How the current lockdown could see organized crime groups exerting their influence

OCG's have a history of trying to profit during natural disasters. They try to exploit the aid measures given by the government and international organizations and try to exert their influence over the affected.
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The first outbreak of the coronavirus was identified around December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The virus has been spreading globally at a rapid rate ever since then causing the WHO to declare the virus outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January, and a pandemic on the 11 March. This resulted in many countries’ governments issuing total lockdowns, restricting movements, and temporary ‘closure’ of non-essential businesses in order to curb or halt the outbreak.

The impact of these lockdown measures on the spread of the virus is certainly debatable(WHO spoke against the lockdown but many countries are pointing its positive impact), however, its impact on the economies is not. The temporary closure of businesses as mentioned earlier resulted in them not generating revenue for the long term. Lack of initiatives by governments worldwide to support these businesses or the business owners’ lack of access to enough public funds could put them at the risk of, if not permanently shutting down.

The lockdown didn’t just impact the legitimate businesses contributing to our economies, the subsequent rules restricting citizens’ movements,  also caused the illicit activities and services such as smuggling, trading of illegal narcotics & firearms, etc. to suffer a lot too. These are traditional methods by which organized crime groups(OCGs) earn their profits and there is a ‘danger’ of them moving into the licit businesses during the pandemic.

OCG’s have a history of trying to profit during natural disasters. They try to exploit the aid measures given by the government and international organizations and try to exert their influence over the affected.

A few examples are –

  • A 7.8 magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami hit New Zealand in 2016 causing damage of USD 4.17 Billion. A state of emergency was declared as the govt. pointed out that humanitarian aid was not reaching the affected people(New Zealand ranks 2nd in corruptions perception index)
  • A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 killing almost 250,000 people and rendering a million homeless. In the wake of the earthquake, local gangs partnered up with local and national social networks to apply for and exploit reconstruction funding provided by the relevant authorities.
  • A 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit Italy in 2016. The Italian authorities warned of the risk of local criminal organizations profiting from funding allocated for reconstruction for areas affected.

The current pandemic is nothing short of an ongoing disaster.  As mentioned earlier, the lack of access to enough public finds could probably result in several business owners to acquire funding through illicit means. This could prove out to be disastrous as once the pandemic ends, we could see these OCGs exerting partial or direct control over several legitimate economic activities and services. The ‘non-essential’ businesses are at risk of suffering the most from these groups due to the lockdown measures imposed.

Source: UNODC report on impact of Covid-19 on organized crime

In order to combat them, governments need to ensure proper funding is provided to small business owners allowing them to stay afloat and out from the OCGs influence. The lockdown measures undertaken are decisions taken to prevent the spread of the virus. The negative GDP growth of several developing and developed nations too puts many businesses at further risk of coming under the influence of these groups.

Lockdown measures were short term decisions taken to curb the spread of the virus. If they are not managed effectively, they could prove to be long term disasters.

Sources: [1] , [2]
Feature Image : Mikey Burton

Mohammed Sehal Hasan

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Mohammed Sehal Hasan

An avid fan of the art of creating stuff. He likes reading about the development behind movies, music, games etc. and thankfully found people willing to let him write about it.

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