In a world inundated with abbreviations, GIATOC may not resonate. But it’s directly linked to another that has become common parlance in the past year and a half: Covid-19. Tuesday Reitano and Mark Shaw are, respectively, deputy director and director of GIATOC: the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Their book provides a chilling revelation as to the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has enabled the international underworld to thrive.
When Covid-19 struck, criminals faced the same set of challenges as law-abiding citizens: disrupted businesses, risks of infection, life under lockdown. Many found ways to carry on working and some figured out how to exploit the opportunities that surfaced. A case in point is the business of people trafficking. The reduction of legal avenues for movement drove migrants into the hands of smuggling networks. The criminals responded by putting up their fees and sending clients on ever more dangerous routes. Hard-hit small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector, found themselves caught as banks became reluctant to grant loans due to the severe economic downturn. The space soon became fertile ground for criminal loan-sharking. In Italy, to cite one example, the Mafia trapped borrowers by offering seemingly reasonable rates and then jacked up the interest by as much as 300 per cent.
These criminal tentacles stretch across broad swathes of the world economy, from South Africa’s illegal tobacco and alcohol markets to infiltration of the global pharmaceutical industry. What emerges from this book is the fact that the world is suffering from two alarmingly linked pandemics: coronavirus and crime.
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