It is impossible to measure accurately the socio-economic cost of crime. However, the estimates available invariably quote very high figures, which lead to reflection in times of financial crisis and austerity.
Numerous organised crime groups are active in the EU, often with cross-border reach and multi-ethnic composition. There is a clear tendency of rigid and hierarchical structures being replaced by loose networks of small and volatile groups. These may be better adapted to the modern world with its rapid changes.
Some groups, having established a strong position in their countries of origin, go on to engage in illicit markets throughout the EU. They make use of their reputations and sophistication in certain types of crime to form profitable alliances with other groups. Italian, Russian and Albanian-speaking organisations are but a few of the “leaders” in transnational crime in the EU.
It is difficult to think of a criminal activity that would not be considered by organised crime, with the profit and risk involved being the major criteria for their possible involvement. Apart from “traditional” crime, including drug trafficking, such groups increasingly engage in legal business activities, which enables them to launder illegal gains, while benefiting from attractive licit markets. In any case, collusion of corrupt officials and dishonest businessmen is crucial to the success of such criminal enterprises.