China has backed a fresh effort spearheaded by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to curb the increasing menace of transnational organized crime in Southeast Asia. ASEAN, an international body comprising 10 member countries, is now working alongside the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to put a halt to these growing criminal networks.
The goal? To target and counteract illicit operations in nations such as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, and Myanmar. By cutting off these criminal entities, ASEAN aims to protect potential victims and diminish the reach of such syndicates.
The initiative lays emphasis on a united front. It prompts better cooperation between law enforcement and criminal justice sectors. Areas of focus include scams, illegal gambling, human trafficking, and migrant smuggling.
A study by UNODC discloses the intricate web these crime groups weave. They’re engaged not just in scams or illegal gambling. Their nefarious activities span from money laundering, cybercrimes to large-scale illegal betting. Surprisingly, some have managed to mask their operations under legitimate businesses, often forging ties with power players in the corporate and political world.
Tackling Massive Profits and Criminal Revenues
It’s tricky to gauge the total earnings of such groups, especially in the Philippines. However, it’s believed that just the scam sector might be raking in anywhere from $7.5 billion to $12.5 billion. This staggering sum accounts for nearly half the country’s GDP. The UNODC report highlights:
“Profits of organized crime groups in the region have reached unprecedented levels, and illicit money is increasingly moving through the regional casino industry and other large cash flow businesses, including through a surge in the use of cryptocurrencies.“
Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s regional representative, sheds light on another grave issue – human trafficking. He mentions the unwilling inclusion of individuals in illegal gambling and scams by these syndicates. Stating the need for regional cooperation, Douglas points out the rise of such criminal factions, especially around the Mekong.
Rebecca Miller, another representative of UNODC, stresses the need for a robust action plan. She believes that only a well-thought-out strategy can truly dismantle these far-reaching networks.
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