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Criminal gangs earn more than some of the world's largest economies: UN


A Salvadoran soldier stands guard in a San Salvador slum where gang violence had been escalating. A truce between the country's chief rival gangs is expected to stem the violence but many Salvadorans are skeptical it will hold.


Jose Cabezas

Global criminal gangs reportedly rake in about $870 billion per year, according to United Nations' estimates.

Illicit activities such identity theft, human trafficking and drugs generate as much money as some of the world's leading economies.

Identity theft was said to be a $1 billion industry. Trafficking endangered species generates a stunning $20 billion annually.

"This is an enormous amount of money," Yury Fedotov, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told AFP.

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"Gangs are better funded than any law enforcement institution. That is clear, and especially if we compare the huge amount of illicit revenues with limited budgets of many law enforcement institutions."

Fedotov said that new criminal gangs were highly adaptive and it was difficult for law enforcement to keep pace.

Cybercrime also means that gangs are getting more sophisticated and harder to track.

As for narcotics, the concern is the rise of designer drugs that are harder to categorize and control.

Fedotov noted that West Africa, and Guinea Bissau in particular, posed a serious problem with regards to trafficking.

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