- The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has launched a massive nationwide search operation in connection with anti-terror activities linked to the Popular Front of India-PFI for alleged terror links.
- The PFI has been alleged with a possible connection to terror activities in the country and organized crimes such as money laundering, terror funding, etc.
- In this context, in this edition of the burning issue, we will discuss the connection between terror and organized crimes, its consequences, and the way forward.
What are organized crimes?
- Organized crime is a continuing criminal enterprise that rationally works to profit from illicit activities that are often in great public demand.
- While organized crime is generally thought of as a form of illegal business, some criminal organizations, such as terrorist groups, rebel forces, and separatists, are politically motivated.
- Organized crime is considered to be a changing and flexible phenomenon. Many of the benefits of globalization such as easier and faster communication, movement of finances and international travel, have also created opportunities for transnational organized criminal groups to flourish, diversify and expand their activities.
Types of Organized Crime
Types of organized crime can exist in a wide range of types. Among the most popular types of organized crime are:
- Money laundering– It is a way by which illegal money earned from sources such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, etc. are diverted to create an impression that such money comes from a legitimate source. Many criminals are engaged in this profession where they help people with an illegal income to convert it into a legitimate income.
- Smuggling– Naturally, the goods which are illegal in the territory of India or heavily taxed are smuggled to continue their trade or maintain profits. With a change in fiscal policy, the definition of smuggled goods varies but it is mostly items such as contraband substances, valuable jewels, electronics, certain fabrics, etc. which are smuggled in India.
- Drug trafficking– Drug trafficking is another major crime that poses a threat to the younger population of India, considering its drastic effects on physical and mental health. It is usually considered that the most important reason for the high rate of drug trafficking is the geographical condition of India. It is located between the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos) in the northeast and Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran) in the northwest- both of which are the two largest sources of illicit drugs in Asia. Resultantly, this form of organized crime has become more prevalent and significant in the country.
- Human trafficking– Human trafficking is one of the most significant and heinous organized crimes. This involves women trafficking, child trafficking, trading in sex workers, etc. A book titled “Indian Mafia” by S.K. Ghosh has revealed that there are more than twenty-five lakh prostitutes in the country.
- Contract killings and kidnapping– Contract killings mean murdering someone for money on a contractual basis. This is usually prevalent among the highly influential and public personalities who are being murdered by their enemies/competitors through some other criminal for ransom. Similarly, kidnapping incidents are also prevalent wherein people pay a certain sum of money to get someone kidnapped or these criminals ask someone for a ransom. The recent murder of a Punjabi singer is a case of contract killing.
- Weapons Trafficking- Criminal networks and illicit arms dealers also play important roles in the black markets from which terrorists and drug traffickers procure some of their weapons. According to the head of UNODC, these “illicit arms fuel the violence that undermines security, development and justice” worldwide.
- Cybercrime. Organized crime networks are increasingly involved in cybercrime, which costs consumers billions of dollars annually, threatens sensitive corporate and government computer networks, and undermines worldwide confidence in the international financial systems such as banking, stock markets, e-currency, and value and credit card services
Links with terrorism
- Terrorists can benefit from organized crime as a source of financing or logistical support through the illicit trafficking of arms, persons, drugs, artifacts and cultural property.
- Conceptually, terrorism does not fall in the category of organized crime, as the dominant motive behind terrorism is political and/or ideological and not the acquisition of money-power.
- Terrorist groups, whether indigenous or sponsored by outside states, need arms and money for their fight against the security forces. Organized crime conglomerates need clientele and couriers who can smuggle drugs, arms and human beings across the countries and regions.
- If we look at some of the regions in the country affected by terrorism, this linkage becomes apparent. In the Northeast, extortion is the fundamental basis for funding all forms of terrorism. In addition to this, kidnapping has been used extensively for spreading terror and raising funds. Human trafficking, drug trafficking and gun running are some of the other criminal activities that have been common in these areas.
- In J&K, the counterfeit currency has been a major source of funding for terrorism. Money laundering plays a significant role. Hawala (money laundering) transactions take place swiftly and effectively in Kashmir. Besides, it is also believed that the ISI uses drug money to fund militant activities in Kashmir.
- In the Maoist terror movements, extortion is yet again a common phenomenon. They have also indulged in robberies of banks to fund their movement. There have also been reports of cuts being enforced on drug-yielding crops in the region.
- The Indian Mujahideen have also resorted to crime to raise funds. This includes robberies, kidnappings, etc.
- There are also several insurgent groups that over a period of time have morphed into crime syndicates.
- What began as an ideological movement is now merely a means of generating profit. This is especially the case with insurgent groups in Northeast India.
- Promote Violence- as evident from recent violence in Kerala by PFI activists after the NIA crackdown and also the Red Fort violence in Delhi by the ‘Sikh for Justice’ organization.
- Weakening of governments– as these organization tries to undermine the government by creating hatred towards national governments, and other communities and thus weakening the democratic institutions.
- Damages economy– Organized crimes cause significant damage to the world financial system through its subversion, exploitation, and distortion of legitimate markets and economic activity. These activities can lead to disruption of the global supply chain and impacts the ability of industry and transportation sectors to be resilient in the face of such disruption.
- Supporting terrorists– Terrorists and insurgents increasingly are turning to organized crimes to generate funding and acquire logistical support to carry out their violent acts.
- Increase in local crimes and create an atmosphere of fear– The expansion of organized crimes has a spillover effect and increases the number of local crimes in the area, political corruption formation of unholy nexuses, etc. which ultimately leads to poor social security and law and order situation.
- Social challenges– organized crimes are also used to fund organizations that promote radicalization of youth, and anger against government thus creating social tensions and rupturing the social fabric of the nation.
Why is PFI under crackdown?
(1) Links to terror outfits
- Many volunteers of PFI are allegedly involved in terror funding, organizing training camps, and radicalizing people to join proscribed organizations.
- It has been involved in carrying out social and Islamic religious work among Muslims on the lines of the work done by right-wing groups.
- The PFI does not maintain records of its members, and it has been difficult for law enforcement agencies to pin crimes on the organization after making arrests.
(2) Promoting Radicalization
- The outfit is hostile to the consolidation across the country and the rise of a single non-secular party as the nation’s pre-eminent political and ideological force.
- The post-2014 political landscape and the self-alienation of minorities have further pushed sections of the community towards groups like the PFI.
- The outfit is also said to have a large number of supporters in Gulf countries who contribute handsomely to its kitty, something which is under the scanner of investigating agencies for hawala and money laundering.
(3) Hostility against state mechanism
- Starting as an organization primarily rooted in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the PFI has spread its wings far and wide, with a presence in at least 18 states.
- It has found particularly fertile ground in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
- Authorities have accused the outfit of instigating and funding protests against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens.
(4) Barbarism in the name of religion
- The PFI has had the most visible presence in Kerala, where it has been repeatedly accused of murder, rioting, intimidation, and having links with terrorist organizations.
- The Kerala government affidavit said PFI activists were involved in 27 cases of MURDER, mostly of CPM and RSS cadres, and that the motives were highly communal.
Laws to counter organized crimes in India
- FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) 2000- aims to consolidate and amend the law relating to foreign exchange to facilitate external trade and payments and for promoting the orderly development and maintenance of the foreign exchange market in India. It also helps in keeping an eye on the flow of foreign contributions to domestic organizations and keeping a check on its illicit use.
- PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) 2002- The PMLA seeks to combat money laundering in India and has objectives such as preventing and controlling money laundering, Confiscating and seizing the property obtained from the laundered money and dealing with any other issue connected with money laundering in India.
- UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) 1967- The act is an Indian law aimed at the prevention of unlawful activities of associations and individuals in India. Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.
- National Security Act, 1980- There are various preventive laws existent in India which apply to organized crimes, explicitly and implicitly.
- Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988- It is another preventive law enacted to control the actions of people engaged in the illicit trafficking of drugs and other narcotic substances.
International efforts to curb organized terrorism
- UNSC resolution 2482- In 2019, the Security Council adopted resolution 2482, which urged Member States to address the links between terrorism and organized crime, by adopting policy measures. Great strides have been made to better understand the linkages between terrorists and organized criminal groups owing to the adoption of Resolution 2482
- United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime– (UNTOC, often known as the Palermo Convention) is a multinational treaty against transnational organized crime that was established by the United Nations in 2000. The convention recognizes the threat that organized crime poses to security, sovereignty, human rights, and development.
Challenges in tackling organized crimes
- Law-making and enforcement- There is no central legislation specifically governing organized crime in India. Different organized crimes are dealt with under different laws and with weak enforcement.
- Slow trials– Though these organized criminals are tried under different laws, the whole process of trials is very slow and there is a very low conviction rate because in most of the cases, for such a long period, the witnesses deny to come out of fear and in some cases, the pieces of evidence are lost. For example, the conviction rate under UAPA law is just 1%.
- Obtaining proof- As mentioned earlier, most of the witnesses deny coming out of fear, so even if they are arrested, they are later acquitted because of insufficient evidence and longevity of time.
- Lack of resources- A major part of the country is still unorganized and the lack of proper resources and technology become an obstacle in way of curbing organized crime. The lower-ranked police officers are not given sufficient powers and a statement before them is not admissible evidence. Further, these officers do not have sufficient equipment to tap these criminals.
- Lack of federal agency- Since there is no central or federal agency controlling these activities, every state has its way of functioning. These criminals do not stay for long in one place and keep migrating now and then. In such cases, due to lack of coordination, it becomes difficult and sometimes, impossible to catch them.
- Use of new technologies- organized crime criminals have started using the latest technologies such as darknet, blockchain and cryptocurrencies to operate their networks which have further reduced several state police’s abilities to tackle such crimes as they are already having a state crunch.
- Strengthening global response- all the countries must come together and globally respond to organized crimes. INTERPOL could play an important role in it by playing the role of a global coordinating organization.
- Inter-state coordination- should be promoted among state police as the nature of these crimes is transboundary. It would help in taking faster and more effective actions against criminals.
- Introduce hi-tech software to track organized crime- since criminals are using the latest technologies to carry out their work, police also need hi-tech software to counter them. E.g CCTNS and Kerala police’s Cyberdome.
- Having a dedicated law- Specific laws are required and the executive needs to be empowered to take steps accordingly. Moreover, the enforcement should also be stringent failing which, the whole object of enacting such a law would defeat.
- From the above, it is clear that organized crimes have a multitude of effects and if not contained well might threaten the security and integrity of India.
- Thus, it is imperative to deal with all organized crimes holistically by promoting coordination among states and nations and capacity building of state law enforcement institutions, finally leading to the achievement of national security in its largest sense.