Definitions of organized crime, as given by the European Union and the United Nations, agree on several points. It is the work of a “structured group existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing crimes in order to obtain a financial or other material benefit”.
Organized crime is a transnational issue and covers all major areas of trafficking: drugs, human beings, arms, stolen vehicles, and wild animals and plants, etc. It is closely tied to corruption and money-laundering.
With the increased mobility of persons, goods and capital, organized crime has changed considerably and draws on new technologies, not only for the purposes of money-laundering but also in order to strengthen its existing activities and create new ones (cybercrime).
Combating organized crime is a major challenge for the international community. Alongside terrorism, it now represents the largest non-military threat to internal security and international economic stability.
Although it is by definition difficult to assess, the overall proceeds of organized crime probably total around €1trillion per year.
In a context where criminality respects no national border or sovereignty, it is vital to have a comprehensive approach to fighting crime and strengthen international cooperation, particularly between judicial bodies and law enforcement agencies. France therefore plays an active role in multilateral forums dealing with these issues, working to ensure the coherence and effectiveness of the different forums.
At national level
France’s legal arsenal was strengthened with the adoption of the “Perben II” Act (Act2004-204 of 9March2004) adapting the justice system to developments in crime. This Act strengthened existing provisions for the fight against organized crime, including by providing additional investigative resources.
At European Union level
At European level, France proposes enhanced security cooperation through the creation of common investigative teams and Police and Customs Cooperation Centres (CCPD). There are currently 10CCPDs in France and abroad, in partnership with Belgium, Germany, Italy (2), Spain (4) and Switzerland, and one four-country Centre for France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The 2005 Prüm Convention (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain), which provides for the exchange of personal data including genetic profiles and fingerprints, and the organization of joint patrols and the European Arrest Warrant adopted in 2002, are major steps forward in combating organized crime.
The EU Internal Security Strategy (2010-2014), drawn up to enable the European Union to respond to existing and emerging threats to the security of Europe’s society and citizens, is currently being reviewed. Five strategic steps were selected for the 2010-2014 Internal Security Strategy:
1) the disruption of international criminal networks
2) the prevention of terrorism and addressing radicalisation and recruitment
3) raising levels of security for citizens and businesses in cyberspace
4) strengthening security through border management
5) increasing Europe’s resilience to crises and disasters. It also laid down guidelines and common principles underpinning, in full respect for fundamental rights, a “European Security Model” and aimed at continuing the development of common instruments and policies through a better integrated approach.
As a major partner in the construction of a common space of security, freedom and justice, France has also participated actively in the development of Europol, which was created in 1999 and is based in The Hague. Europol’s role is to facilitate information exchanges between Member States, as well as carrying our criminal analysis and assessing threats. Alongside its judicial sector counterpart, Eurojust (created in 2002 and also based in The Hague), it is a keystone in Europe’s arsenal to combat transnational organized crime.
Within the United Nations and the G7
The implementation of the Palermo Convention
France participates in the work of various international forums, the United Nations being at the forefront. France played a very active role in negotiating a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention), with Protocols against trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in firearms. Those first three instruments were signed by France upon their opening for signature on 12December2000 in Palermo. France ratified them on 29October2002.
The Palermo Convention contributes to the three following areas:
- drafting of universal definitions for certain fundamental notions of criminal law in the area of combating organized crime (“organized criminal group”, “serious crime”, “proceeds of crime”, etc.);
- approximation of criminal laws, by requiring States to criminalize participation in organized criminal groups, money-laundering, obstruction of justice, and corruption;
- development of international judicial cooperation, by creating mutual legal assistance and extradition procedures in a universal framework. Specific provisions are also included to ensure traceability of dirty money and the seizure and confiscation of criminal assets.Like the Convention, the Protocols thereto are above all law enforcement instruments. The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons requires States to introduce offences to their criminal law enabling prosecution of organized criminal groups engaging in trafficking. It contains a wide definition of human trafficking that encompasses sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, servitude and removal of organs.
The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air requires States to prosecute smugglers who procure the illegal entry of immigrants, as well as those enabling their illegal stay in the host territory.
Each of the Protocols also contains the obligation of States to take back their nationals and permanent residents who are victims of trafficking or who have been smuggled as migrants.
Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms introduced provisions similar to those of the Protocols against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. France is in the process of adjusting its national law so as to be able to ratify it.
The implementation of the Palermo Convention relies on a conference of its States Parties, the last session of which was held in Vienna from 6-10October2014.
The implementation of the Merida Convention
The United Nations Convention against Corruption, signed in Merida in December2003, establishes a principle of return of the proceeds of the offences of embezzlement of public funds and laundering of that money for the first time. The implementation of the Merida Convention is also based on a Conference of the States Parties. France participates actively in all negotiations involved in drawing up these international criminal standards, whether they concern recommendations, resolutions or more binding instruments. The most recent Conference of the States Parties to the Merida Convention took place in Panama from 25-29November2013.
Although it does not produce standards, the G7 Roma-Lyon Group is a particularly useful forum for reflection and discussion of experiences. Its work focuses on the following themes:
- supporting the implementation of the United Nations Conventions against Corruption (Merida Convention) and Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention);
- combating child pornography on the Internet;
- fighting anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia on the Internet;
- improving the traceability of terrorist and criminal assets;
- developing biometrics;
- eliminating documentary fraud.Development of operational cooperation
The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-Interpol) was created in 1923 and is based in Lyon. It has a secure global police communications network and operational databases, and provides operational support and training for police forces. It also sets up working groups in order to intensify exchanges on investigations, enable criminal analysis and keep statistics.
With its international police technical cooperation department (International Cooperation Directorate at the Ministry of the Interior), which is one of the most comprehensive in the world, France fosters cooperation actions with major potential benefits for our country’s internal security, by combating criminal networks at their source and in transit countries.
Moreover, numerous bilateral internal security agreements are concluded every year, in addition to multilateral cooperation: France is increasingly involved in subregional, regional and global initiatives.
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Updated: October 2014