10 Most Powerful Criminal Organizations ever existed

As long as these crime families provide wealth to the youths where they live, the powerful criminal organizations will be hard to stop.

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Powerful Criminal Organizations
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Governments around the world are concerned about Powerful Criminal Organizations. People, businesses, and political structures are affected by the actions of criminal organizations. The Powerful Criminal Organizations dominates some legitimate industries in some regions. In law enforcement and bureaucratic communities, some infiltrators make decisions about individuals’ lives daily.

As long as these crime families provide wealth to the youths where they live, the powerful criminal organizations will be hard to stop. Members of today’s new breed prefer to be in the open rather than remain in the shadows, to avoid attracting law enforcement attention. Here is the list of top 10 Powerful Criminal Organizations.

1. Bratva

African American gangs. Street gangs tear the US from within

Founding Location: Russia

Active Years: Late 1980-Present

Criminal Activities: Money laundering, drug trafficking, extortion, murder, and robbery

Membership: 3 million in Russia, 300,000 in 50+ countries

The Russian mob, the Bratva, is the largest criminal organization in the world. Bratva is active in most nations that were once part of the Soviet Union, all over Europe, and the United States. Criminologists also claim they have a quasi-military structure that makes them the best criminal gang in the world.

Former Soviet officials may be the leading members of their organization. Bratva, however, has roots in pre-Lenin Russian culture. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the groups ran black-market businesses.

Bratva is also thought to be working closely with the Russian government today, and they have an active New York City presence.

2. Yamaguchi Gumi

Yamaguchi-gumi Split Signals Changes in the Yakuza World | Nippon.com

Founding Location: Kobe, Japan

Active Years: Late 1915-Present

Criminal Activities: Weapons trafficking, assassinations, blackmail, bid-rigging, extortion, drug trafficking, gambling, illegal Internet pornography, etc

Membership: 8200

As of 2017, the Yamaguchi Gumi, Japan’s largest known gang, has received over $1 billion in drug money, more than any other criminal organization. It is also one of several groups commonly known as Yamaguchi, which is similar to the word mafia in American usage. Following closely behind are gambling and extortion, respectively, followed by “dispute resolution.”

3. Camorra

Italy police arrest top Camorra mafia boss - BBC News

Founding Location: Campania, Italy

Active Years: Since the 17th century

Criminal Activity: extortion, counterfeiting, smuggling, illegal gambling, bidding rigging, counterfeiting, smuggling, racketeering

Membership: 7000 full members

Early in the 17th century, the Camorra formed. Whether the group started as a loose association or was transformed over time into an organized crime group is unclear. A hierarchical structure and secret society were evident, evidence shows.

Political leaders who needed support to overthrow the monarchy empowered them in the 19th century. The leaders of the Camorra had real power, including authority over law enforcement. Despite this, the government tried to crack down on the organization.

Camorra today is also an international organization. Naples’ waste management system is the most controversial instance of this firm’s power within Italy.

4. Ndrangheta

Meet the 'Ndrangheta: It's time to bust some myths about the Calabrian  mafia - The Local

Founding Location: Calabria, Italy

Active Years: Since the late 18th century

Criminal Activities: Heists, drug trafficking, murders, extortions, kidnappings

Membership: 6000

By revenue, the ‘Ndarangheta is the second-largest mafia organization in Italy. Although ‘Ndrangheta engages in a number of the same illegal activities as Camorra, it has built a name for itself by maintaining international ties with cocaine dealers in South America, greatly expanding the American trans-Atlantic drug trade. As well, it has also expanded its operations in the United States and has helped prop up the Gambino and Bonnano crime families in New York. Italian and American police forces arrested dozens of members of the ‘Ndrangheta and Gambino family.

5. Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel

Mexico cartels: Which are the biggest and most powerful? - BBC News

Founding Location: Sinaloa, Mexico

Active Years: 1987-Present

Criminal Activities: Distribution of drugs, money laundering, trafficking of weapons, murder, kidnapping, bribery

Membership: 30,000+

The Sinaloa cartel is one of several gangs terrorizing the Mexican population as it acts as a middleman connecting illegal drug producers from South America with a booming American market. White House Office of Drug Control Policy estimates that Americans spend $100 billion on illegal drugs every year, and the RAND Corporation estimates that some $6.5 billion of those dollars end up in Mexican cartels. A 60% market share translates into $3 billion in revenue for the Sinola cartel every year.

6. Los Caparrapos

Founding Location: Columbia

Active Years: 2008-Present

Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking and also illegal mining

It was also known as Los Caparrapos or Los Caparros (known in their time as the Virgilio Peralta Arena Bloc), a paramilitary narco-secret police force active during Colombia’s internal armed conflict. The people they are also speaking to are dissidents from the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia or the Clan del Golfo. Extortion, forced displacement, massacres, assassinations, and drug trafficking are all common practices.  

It changed its name to Los Caparros in 2020 to avoid stigmatizing the inhabitants of Caparrapi (Cundinamarca). 

7. Colombia’s Ex-FARC Mafia 

Ex-FARC Mafia - InSight Crime

Founding Location: Columbia

Active Years: 2016-Present

Colombia has made significant progress in improving security by brokering a peace agreement and demobilizing the leftist guerrilla Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but a powerful criminal organization has arisen from FARC dissidents. Former FARC Mafia members killed three geologists working for Toronto-based gold miner Continental Gold in September 2018. The FARC bombers also attacked a Blockbuster in 2009 and killed two people. Former members of the FARC Mafia rank fifth on Latin America’s most powerful criminal groups list.

8. Colombia’s National Liberation Army 

ELN leader killed by Colombian security forces

Active Years: 1964-Present

Membership: 2,500+

Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN). There is no doubt that Colombia’s ELN is Latin America’s most powerful criminal organization. Since the group broke into Venezuela it has grown to become the largest group in the hemisphere. It has diversified from kidnapping and extortion into drug trafficking, illegal mining, and smuggling previously ideologically motivated and dependent on extortion to make a living. In January 2019, the group detonated a car bomb in Bogota, killing 21 people. Over the last 25 years, the group is also accused of enslaving thousands of children and attacking hundreds of pipelines. According to Colombian police, ELN members may have carried out an attack on a union leader working for a mine run by U.S. company Drummond Coal.

9. Hell’s Angels

Hells Angels bikers banned by Netherlands court - BBC News

Founding Location: California, USA

Active Years: 1948-Present

Criminal Activities: Daemonizing, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, assaults, murders, extortions, fraud and also, kidnappings, arson, bombings, intimidation

Membership: 3,000-3600

Known as a criminal organization, the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club has a well-deserved reputation as a well-known motorcycle gang. For the clubs in the United States and Canada, incorporation also provides protection against others taking advantage of the group’s symbols and logos.

Although the club’s official statements deny the organized crime, law enforcement agencies have arrested members for crimes in several countries. Hell’s Angels groups do not appear to have a hierarchical structure, so individuals may participate in criminal activity or refrain from it.

10. D Company

D-company: In-depth look at Dawood Ibrahim's crime syndicate

Founding Location: Maharashtra, India 

Active Years: 1970-Present

Criminal Activities: Mumbai underworld group, Indian mafia group, Pakistani mafia group, murder, extortion, targeted killings, drug trafficking, terrorism, multiple bomb attacks

An Indian Muslim from Mumbai named Dawood Ibrahim started a criminal organization called D Company. The heroin and also opium smuggling activities were at the center of his criminal organization. Ibrahim’s associations with Al-Qaeda have however since coming to light. Law enforcement officials in the US and India believe he played a role in terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan.

Moreover, Ibrahim is believed to have moved to Pakistan. At the same time, his organization is now committing white-collar crimes like fraud and extortion.

Also Read: 10 Most Powerful Intelligence Agencies That keep the World’s Biggest Secrets

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