The global underworld is a greater threat than terrorism. We ignore it at our peril.
Courtesy of Ralph Glenny/Knopf
Skipped the country, actually: a casualty of "Europe's fastest-growing industry," car theft. Mr. Glenny collected the insurance money. Some weeks later, his Audi turned up 200 miles away, in a market in western Herzegovina. Slowly, the veteran BBC correspondent began to see his small car as part of a much larger, bloodier, and more important story.
During the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, a lucrative smuggling operation united combatants on both sides of the conflict to move great quantities of autos, cigarettes, women, and girls to the streets and brothels of Western Europe. In the past 20 years, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the deregulation of financial markets, such local and regional networks have exploded into a worldwide criminal fraternity that continues to grow in scope and might.
Glenny's sprawling, ambitious McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld tracks major players in this transnational brotherhood across five continents. Profit – not national, religious, or ethnic identity – governs their complex alliances. From Moscow to Spokane, Lagos to Tokyo, today's globalized, organized crime is as pervasive, entrepreneurial, and "every bit as cosmopolitan as Shell, Nike, or McDonald's." The "shadow economy" it governs – tax dodges, human trafficking, and, most profitably, oil, arms, drug, and diamond dealing – now accounts for a staggering 15 to 20 percent of global turnover. What's more, Glenny writes, "this shadow world is by no means distinct from its partner in the light."