leads to the misunderstanding between offenders and the offence. But Maltz (1976) states that organised crime involves a minimum of two offenders, but they aim to remain in this group for the purpose of pursuing “criminal” activities (Maltz, 1976).
Similar to the attempt of Hobbs (1998), Maltz (1976) has a closer look at the role that “class” plays within organized crime. Both mention that organized crime stems from the lower class or from an ethnic minority, who lack the legitimate measures to a more powerful life, and so seek their power in an illegal way. Again one cannot typecast this assumption, particularly since it has been compared to white collar crime too. In both cases the definition is uncertain.
Maltz (1976) states a number of frequent characteristics that are used within the context of describing organized crime. The construction of the organization: whether it is rigid and hierarchical; whether violence plays a role, and corruption. Maltz (1976) states that one uses violence as a threat, when other ways of exercising power don’t lead towards its aims.
His final attempt towards a common definition is: the incorporation of means such as violence, corruption, network organization, and the objectives such as political and/or economical power. However worth to mention on Maltz’s (1976) typology is his narrow concentration on economical and political power. He doesn’t draw on those “groups” who just want to benefit from the profit of an illegal market.
Hobbs (1998) concentrated on a more traditional pattern that is still embedded, but particularly plays a role in understanding contemporary organised crime. In Hobbs’ (1998) article it is questioned whether the erosion of borders has increased transnational crime. The actual term transnational crime is unclear itself, since it is a media and political construction that created a global threat. Goodey (2008) stated that a problem has to be “made”, before it can be seen as a problem. Some struggles are effortlessly labelled as organised crime. Stereotypical conceptualisation of organised crime focuses on the typical Mafia image. Since the term transnational is added to organised crime it has somewhat increased the “threat” on a global-scale. The majority of the public would associate organised crime with “transnational”, especially concentrating on Eastern European countries. Particularly the involvement of media has created it into an international concern (Harcup et al. 2001). Organised crime has been revealed as an international “threat” towards society; therefore successful policies that can combat this “problem” are demanded.
Concentrating on a threat from abroad has shifted the responsibilities of the source country. Hobbs (1998) argues that criminal organised labour has parallels with the legal labour market. Criminal organisations were fundamentally a local occurrence especially in working-class cultures.
Furthermore, Hobbs (1998) looks at an example in the United Kingdom to demonstrate the organised crime group emerging from family firms and how the dissolution of working class structures has led to the disappearance of the original organised crime pattern. He claims that the new organised crime has emerged out of entrepreneurial options, both legal and illegal. Society naturally provides a “market of demand” for certain goods. Organised crime groups exploit this opportunity and soon their entrepreneurial options become illegal. Serious crime has followed the same opportunity, and soon the two are interlinked (Hobbs, 1998). Nevertheless, organised crime tends to be carefully planned and pre-meditated, and can have a non-violent and victim-less outcome. Serious crime, tends to be violent and usually only involves one act. Organised crime according to Hobbs (1998) has shifted from local to national and eventually to a cross-border network, exploiting the emergence of illegal market opportunities.
Another characteristic of organised crime that Hobbs (1998) finds of importance is how individuals are attracted by the profit of an organised crime market, they are not permanently part of any network, “but constitute hubs of action and information linking networks featuring webs of varying densities” (Hobbs, 1998, p. 412).
Models describing organised crime as transnational or international crime (excluding street gangs etc) fail, according to Hobbs’ article, to understand the significance of local “contextualities” and “localisation” within the definition of organised crime. According to Hobbs (1998), organised crime is experienced on a local basis and shouldn’t be typified as a transnational occurrence only.
According to von Lampe (2001) organised crime is constantly being used as a phenomenon, although it doesn’t have a clear definition in its ever-changing appearance. Its construction may vary a lot, and that often depends on the academic’s point of view in combination with the literal meaning, and its point of observation in the context. However, von Lampe (2001) does not find one notion that describes organised crime. He instead finds three possible explanations for organised crime. Firstly, in its literal terms, secondly, how the group is organised, and his last notion was that organised crime doesn’t have to be involved in criminal activities but rather concentrates on gaining some authority either in the black-market/underworld or somewhere in between upper and underworld, and having an influence on both (von Lampe, 2001).
Maltz (1976), Hobss (1998) and von Lampe (2001) all have the element of “organisation” and its rational element behind the actions performed by organised crime groups. There is some disagreement on the importance of local and trans-national level of organised crime. But all three of them show elements of the influence of social construction. They all highlight the difficulty of researching the evidence in relation to organised crime.
Current approaches towards defining organised crime shows how law-enforcers, academics and media use it as an umbrella-term for anything they are convinced of to be part of organised crime. The definition of organised crime is reactive, as such that it is an outcome of an act rather than a condition existing beforehand (Kelly, 1986).
The ending of the Cold War, along with globalisation and Europeanization have led to an “erosion” of European borders. This has led to the discussion whether this has increased organised crime and its transnational element. The Schengen agreement had the positive project of allowing “we” Europeans the process of free movement as well as for labour, education and social reasons (den Boer, 2001). Schengen with its exceptions (the UK) created a legal European market, with a parallel operating illegitimate/criminal market.
In the legitimate European market, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and other goods such as these are highly demanded by the public. They all involve high cost and strict regulations. The demand of human organs is not as much in the public eye. However, organs are a highly demanded “good”, but it involves a market with an ethical element, which is absent in the above named goods (Harrison, ). Once discovered, that there is a bigger demand than supply, it creates an opportunity to exploit this demand. Organ harvesting has become an increasing problem for many countries and has been publicized as a component of organised crime.
Kidney failure affects approximately one million people all over the world, but only 60.000 receive a kidney transplant. People with kidney failure face an ethical issue, whether they should wait and risk death, or buy an illegally obtained organ. 15 to 30 percent (Vermot-Mangold, 2003).
The role of the market is a crucial aspect in understanding the concept of organised crime in relation to organ-harvesting. Bovenkerk (1992) claims that the creation of an illegitimate market is a response to society’s demand for a certain good or service that can not be obtained legally. He claims that the illegitimate market fills the gap that exists between the demand and legal supply of a certain product, in this case: human organs and in particularly human kidneys (Bruinsma et al. 2004).
The demand for human organs is exploited and turned into an illegal business (von Lampe 2001). A straightforward solution to the problem of organ trade could be an available legal supply of organs that would decrease the demand of illegal organ trafficking. Yet, the trade in human organs creates an ethical and moral discussion. It doesn’t merely involve the legalisation of drugs or other illegitimate goods, but engages a part of a human being (Harrison, 1999).
As with the dealing of drugs: once they have been outlawed, they become demand driven, and thus create a “black market” to meet this public demand. Currently the demand of organs (especially kidneys) exceeds the supply of human organs in the EU (Oosterlee et al 2006).
Human beings have been trafficked and exploited for many reasons such as for cheap labour and involuntary prostitution. Little is mentioned about human organ trafficking, but in the past decade there is a growing concern about the exploitation of the human body for the use of its organs (Truong, 2001). In Western Europe there is an organ transplant waiting-list of approximately 40,000 people waiting for a kidney donor. Only a fourth of that list receives an organ (Cooper, 2000).
Van Duyne (2007) points out how globalisation has also brought about a negative element of corruption in the concept of organised crime. According to The Global Corruption Barometer (2009), countries in Eastern Europe such as Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania show a high corruption index. These countries also tend to be those that experience high numbers of organised crime and high numbers of illegal organ harvesting. A supervised system of organ trade is also unlikely to function in these countries because of the corruption that still infiltrates the authorities.
Organised crime and organ harvesting both have no explicit definition. The difference between countries’ definitions is influenced by ethical values and its regulations. An important factor though is that the definition is “fluid” and has been adapted throughout time (von Lampe 2001). The definition of “organ trafficking” could change rapidly if EU regulation on life-donor-ship changes. The demand for illegally obtained organs would also decrease. A commonly used definition of organised crime is stated in the Palermo Protocol (2000). This protocol defines the definition of human trafficking, which creates a similar amount of controversies as the definition of organised crime does. Moreover the definition states that a person who is trafficked is someone who has been trafficked for reasons such as cheap-labour, servitude, sexual exploitation or the harvesting of human organs. The illegal trafficking of human beings can include organ trafficking because it often involves people going abroad by giving their consent by getting offered a payment for their organs. The latter is thus part of organised crime. The European parliament has adopted the definition of the Palermo protocol (2000).
While it is argued that when consent is given it would make the act of trafficking voluntary, this is however (as is stated by the Palermo protocol) irrelevant whether consent was involved. The issue of consent highlights the misery and poverty that is being experienced in the source countries. The opportunities that they are provided with by an “organised crime group” give them the hope for a better future. The disillusion of wealth leads people into selling their body parts abroad. It abuses the vulnerability of a person; money is used as a tool for gaining consent.
Furthermore the risk accompanied with the transplantation for the donor is of substantial concern, the donors are released after a maximum of two days, and will have to travel back to their home country and continue their life without any medical follow-up (Vermot-Mangold, 2003). This distorts the typical route for human trafficking that involves the common pattern of trafficking from source, transit to destination country. However, the global pattern of organ-trafficking routes is like other forms of trafficking: criss-cross. The routes are so numerous and flexible, that it is nearly impossible to tackle the issue by trying to eliminate the routes (Aaroma, 2007). Thus one should concentrate on the source countries. Nevertheless both recipient and donor tend to travel to a less developed country, either because of less strict regulations or because the brokers are situated there. Those who have been coerced into donating their kidney can face problems at border controls.
Moreover Scheper-Hughes (2003) analysed a common global pattern of organ trafficking. She claimed that organ-trafficking presents a route from south to north, from east to west, from poor to rich and from black to white. Although this might be influenced by a stereotypical view it does present a common pattern.
Organ trafficking is like other forms of organised crime – it has a vague definition, thus it is difficulty to prove and it is especially difficult to measure the exact extent of the actual problem. Media has taken over the role of investigation, but shouldn’t be taken as the source for accurate estimated numbers (Seale et al. 2006). Cooperation at European level of health services and governments would provide more truthful results.
It is uncertain whether criminal networks of organised crime for organ trafficking develop from within the poorer countries, such as Moldova, Estonia, Turkey, Brazil, India etc. or whether the criminal networks are being set up in the Western European countries, and thus exploit these poorer countries? There has been a common trail of kidney-trade found from Moldova, which lacks basic needs due to the wide unemployment, to Arab, Israeli and Western European purchasers (Vermot-Mangold, 2003)
The international element and problem of organ trade is highlighted by the contrasting judicial regulations from differing countries such as: Austria, U.K, Romania and Spain. In Austria consent has to be given before death, to allow organ transplantation (Oosterlee et al. 2006), whereas in Spain, there are professionally trained staff that counsel the families of the potential donor to encourage them to give consent to the removal of their organs. In other countries where such encouragement isn’t given, only half of the families allow organs to be taken from their dying or dead family members. In Spain 85% give their permission. Results have demonstrated that Spain has 33.8 deceased donors per million of the total population, while UK only has 12.9 pmp (Council of Europe, 2007). This demonstrates again the entrepreneurial element of organised crime and thus the opportunity for the illegitimate market to take advantage of the situation that not all countries have equal supply to deceased or living donors.
The illegal organ-trade is a growing occurrence in Estonia, Turkey, Moldavia, Bulgaria and Romania. However, the illegal organ-trade is not a novel occurrence. In the 1980s there were first signs of an “organ-tourism” taking place in Asian and South American countries. There were several claims that these were myths created through the media or by the countries themselves (Scheper-Hughes, 2000). But then there was increasing evidence that the organs of executed prisoners in communist mainland China were being used for a commercial market of organs, particularly created by the demand of prosperous North Americans.
According to Truong (2001), organ trafficking involves the falsification of documents, corruption of border controls and medical staff, and it involves a wider network of groups. Last but not least, they all demonstrate a trait of threat and violence. A characteristic of organised crime is that it usually involves several interlinking networks. To understand the network of organ-trade it is important to have an understanding of what kind of network organ-harvesting consists of, most suitable is the social network. They have a structure: chain, hierarchical or central. Organ trafficking is most likely to follow a chain structure. In social networks, the actors and their characteristics (gender, ethnicity, age, education) and the relations between actors, play a crucial role. The relationship between the two actors also demonstrate characteristics such as the frequency of contact, the length of the relationship, whether it is on the same level or rather hierarchical etc. (Bruinsma et al 2004). To have an understanding of the network makes it more likely to find its sources and connections on a transnational scale.
Furthermore, Dalhoff’s (2008) documentary states that the average amount which is paid for an illegal donor Kidney is around ₤120.000. The money that the donor receives is a maximum of ₤2000. This differentiation of what is paid and what the donor in the end receives, demonstrates the extensive involvement by the social networks. Not only has the surgeon got to be paid a large amount of money in order not to betray them, but they also need to pay for the illegal documents. Eventually the brokers will want to have their profit from the business as well.
The medical workers who come to countries such as Moldavia exercise medical tests on some of the illegal donors to assess their state of health. They unexpectedly witness a very professional quality of surgery. This indicates as mentioned above that there is a relationship between the “upper-world and under-world” (van Duyne, 2002). It assumes that professional doctors are bribed into committing the transplantations of organs for a criminal network, and so become automatically part of this network.
Since organ harvesting takes place over longer time periods and demonstrates clear patterns, it isn’t “just” a criminal activity but rather an organised crime (Finckenauer, 2005). He states that there is a clear distinction between organised crime and serious crime. Serious crime usually takes place on a short time period, but as organ trafficking demonstrates it isn’t a one time act, but a continuing operation of cooperating elements within a bigger either clustered of extensive network. Distinguishing between the two of them is important in assessing the scale of the issue of organ harvesting.
The criminal groups operating in “organ-harvesting” are exploiting the desperate situation of the potential donors. The higher the unemployment rates and poverty experienced, the more tempting the selling of an organ (mainly kidney) becomes (Shepher-Hughes, 2000). Unemployment and the poor social structure within such populations makes them vulnerable targets for criminal groups. The instable and often corrupt government does not provide a system that can be relied on. This implicates the need of tackling the issue at the source of the problem, namely the government (Aaroma, 2007). Nevertheless the “donor-countries” shouldn’t be held solely responsible for the illegal organ-trade. The EU could have substantial influence on combating the illegal organ trade if their restrictive law that forbids unrelated living donors to make a donation, would be amended. The opportunity for abusing the system would considerably decrease.
It is important to have stricter regulations for professional surgeons who could be involved within this illegal organ trade. This also highlights the upper world- underworld relationship which can often be analysed in organised crime issues (von Lampe, 2002). Another controversial area is whether police and border controls are involved as well, since there is a low discipline at borders and the investigation bodies do not always fulfil their legal responsibilities (Vermot-Mangold, 2003).
There are currently several international Non-governmental organisations such as La Strada, Coalition For Organ Failure Solutions (COFS), that tackle issues of human trafficking for reasons such as sexual exploitation or for the removal of human organs. These organisations help to create partner observer systems. This involves the engagement of local and international NGOs to exchange information and consequently the promotion of awareness amongst policy makers and the general population that trafficking is taking place and that this is a serious concern.
In addition to that, there should be acknowledgement of the problem so that it isn’t treated as a taboo topic anymore. The unmentioned problem of organ trade, is partly the foundation of the problem, people are unaware of the actual consequences, unaware of the ethical issues and unaware that they are victims. If the countries informed and warned its population about the health-dangers and illegality of the problem it would help towards a decrease in citizens consenting into organ trafficking (Vermot-Mangold, 2003).
The commercial trade of organs is strictly prohibited. But some think-tanks (Erin, 2003) have discussed whether allowing unrelated donor ship would minimize the problem of illegal organ harvesting. Nevertheless the Bellagio Task Force Report (Rothman et al, 1997) has stated that paying non-related donors would cause exactly those in economic difficulty to sell their organs for the wrong reasons. It would again drive those from less economically deprived countries into selling their organs. Nevertheless if there was legal commercialisation to occur then this should be monitored by an international organisation, it should be transparent to make sure that no bribery and corruption takes place. Long term medical follow-up should also be guaranteed.
The European Additional Protocol concerning Transplantation of Organs and Tissues of Human Origin (reference) was amended in 2008. This protocol has to be ratified by all member-states; it entails Articles that forbid the commercialisation and financial gain of organs. It states the importance of medical follow-up and the necessity to inform the donor profoundly on the consequences before consenting into donorship. It also highlights that the donor must have a close relationship to the patient. The latter in particular has found to be lacking profound regulations in Switzerland and Germany. There have been found further loop holes in the regulations for unrelated donorship in several countries.
Whether organ harvesting is part of an organised crime network also involves questioning who should be held responsible for organ harvesting. Are these only the negotiators and the professional surgeons? Or are those who perform checks on the illegal donor also to be held responsible for not reporting it to the higher authorities? Most importantly is the question whether the patients and donors are to be held responsible? Everyone, except the latter, are criminally liable (REFERENCE). The problem of organised crime is also that it doesn’t describe the “criminal” and its particular offence that it commits. So punishing criminals in an organised crime network usually comes under different headings, such as: culpable homicide in the case of death of an illegal organ-transplantation or negligence in other cases.
Furthermore it is often argued that (REFERENCE) some forms of trafficking are on absolute voluntary basis, such as the human-trafficking from economically less developed countries to developed countries with economic, political and social push and pull factors. However having carried out a number of surveys, Zargooshi (Reference) found that 85% of the illegal kidney trafficked donors regretted consenting into selling their kidney, as it didn’t change their economic situation, some became even poorer, due to not being able to work after the organ-donation. Thus, while organ trafficking often occurs voluntarily, it reveals the lack of information and advice organ donors receive beforehand. They are unaware of the consequences, and as a result are exploited by a network of “criminals” (Scheper-hughes).
COE? (REFERENCE) has recommended that all EU member states should adopt the statement on organ transplantation and increase the funds for Europol in the area of combating organ trafficking. The donor countries should collaborate with NGOs and create awareness for organ trafficking and the legal and ethical issues it presents. The destination countries need to have stricter regulations and official law against organ traffickers. In addition, medical staff should be made aware of the legal consequences they would be facing if they were involved in illegal organ-trade.
Approaching the problem of organ harvesting is hard since it is categorized as an organised crime, which hasn’t got a universal definition. Whether proactive or punitive approaches are the right measure to apply is debatable: when applying a punitive measure it might alter the problem and shift it towards another area. Measures should be most concentrated on an open information system for possible sellers and those who have been “victim” of organ trade should have the possibility for professional health care. They shouldn’t be isolated from society, but rather given legal services (Vermont-Mangold, 2003).
When approaching the issue of supply and demand, one should concentrate on alternatives, such as the increasing of cadaver donations. Spain is a leading example for a system that works with cadaver and brain-dead patients who allow their organs to be taken and to be given to those in need of them (Geis, ).
Furthermore, a case study on Turkey provides an understanding how the influence of law, culture, society categorize human rights and crime differently. Some arrested surgeons argued that the payment they had received from the organ recipient wasn’t seen in commercial terms, but rather in terms of reward for helping someone else’s life, a charitable donation (Hornby, 2000). This may be a justification used in their defence, but it is likely due to their different ethical values that those who are involved in this “lucrative business” actually believe that organ trade and thus using a human body, is altruistic (Sanal, 2004).
The “organ mafia” is being sold by the media as another organised crime business, such as the trade in cheap labour, prostitutes and drugs. But the mass media knows that stories like this are a form of entertainment for the majority of the public. It is the media who is the first to announce it as a criminal business or an organised crime (Sanal, 2004). This has also been observed with human trafficking. There are only a small proportion of convictions and light sentences for those guilty of trafficking compared to the portrayal by the media (Harcup et al. 2001).
During September 2009, a Turkish doctor Sönmez was convicted for his involvement in illegal Kidney transplantations. He has to serve ten years in prison. He didn’t only perform organ transplantation but he was convicted for actually buying and selling kidneys in a private clinic in Istanbul. He and a number of other people such as the Israeli doctor Shapira were arrested in 2007. The media labelled the people who were involved as the Turkish “Organ Mafia”. This obviously supports the image of an underground business that is involved in an international network of organ trade. The dealers and the doctors were portrayed as criminals, but those who sold their kidneys weren’t. This occurrence obviously led to distrust in the medical services.
The donors came from Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern countries. More recently there have been 40 more arrests in North West Turkey; they were apparently involved in an illegal network for kidney transplantations. The majority of donors came from Eastern Europe, yet a small number were from Turkey, mainly those who were in debt themselves (Ärtze Zeitung, 2009). It makes it hard to estimate the number because the perceived extent of organ-trading varies from country to country.
At last, if organ trading would be officially organized and supervised through bona-fide agencies this would diminish the role of the ‘criminal element’. Even if organ-trading may not be defined everywhere as ‘organised crime, it still belongs to a twilight zone where criminals can play significant roles. The problem should be tackled in the source countries, which face several economic, political and social problems. Citizens of poor countries wish, first and foremost to survive and progress, if not for them selves, then for their children’s survival and education. If there are no other alternatives for achieving better life standards, the option of selling a kidney seems like a possible solution to economical-misery. It is the recent fluidity of connections between rich and poor nations through the intermediaries that has created the greater opportunity for trans-national organ trading to compensate for the shortfall between supply and demand. Solutions to minimize the illegal trade and trafficking in human organs, are campaigns and policies concentrating on the source countries; an international transparent network of organ-donation; and the promotion of cadaver donation (Sheper-Hughes,2003). From the policy/ campaigning perspective, a measure of combating “organised crime” and in this case organ-harvesting, is primary focused on the local authority’s (Paoli, 2008). Moreover, the most success would be achieved if these authorities work together on an international basis with the support of e.g. Europol and Eurojust.
As mentioned above, the definition of organised crime and thus even human trafficking are very broad and vague, the law enforcement is so applied to the organised crime phenomena on a broad scale that it doesn’t tackle the core problems in this way (Paoli, 2008). For the future we will see an increase in possible solutions towards more local focused definitions. An important role within the creation of a more universal definition plays the ethnographic studies and the research by criminologist. Europol and SOCA have created organised crime threat assessments in an attempt to estimate the threat to society more accurately. But this shouldn’t be left alone to governments who only focus on documents and acts, rather than on ethnographic field work and criminologist research. The cooperation could lead to a more accurate measurement of organised crime.
The above research presents with the example of organ harvesting that the ever-still exciting problem of the definition of organised crime also leads to difficulty discussing the market, network and law-enforcements of organised crime. one tends to always focus on the criminal aspects of organised crime such as violence and corruption to achieve economical power (von Lampe, 2001). One should rather focus on the characteristics of fluidity, and its ever changing element.
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