The Price of Probity

Publication Date01 Apr 1999
Pages105-119
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb025928
AuthorBarry A.K. Rider
SubjectAccounting & finance
Journal of Financial Crime Vol. 7 No. 2 Analysis
ANALYSIS
The Price of Probity
Barry A. K. Rider
ORGANISED ECONOMIC CRIME
A THREAT?
When the time comes to look back at the last
two decades of the 20th century, a future historian
would be forgiven for thinking we were almost
obsessed with organised crime, corruption and
money laundering. Of course, when one considers
the ignominious fall from favour of so many world
leaders, in circumstances where serious corruption
was at least alleged, if not self-evident, the exposure
of rampant financial malpractice in intergovern-
mental organisations, the penetration of entire
economic and political structures by, for what of a
better notion, we describe as organised crime, then
perhaps our historian's impression might not be too
far from the truth. Although it is possible to find
the odd comment in international meetings, about
the serious implications of economic crime and the
like,
before the 1980s, these a few and far between.1
Most are related to complaints from developing
countries about the unwillingness of developed
countries to assist in the enforcement of exchange
control laws. In fact, it was not until November
1980 that the Commonwealth, an organisation or
rather association of states whose justification has
increasingly been based on its ability to recognise
and address problems related to small and relatively
fragile economies, began to concern
itself,
at govern-
mental level, with the implications of what appeared
to be a growth in serious economic abuse.2 At
the Commonwealth Law Ministers' Meeting in
Barbados in that year, the ministers accepted the
recommendations of a report, commissioned a year
earlier by the then Director of the Commonwealth
Secretariat's Legal Division, Mr Kutlu Fuad, and
written by the present author, which led to the insti-
gation of a Commonwealth programme against
serious economic crime.3 It is interesting to note
that certain Commonwealth governments had
expressed concern during the 1970s not so much
about abusive conduct on the part of conventional
criminals, but on the part of those seeking to 'bust'
the economic sanctions that had been imposed on
Rhodesia and later South Africa. Indeed, it was
claimed by some that, for example, South Africa
was deliberately attempting to destabilise the econo-
mies of the 'front-line states' through a programme
of economic sabotage and crime. In those days,
there was little talk, even in such organisations as
ICPO-Interpol, about the threat of organised crime.
Terrorism, whether by individuals or by state agen-
cies,
was then considered to be a matter almost
beyond the remit of traditional law enforcement
agencies. It was much later that most came to recog-
nise that organised crime and terrorist organisations
may well be one and the same.
A NEW THREAT?
Some have argued that organised crime is a problem
of the last quarter of the 20th century and in the case
of most states is a new phenomenon. Of course, so
much depends upon what is meant by organised
crime. Groups of individuals formed and managed
to perpetrate acts against the law are nothing new.
Nor is it novel that the primary motivation of such
enterprises is economic gain spurred on by
'plain old-fashioned' greed and corruption. Banditry,
smuggling, racketeering and piracy were just as
much a problem for the praetors and the vigils of
ancient Rome as they are today for the Italian
authorities. What has changed is the criminals' ability
to operate beyond the reach of the domestic legal
system and, therefore, to be able to conduct an
enterprise in crime that is not so amenable to the
traditional criminal justice system and its agents. Of
course, in truth, thinking criminals have always
sought to place themselves beyond the reach of the
law and it was not just a matter of having a
faster horse! Corruption of officials and the patronage
of powerful individuals whose interests, for whatever
reason, might be at variance with those of the state are
tried and tested tools. It has always been recognised
Journal of Financial Crime
Vol 7 No 2, 1999, pp 105-119
© Henry Stewart Publications
ISSN 0969-6458
Page 105

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