Go to contents

The World’s Top Five Criminal Organizations

Posted May. 23, 2007 03:19,   


Crime syndicates such the Mafia and Yakuza are not confined to the underground. They collude with politicians and acquire legal business entities as well. Foreign Policy described the world’s top five criminal organizations on its website on May 22.

Yakuza: The biggest Yakuza umbrella group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, has maintained close relationships with politicians and right-wing groups and has a membership of 39,000. It has rapidly grown and now is expanding its operations into Tokyo. The group’s leader, Kenichi Shinoda, is managing the organization while in jail.

The Yakuza is well known for openness. The Yamaguchi-gumi has its headquarters in Kobe and its members even carry business cards. They are famous for black suits, tiger tattoos and severed fingers. Ordinary Japanese ignore their violent acts since they claim they don’t hurt innocent citizens.

Russian Mafia: The Russian Mafia has about 450 organizations with 300,000 members and is said to control a quarter of Russia’s economy and one tenth of the country’s territory. Government agencies are also under its control. Vladimir Nikolayev, the former Vladivostok mayor who was recently arrested, is a former Mafia boss and a member of the ruling party.

The Russian Mafia is notorious for its cruelty. Journalists, the police, and senior government officials risk their lives if they fall out of the criminal gang’s favor. It recently has bought legal business entities, including chemical plants, ports and banks. It has recently started to operate even in Israel and New York.

Italian Mafia: The Cosa Nostra, from which the current Mafia originated, is a criminal secret society which first developed in the mid-19th Century in Sicily. The Cosa Nostra dominated Sicily for decades by strong regional and family ties. It makes a pact, called Omerta (code of silence), with local people and government officials so that it can force them not to cooperate with the police.

However, Cosa Nostra has been at a crossroads since the arrest of Bernardo Provenzano, who was called the boss of the bosses, and 24 senior members in last April. In recent years, `Ndrangheta, gang from Calabria, has appeared as a strong criminal organization. `Ndrangheta is key to the drug network that links Colombia and Europe.

Mexico’s drug cartels: Since the U.S. strengthened its efforts to crack down on Colombian drug cartels, Mexico’s drug cartel has emerged as a leading drug gang.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is trying to use military force to wipe out the cartel and set up a special military task force to do so, but this has failed to significantly weaken the cartels. A gang from Tijuana has emerged as a rival to Mexico’s two most powerful drug gangs--Sinaloa and Gulpra--in Mexico.

The cartel killed more than 1,000 including high-ranking government officials this year alone.

The Italian Mafia in the U.S.: Thanks to movies and TV dramas, the Italian Mafia in America has enjoyed vaunted reputation but it is almost on the verge of extinction. Once it was a nationwide criminal organization, but now it operates only in New York and Chicago. The Five Families in New York--the Gambino family, the Genovese family, the Colombo family, the Bonanno family and the Lucchese family--don’t have a boss right now.

The American Mafia is famous for betrayal. Facing a strong crackdown, they broke Omerta. They are still operating, though not enjoying their past glory. Lax law enforcement may give them a chance to revive.