A newly-published study issued by Thomson Reuters in conjunction with the United States Military Academy’s (USMA) Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, New York looks at the interrelationship between illicit activity in economic and political arenas.
The report, entitled ‘Risky Business: The Global Threat Network and the Politics of Contraband’, utilises Thomson Reuters Accelus World-Check data and examines the relationships of those who produce and profit from illicit activity for financial or political purposes.
This study assesses the global transnational illicit network and looks across a range of illicit activities including terrorism, the illegal narcotics trade, organised crime, human smuggling and political corruption. The network analysis includes 2,700 individuals linked by 15,000 relationships spanning 122 countries.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Connectivity among actors within the illicit marketplace is relatively high, although the network is not necessarily a cohesive organisational entity. Rather, the phenomenon is a self-organising complex system built through social connections from the bottom up.
- By most measures of connectivity, terrorists are more interconnected than almost all other types of criminals, second only to narcotics smugglers. The transnational nature of terrorist actors allows them to link disparate criminal groups.
- An analysis of social connections shows that 35% of the links that criminals and suspicious individuals maintain cross into terrorism.
- Connectivity between terrorists and criminals is highest in resource-rich countries which challenges conventional wisdom that assumes this is a product of failed or economically poor states. However, the study found there is connectivity among poor countries that use criminality as an economic or national security tool.
- Identifying financial irregularities is critical to tracking dirty money, questionable transactions and illicit actors. Many government agencies are not training analysts in the intelligence or defence communities to think about the convergence of commerce, economics and threats. This skill gap represents a challenge confronting law enforcement and national security authorities.
“As counterterrorism continues to evolve, government organisations and law enforcement agencies are looking for better ways to identify, analyse and track illicit crime,” said David Craig, president, financial and risk at Thomson Reuters.