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McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underground
by Misha Glenny
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Jonathan Taylor, 1/31/2011

McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underground is a fascinating book on the new face of globalized international crime. The main theme here is that after the fall of the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence, huge opportunities arose for organized crime syndicates. Glenny describes a new wave of smuggling and protection syndicates based in the Balkans, Bulgaria, Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, as well as Israel, with heavy money laundering activity in Dubai. The main products these groups specialize in are diamonds, arms, drugs, cigarettes, and energy products, though McMafia also covers human traffickers, Brazilian cybercriminals, and Nigerian scammers, among others.

In terms of drugs, Glenny covers a number of scenarios that have emerged. Israeli and Russian mobsters based in Israel have made that country the largest MDMA trafficking hub in the world. In South Africa, Nigerian organized crime groups (along with their competitors) move huge quantities of cannabis for export to Europe and elsewhere, while importing MDMA and other club drugs. British Colombia’s economy is dominated by cannabis growers exporting into the black market of the United States, while in Asia the Yakuza deals in methamphetamine, buying it from North Korea.

After examining the role of drugs in the success of these various criminal groups, Glenny voices his strong support for legalization, characterizing prohibition as a major contributor to the existence of enormous networks of organized criminal activity around the globe. In particular, Glenny describes how the chaos that has long enveloped Colombia results directly from the utterly flawed logic of the war on drugs, with devastating effects on an agricultural-commodity-producing nation. He also provides evidence that the future of the large-scale trade in illegal drugs lies in synthetics.

An engrossing depiction of the current state of global organized crime, McMafia is both entertaining and sobering.

Read the Guardian UK review…

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