“The legal financial world is the new target of criminals”

Misha Glenny is the author of the book McMafia where he uncovers the dark world of criminal organizations.

Misha Glenny does not tremble when interviewing gangsters. Nor does his voice tremble when he states that it is necessary to legalize the drug and close the tax havens to suffocate the criminal organizations that, according to him, are taking advantage of the current lack of credit to make loans, launder their capital and enter the financial market. legitimate. This journalist who for twenty years toured Eastern Europe and the Balkans as a correspondent for the BBC maintains contact with several criminals since he published, last year, McMafia, a book that describes the machinations of criminal organizations on five continents. Unlike his counterpart, Roberto Saviano (author of Gomorrah), Glenny did not hide his identity to approach the criminals. His interviewees knew that he was going to publish a book and, surprisingly, almost everyone was willing to talk.

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How do you interview a gangster? 
(laughs) You have to be very polite and, above all, never lie to him.
No comparison with the war in Yugoslavia. That was scary.

How does a BBC correspondent end up submerged in the dark world of criminal organizations? 
In 2003 criminal groups murdered the Serbian prime minister. During the war in Yugoslavia, the Mafia was everywhere and we all knew it, but the fact that the Prime Minister was assassinated in the face of the passivity of the whole world changed things. The criminals had crossed the border of the illegitimate world. Then I discovered that the underground economy, which comes from criminal capitals, represents 15% of world GDP. It was when I decided to write a book.

How has the economic crisis affected the criminals? 
That is a good question. I have met with police in Europe and three people from the ‘underground economy’ and they all say the same thing. On the one hand, the recession makes many people have less money with what some amenities and services offered by criminal groups such as prostitution, drugs, leisure, decline. In the case of addictive drugs, it is different because the drug addict will do everything possible to collect the money.

So, the criminals are in crisis!
Quite the opposite. When there is a credit crunch , people and banks have less money but criminal organizations always have cash. What we are seeing lately is an increase in loans from criminal organizations. We call it ‘loan sharking’. It’s the classic gangster activity: lending money at a high interest and if you do not return it, they come looking for you with a baseball bat, laughs

Then, as good usurers, they get rich at the cost of the crisis … 
And what’s worse, your black money is entering the legitimate financial market. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, some organized crime groups are beginning to lend money to financial entities or, as in the case of Madoff and Standford, they were criminal activities in the financial world.

So they were something like gangsters? 
There is suspicion and evidence that part of the money that went through Madoff and the Stanford bank was criminal money that came from Russia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The underground economy used these institutions in the financial world to launder its capital. This is the first negative symptom that the crisis brings: the legal financial world is the new target of criminals.

What about the second negative point? 
The rise of cybercrime and theft of identities since Lehmann Brothers went bankrupt and started the crisis. When the British bank Northern Rock succumbed, the government decided to nationalize it. Before it happened, thousands of customers took their money. During the process, a criminal organization managed to collect all the identities of the clients by entering the computers. The organization sent letters to these people offering them a secure deposit account. Then they took all the money from the people.

It seems simple … 
The worst part is that they had access to computers. There is also a boom in counterfeiting, from deuvedés, to clothing, makeup, batteries, etc. The gangsters themselves have confessed to me on one occasion that Europe is sinking due to the massive entry of counterfeit products. The legitimate merchants can not compete with this illegal market.

And it is true? 
It is a big problem for Europe and the United States because a large part of our economy depends on the industry of creativity, design, advertising, etc.

Is there any country that benefits from this market?
China, above all. But also North Korea, the Philippines, Thailand. Basically, all of East Asia. Although also Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador.

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Are we living the golden age of criminal organizations? 
The golden age was really the nineties although the economic recession will ensure that this period of fullness lasts much longer than we thought.

Is there something that can be done? 
Clear. First of all, we must know that the success of criminal organizations is due to the banking system. The crisis has shown that our banking system was an orgy of speculation. The deregulation entities of the international financial institutions are, in reality, an immense criminal conspiracy conducted by governments in a seemingly legitimate manner.

Do you propose a change of economic model? 
Yes, and the first thing to do is end the tax havens where the corporations avoid taxes and where the criminals whiten their black money. Merkel and Sarkozy have begun to move against Liechtenstein and Monaco, but the great defender of closing these paradises is President Obama.

And then? 
It would be necessary to introduce global regulation of the banks to make it difficult for the loans of the criminal organizations.

What about the world of drugs? 
It also urgently needs a change in the struggle we are carrying out today. Currently the war on drugs is led from Washington and it is clear that it does not work. Spain is currently the first country to import cocaine.

Because you have an extensive coastline.

I thought that was something positive. 
If you like to swim laughs

Are you in favor of legalizing drugs? 
Absolutely. We are giving billions of dollars each year to very bad people. It’s the change in the way to face the traffickers I was talking about earlier. Right now, the war on drugs is focused on curbing access but we all know that it is very easy to get drugs in any city in the world. The legalization would destroy half of the criminal organizations.

So, what holds governments back? 
The policy of the United States. Politicians do not position themselves against fear of losing their jobs.

What about the trafficking of women? 
With the recession, it has improved a lot because men do not have so much money to spend on prostitution. Of all the crimes that exist around the world, the trafficking of women is the least important to governments.

Because trafficked women do not vote. It has cost us a lot to gather all the members of European states to sign a resolution that helps fight the trafficking of women. We have only got 22 signatures.

What does the resolution say? 
That if the police arrest a trafficked woman, the country should treat her as a victim and not as an illegal immigrant. Currently they are deported to their countries and, therefore, the woman returns with those who kidnapped her. It is a very bad policy.