Whoever said crime doesn’t pay obviously has never been involved in organized crime, which yields staggering profits for criminals worldwide.
Although the exact number isn’t known, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, transnational organized crime raked in profits as high as $870 billion in 2009 – equivalent to 1.5 percent of global GDP. That amount is more than six times the funds put toward official development assistance for the same year.
The UN defines transnational organized crime as “an illicit business that transcends cultural, social, linguistic and geographical boundaries and one that knows no borders or rules.”
The World Economic Forum recently published a list of 12 types of illegal trade based on 2011 data gathered by Global Financial Integrity, though the WEF arrived at a slightly lower figure, $650 billion.
The illicit activity that brought in the most revenue was drug trafficking at $320 billion, with counterfeiting coming in second at $250 billion. Diamond trafficking yielded only $0.9 billion, the smallest revenue of any activity.
The WEF projected that the global cost of counterfeiting and piracy alone reached $1.77 trillion in 2015, nearly 10 percent of the global trade in merchandise.