Coronavirus pandemic has criminal underworld on the ropes

By Marcel Gascon

Bucharest, Apr 2 (efe-epa).- March 12 was a dark day for the Ndrangheta crime syndicate in southern Italy.

Police monitoring the quarantine in Bruzzano Zeffirio in the Calabria region stopped a man who said he was taking food to a friend.

When officers asked where his friend lived the man gave the address of an abandoned house.

Officers went to check the building and found Cesare Cordi, the boss of the Calabrian mafia or Ndrangheta.

Police said he was arrested thanks to “the conditions generated by the health emergency”.

The coronavirus pandemic has had serious consequences on organised crime groups around the world.

From China, where the outbreak appeared, to Europe, Latin America, the United States, Africa and the rest of Asia, border closures and restrictions on movement have paralysed those involved in trafficking drugs, people and animals.

Mark Shaw, director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI), told Efe: “I think the pandemic itself has meant a major disruption for organised crime.

“To give you an example, if you are running networks which are widespread globally and are transporting small amounts of drugs on airplanes, for example Nigerian criminal networks, your business is now massively disrupted, because there are no flights to take, obviously.”

The paralysis of exports from countries like China has been another key factor in the impact of the pandemic on the underworld.

A report released this month by GI highlighted the effect on Mexican cartels which have been unable to import the chemicals they need to produce fentanyl and methamphetamines.

Chris Dalby, of the Latin American organised crime research group Insight Crime, told Efe: “China is the leading producer of those chemicals.

“Obviously with the lockdown of China those chemicals are not arriving, which has left the production of some of the most in-demand drugs in the world especially fentanyl but also crystal meth very difficult to produce.”

He said most of the market in Mexico and the United States is supplied by cartels, which has led to shortages and higher prices of these drugs.

The outbreak has also reduced the amount of cocaine getting into Europe and heroin from Asia, which has previously flooded into southern Africa.

Restrictions on movement imposed by authorities around the world have also hampered the sale of drugs on the streets.

Combined with an increased presence from the military and police it has made it impossible for street dealers to sell as well as reducing violent crime in general.

Regions like the Balkans have experienced a reduction in homicides and robberies in recent weeks, according to the GI report.

Border closures have also disrupted human trafficking, for example into Europe, with the consequences of lockdown measures felt in countries such as Libya or Niger, often used as transit locations.

Related Articles

Back to top button