A drug cartel is any criminal organization with the intention of supplying drug trafficking operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial enterprises. The term was applied when the largest trafficking organizations reached an agreement to coordinate the production and distribution of cocaine. Since that agreement was broken up, drug cartels are no longer actually cartels, but the term stuck and it is now popularly used to refer to any criminal narcotics related organization.
Organized crime is a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals who intend to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist groups, are politically motivated. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, such as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for "protection". Gangs may become disciplined enough to be considered organized. A criminal organization or gang can also be referred to as a mafia, mob, or crime syndicate; the network, subculture and community of criminals may be referred to as the underworld. European sociologists define the mafia as a type of organized crime group that specializes in the supply of extra-legal protection and quasi law enforcement. Gambetta's classic work on the Sicilian Mafia generates an economic study of the mafia, which exerts great influence on studies of the Russian Mafia, the Chinese Mafia, Hong Kong Triads and the Japanese Yakuza.
The illegal drug trade or drug trafficking is a global black market dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs that are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs through the use of drug prohibition laws.
A cartel is a group of apparently independent producers whose goal is to increase their collective profits by means of price fixing, limiting supply, or other restrictive practices. Cartels typically control selling prices, but some are organized to control the prices of purchased inputs. Antitrust laws attempt to deter or forbid cartels. A single entity that holds a monopoly by this definition cannot be a cartel, though it may be guilty of abusing said monopoly in other ways. Cartels usually occur in oligopolies, where there are a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products.
The basic structure of a drug cartel is as follows:
A drug lord, drug baron, kingpin, or narcotrafficker is a high ranking crime boss who controls a sizable network of people involved in the illegal drug trade. Such figures are often difficult to bring to justice, as they are normally not directly in possession of something illegal, but are insulated from the actual trade in drugs by several layers of underlings. The prosecution of drug lords is therefore usually the result of carefully planned infiltration into their networks, often using informants from within the organization.
There are other operating groups within the drug cartels. For example, the drug producers and suppliers,although not considered in the basic structure, are critical operators of any drug cartel, along with the financiers and money launderers. In addition, the arms suppliers operate in a completely different circle, and are technically not considered part of the cartel's logistics.
The Obafemi Awolowo University massacre was a series of shootings and murders which took place against students of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria on Saturday, July 10, 1999. It resulted in the deaths of five people and left eleven others injured, all of whom were students of OAU.
Lawrence Nomanyagbon Anini was a Nigerian bandit who terrorised Benin City in the 1980s along with his sidekick Monday Osunbor. He was captured and executed for his crimes.
Cape Verdean organized crime refers to the various criminal organizations that are active in Cape Verdean diaspora communities. The Cape Verdean Islands themselves are not main centres for criminal activities, but Cape Verde's increased importance as a transshipment point in the West African cocaine trade and the existence of sizeable Cape Verdean communities in New England, the Dutch port city of Rotterdam as well as in several cities in Portugal, France and Switzerland led to the formation of criminal gangs in the community active in the international drug trade supplemented with other criminal activities. Cape Verdean organized crime primarily comes in the form of street gangs, with varying levels of organization and sophistication.
Mungiki is a banned ethnic organisation in Kenya. The name means "a united people" or "multitude" in the Kikuyu language. The religion, which apparently originated in the late 1980s, is secretive and bears some similarity to mystery religions. Specifics of their origin and doctrines are unclear. What is clear is that they favour a return to indigenous African traditions.
Confraternities in Nigeria are secret-society like student groups within higher education that have recently been involved in illegal and violent activities. The exact death toll of confraternity activities is unclear. One estimate in 2002 was that 250 people had been killed in campus cult-related murders in the previous decade, while the Exam Ethics Project lobby group estimated that 115 students and teachers had been killed between 1993 and 2003.
Lucien Rivard was a Quebec criminal known for a sensational prison escape in 1965.
The Red Scorpions is a gang based in British Columbia, Canada. It was originally formed in 2005 by Quang Vinh Thang Le, Konaam Shirzad, Matthew Johnston and two other un-named young offenders. Michael Le testified at the Surrey Six trial that he and Shirzad initially formed the Red Scorpions after meeting in a youth detention centre facility. Le said the name Scorpions was a tribute to his "older brother who was killed and his nickname used to be Scorpion". The gang "used the word Red to symbolize blood" he said. Le said Jamie Bacon and his brothers were not founders but joined the gang a few years later.
The Bacon Brothers, Jonathan, Jarrod, and Jamie, are a trio of gangsters born in Abbotsford, British Columbia, suspected of multiple firearms and drug trafficking charges and implicated in a rash of homicides that have occurred in the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver area. Jonathan, the eldest brother, was murdered in Kelowna on August 14, 2011.
The United States of America is the world's largest consumer of cocaineand other illegal drugs. This is a list of American criminal organizations involved in illegal drug traffic, drug trade and other related crimes in the United States:
Italian immigrants to the United States in the early 19th century formed various small-time gangs which gradually evolved into sophisticated crime syndicates which dominated organized crime in America for several decades. Although government crackdowns and a less-tightly knit Italian-American community have largely reduced their power, they remain an active force in the underworld.
Certain members of the Black Panther Party, particularly the Oakland chapter, also engaged in criminal activities such as drug dealing and extortion.
Mexican cartels (also known in Mexico as: La Mafia (the mafia or the mob), La Maña (the skill / the bad manners),Narcotraficantes (Narco-Traffickers), or simply as Narcos) usually refers to several, rival, criminal organizations that are combated by the Mexican government in the Mexican War on Drugs (List sorted by branches and heritage):
Until 2011 Colombia remained the world's largest cocaine producer,however with a strong anti-narcotic strategy in 2012 the country achieved a great decrease in cocaine production and fell to the third position, behind Peru and Bolivia. Cocaine production in Colombia reached an all-time high in 2017.
The current main actors in the drug trade are:
Historical actors in the drug trade were:
Historically Venezuela has been a path to the United States for illegal drugs originating in Colombia, through Central America and Mexico and Caribbean countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
According to the United Nations, there has been an increase of cocaine trafficking through Venezuela since 2002.In 2005 Venezuela severed ties with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), accusing its representatives of spying. Following the departure of the DEA from Venezuela and the expansion of DEA's partnership with Colombia in 2005, Venezuela became more attractive to drug traffickers. Between 2008 and 2012, Venezuela's cocaine seizure ranking among other countries declined, going from being ranked fourth in the world for cocaine seizures in 2008 to sixth in the world in 2012. The cartel groups involved include:
Pasquale, Paolo and Gaspare Cuntrera were expelled from Venezuela in 1992, "almost secretly smuggled out of the country, as if it concerned one of their own drug transports. It was imperative they could not contact people on the outside who could have used their political connections to stop the expulsion." Their expulsion was ordered by a commission of the Venezuelan Senate headed by Senator Cristobal Fernandez Dalo and his money laundering investigator, Thor Halvorssen Hellum. They were arrested in September 1992 at Fiumicino airport (Rome),and in 1996 were sentenced to 13–20 years.
In May 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported from United States officials that drug trafficking in Venezuela increased significantly with Colombian drug traffickers moving from Colombia to Venezuela due to pressure from law enforcement.One United States Department of Justice official described the higher ranks of the Venezuelan government and military as "a criminal organization", with high ranking Venezuelan officials, such as National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, being accused of drug trafficking. Those involved with investigations stated that Venezuelan government defectors and former traffickers had given information to investigators and that details of those involved in government drug trafficking were increasing.
See also Kenji Doihara's criminal activities
The yakuza of Japan are similar to the Italian mafias in that they originated centuries ago and follow a rigid set of traditions, but have several aspects that make them unique, such as their full-body tattoos and their fairly open place in Japanese society. Many yakuza groups are umbrella organizations, smaller gangs reporting to a larger crime syndicate.
The Triads is a popular name for a number of Chinese criminal secret societies, which have existed in various forms over the centuries (see for example Tiandihui). However, not all Chinese gangs fall into line with these traditional groups, as many non-traditional criminal organizations have formed, both in China and the Chinese diaspora.
Although organized crime existed in the Soviet era, the gangs really gained in power and international reach during the transition to capitalism. The term Russian Mafia, 'mafiya' or mob is a blanket (and somewhat inaccurate) term for the various organized crime groups that emerged in this period from the 15 former republics of the USSR and unlike their Italian counterparts does not mean members are necessarily of Russian ethnicity or uphold any ancient criminal traditions, although this is the case for some members.
See also Caucasus Emirate
Balkan organized crime gained prominence in the chaos following the communist era, notably the transition to capitalism and the wars in former Yugoslavia.
The 'Ndrangheta is a Mafia-type organized crime group based in Calabria, Italy. Despite not being as famous abroad as the Sicilian Mafia, and having been considered more rural than the Neapolitan Camorra and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita, the 'Ndrangheta became the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While commonly tied together with the Sicilian Mafia, the 'Ndrangheta operates independently from them, though there is contact between the two, due to the geographical proximity and shared culture and language between Calabria and Sicily.
The Camorra is an Italian Mafia-type crime syndicate, or secret society, which arose in the region of Campania and its capital Naples. It is one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy, dating back to the 17th century. Unlike the pyramidal structure of the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra's organizational structure is more horizontal than vertical. Consequently, individual Camorra clans act independently of each other, and are more prone to feuding among themselves.
The Tijuana Cartel or Arellano-Félix Organization is a Mexican drug cartel based in Tijuana. The cartel once was described as "one of the biggest and most violent criminal groups in Mexico." However, since the 2006 Sinaloa Cartel incursion in Baja California and the fall of the Arellano-Félix brothers, the Tijuana Cartel has been reduced to a few cells. In 2016, the organization has become known as Cartel Tijuana Nueva Generación and has begun to align itself under the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, along with Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO) to create an anti-Sinaloa alliance, in which the Jalisco New Generation Cartel heads, creating a possible powershift in Mexico.
Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada García, is a Mexican suspected drug lord and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a criminal group based in Sinaloa. Before assuming leadership of the entire cartel, he served as the logistical coordinator for the Zambada-García faction of the Sinaloa Cartel which has assisted in the exporting of cocaine and heroin into Chicago and other US cities by train, ship, jet, and narco-submarines.
Los Zetas is a Mexican criminal syndicate, regarded as one of the most dangerous of the country's drug cartels. While primarily concerned with drug trafficking, the organization also runs profitable sex trafficking and gun running rackets. The origins of Los Zetas date back to the late 1990s, when commandos of the Mexican Army deserted their ranks and began working as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel. In February 2010, Los Zetas broke away and formed their own criminal organization, rivalling the Gulf Cartel.
The Albanian mafia or Albanian organized crime are the general terms used for criminal organizations based in Albania or composed of ethnic Albanians. Albanian organized crime is active in Europe, North America, South America, and various other parts of the world including the Middle East and Asia. The Albanian Mafia participates in a diverse range of criminal enterprises including trafficking in drugs, arms, humans, and human organs. The Albanian criminal scenario is characterized by diversified criminal plans which, in their complexity, show one of the highest criminal capacities in the world. In Albania alone, there are over 15 mafia families that control organized crime. According to WikiLeaks reports, the Albanian mafia has monopolized various international affiliations from as far east as Israel, to as far west as South America. These reports primarily indicate a strong connection between politicians and various Albanian mafia families. According to the Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS), Albanian mafia groups are hybrid organizations, often involved in both criminal and political activities.
The Solntsevskaya Organized Crime Group, also known as the Solntsevskaya Bratva, is the Russian crime syndicate group.
Giuseppe Coluccio, is an Italian criminal and a member of the 'Ndrangheta, a Mafia-type organisation in Calabria. He was a fugitive since 2005 and included in the list of most wanted fugitives in Italy until his capture on August 7, 2008, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, commonly referred to by his alias Z-40, is a former Mexican drug lord and leader of the criminal organization known as Los Zetas. Considered a violent and dangerous criminal, he was one of Mexico's most-wanted drug lords until his arrest in July 2013.
Nazario Moreno González, commonly referred to by his alias El Chayo and/or El Más Loco, was a Mexican drug lord who headed La Familia Michoacana before heading the Knights Templar Cartel, a drug cartel headquartered in the state of Michoacán. He was one of Mexico's most-wanted drug lords.
The Rizzuto crime family is an organized crime family based in Montreal, Quebec. The family territory covers most of southern Quebec and Ontario. The FBI considers the family to be connected to the Bonanno crime family, but Canadian law enforcement considers it to be a separate crime family. It is sometimes referred to as the Sixth Family.
The Milenio Cartel, or Cártel de los Valencia, was a Mexican criminal organization based in Michoacán. It relocated in Jalisco in the early 2000s. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel was born from the splintering of the Milenio Cartel.
The Barrio Azteca, or Los Aztecas, is a Mexican-American gang originally based in El Paso, Texas. The gang was formed in the jails of El Paso in 1986 and expanded into a transnational criminal organization. They are currently one of the most violent gangs in the United States and are said to have over 3,000 members in the U.S. in locations such as New Mexico, Texas, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and at least 5,000 members in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency is a non-fiction book of the Mexican Drug War written by Ioan Grillo. In El Narco, Grillo takes a close look at the Mexican drug trade, starting with the term "El Narco", which has come to represent the vast, faceless criminal network of drug traffickers who cast a murderous shadow over Mexico. The book covers the frontline of the Mexican Drug War. It seeks to trace the origins of the illegal drug trade in Mexico, the recent escalation of violence, the human cost of the drug trade and organized crime in the country. The book takes a critical stance on the unsuccessful efforts made by the Mexican government and the United States to confront the violence and its causes.
The Independent Cartel of Guerrero was a criminal gang based in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco, Guerrero and its surrounding territories. The criminal group came into existence during the rapid decentralization of Mexico's drug trafficking organizations and as a split-off group of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel. Originally, the Beltrán Leyva cartel operated in the city, but the group no longer has presence in Acapulco. After the Mexican military gunned down the top boss of the cartel – Arturo Beltrán Leyva – in December 2009, his brother Héctor Beltrán Leyva took control of one of the factions of the cartel and declared war on Edgar Valdez Villarreal, who had long been the right hand of Arturo. Amidst the violence, Valdez Villarreal tried to appoint a successor, but those in Acapulco broke off and formed their own criminal gang: the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Within weeks, however, the group had splittered too, forming a new and rival group known as La Barredora. Villarreal Valdez was then captured by the Mexican Federal Police in August 2010, but the violence between the groups for the control of Acapulco continued.
Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, commonly referred to by his criminal alias El Chapo Isidro, is a Mexican drug lord and high-ranking leader of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel, a drug trafficking organization. He is also the alleged leader of Los Mazatlecos and was right-hand man of the now deceased drug lord Héctor and the incarcerated Alfredo Beltrán Leyva. The FBI is offering a USD $5 million bounty.