Crime pays - but it also costs

CocaineArnulfo Franco/AP/Press Association Images

A United Nations official has claimed that crime generates $2.1 trillion across the world - making it one of the biggest 20 industries in the world. It seems, therefore, that if you do it right, crime pays very well indeed.

Unfortunately we're paying the price for it.

Huge business

The comments were made by Yury Fedotov, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime at an international anti-crime conference, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. He said that 'criminal business' is worth over $2 trillion, which is 7% of world GDP. And added: "It makes the criminal business one of the largest economies in the world, one of the top 20 economies."

His figures come from a recent report from his office, which calculated the income from a wide variety of crimes.The drugs industry, including cocaine and heroin is estimated to be worth a fifth of all crime proceeds.

After that, product counterfeiting from Asia to Europe featured high on the list, worth $8.2 billion. Trade in illegal migrants was said to be worth over $6.7 billion to the smugglers. And trade in timber from South-East Asia to the EU and Asia was calculated at $3.5 billion.

Well covered crimes such as ID theft was put at $1 billion (with 1.5 million victims) and piracy off the coast of Somalia at $100 million.

The cost

The size and success of these industries exposes the failure of the international authorities to tackle crime on a massive scale. The UN points out that at the moment less than 1% of these funds are seized and frozen. However it also has a number of very real costs.

The cost to us individually will depend on how it impacts us directly. If you have been caught out by a fake on an internet auction or had your identity stolen, you are paying a very real price for this crime.

However, the UN warns that in some parts of the world. the entire population is paying the price. In the report Fedotov said: "Contrary to the common misperception that money is neither good nor bad, investments of 'dirty money; into licit economies can create problems ranging from distortions of resource allocation to the "crowing out" of licit sectors. In some cases, the influx of tainted money undermines the reputation of local institutions significantly, these investments can hamper investment and economic growth."

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