Organized crime is a continuously evolving phenomenon. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) defined “organized criminal group” as a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offenses […] in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit. (United Nations, 2000).
Typically organized crime groups profit and thrive through the manipulation and monopolization of legitimate markets, institutions, and industries – e.g. financial markets, labour unions, and construction or sanitation (UNODC, 2014) as well as through black markets and illegitimate practices – e.g. illicit drug trade and human trafficking. They rely on tools of violence, corruption, bribes, graft, extortion, intimidation, and murder to maintain their respective operations and control their market profits (Costa, 2010). With high market stakes and violence-based operations, criminal organizations remain the primary cause of violent deaths in several countries (Campana, 2013; UNODC, 2014), including regions of South and Eastern Europe (Varese, 2006; 2013; UNODC, 2014) are the main cause of violent deaths in several countries. Beyond physical violence, distortionary participation in legitimate markets and pervasive participation in illicit markets combined with the varied socio-political and geographical scales at which organized crime groups can operate at, both regionally and globally, results in the estimated annual global economic impact of organized crime to be in the range of 1 trillion US dollars (Costa, 2010; UNODC, 2015).