Globlal Organized Crime, ISIS and Criminal Justice

Globlal Organized Crime, ISIS and Criminal Justice

The impact of globalization has not just been felt around the planet in economic, political and social terms: it has also been felt in the sector of criminology. The current crimes and criminal issues that impact the criminal justice system on a global basis are, in other words, not as isolated or unconnected as they were a century ago. Today’s world is connected in complex ways, especially thanks to the ease of communication that the digital era has provided. In places where the digital divide exists, crimes and criminal issues are more unique and remote (examples include genocide, such as that conducted by Boko Haram for instance in Africa). But in countries where there is no digital divide, the crimes and criminal issues that impact the criminal justice system range from counterfeiting to human trafficking to various forms of cyber crime and terrorist-related crime. Crime is much more organized and expansive thanks to the communications possibilities now available — and one major way in which this is seen is the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, which has its own propaganda offices for distributing its own publications, and which uses social media to cultivate cells and recruit young persons to its cause throughout the world. Thus, this paper will identify the role that global organized crime plays in impacting the criminal justice system and what worldwide criminal justice systems are doing to address these issues.

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Global organized crime takes numerous forms. Some of it can be deadly and costly to human lives, such as terrorism and human trafficking; in other cases, it can simply target the profits made by luxury brand corporations or fine art collectors. Counterfeiting, for instance, is a major operation around the globe and much of it has roots in China, where counterfeiters are able to create knock-offs of luxury brand products and ship them to retailers around the globe. In recent years, China has undertaken some measures within its own criminal justice system to address the issue of counterfeiting within its borders, as major multinationals have stepped up complaints about their intellectual property being stolen, manipulated, and reproduced without their consent (Baksi, 2015). For example,

“In 2014 its administrative authorities handled 67,500 trade mark infringement cases with a value of 100 million renminbi (£10.3 million), destroyed 1,007 infringing sites and transferred 355 criminal cases to the prosecutors … A new trade mark law, which came into force in May 2014, introduced more severe punishments for repeated infringements and raised the amount of statutory damages from 500,000 renminbi (£51,501) to 3 million (£300,000)” (Baksi, 2015).

Yet, criminal justice systems can only do so much, as protecting intellectual property is not as easy as corporations would like it to be. Brand identity can easily be stolen and used by counterfeiters and courts have been reluctant to punish (Sorin, 2015). Moreover, much of the way in which this global system of organized crime is able to take place depends upon access to and utilization of the Internet. The Internet is a major means for counterfeiters seeking to expand their reach: “70% of luxury brand owners consider loss of revenue from counterfeit goods to be the biggest challenge facing them on the Internet today” (Counting the Cost of Counterfeiting, 2015, p. 13).

However, counterfeiting is only one of the less deadly forms of global crime. Terrorism is another aspect of organized global crime that is just as pervasive and far more deadly, as recent terror attacks throughout Europe and America have shown. The suspected perpetrators of these attacks are linked to ISIS in the Middle East, and the ability of these terror cells to recruit and carry out deadly bombings in cities like Brussels and Paris is a sign that the organization that supports these cells is sophisticated, thorough, efficient, and capable of going undetected by criminal justice systems throughout the world. Prosecuting those whom the world’s police and law enforcement agencies cannot even find to arrest is especially difficult.

Indeed, the recent terror attack in Brussels has resulted in a major crackdown effort on the part of coordinating criminal justice systems in the West. Intelligence agencies are working together to identify and apprehend suspects in the wake of this most recent attack linked to ISIS. Around the world, there is near unanimous support from governments in the fight against this organized crime unit.

As Burke (2016) for the London Metro reports, the ISIS cells behind the Paris and Brussels attacks “planned to target the London Eye” next. The arrest of Mohamed Abrini — one of the few ISIS suspects to actually be taken into custody in connection with terrorist attacks in recent years — has led authorities to believe that another assault on a Western city was in the works.

What Burke (2016) does show, however, is that thanks to the working together of intelligence agencies across multiple nations and the cooperation of law enforcement as well, more arrests are beginning to be made. For instance, in Birmingham, Enlgand, this very April, “three men and a woman” were arrested along with “a 26-year-old man” in Gatwick — all of whom are suspected of being part of an ISIS cell with orders and plans to carry out an attack on London. The report by Burke (2016) shows that coordination among Western nations is beginning to have preventative effects and that global organized crime can be disrupted and prevented so long as agencies share information and criminal justice institutions develop a prosecutorial plan that allows suspects to be used in the gathering of further critical evidence and information.

The nexus of the criminal organization in ISIS is located in the support the group receives from various nations who trade for the terror network’s oil. Some countries, like Russia, France, Iran and the U.S. are actively involved in stopping the support networks that ISIS employs to advance its aims. This is not as easy as it sounds because some of those support networks come by way of Western allies, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both of which funnel money and mercenaries into the ISIS terror network in hopes of destabilizing regimes in the Middle East (such as Syria) that are opposed to the geopolitical aims of these facilitating countries. Thus, there are various geopolitical consequences and complexities that have to be considered by the different nations and their criminal justice systems when attempting to unravel and prosecute global organized crime networks like ISIS. On the one hand, the defeat of ISIS and its cells throughout the West would help to defeat terrorism; on the other hand, the relationships that Western nations have with Middle Eastern countries benefitting from ISIS’s activities in the Middle East may be strained as a result and this could cause geopolitical backlash on a number of levels.

This can be clearly seen in the case of Russia, which has intervened in Syria in recent years to help support the Assad regime against both ISIS and so-called moderate rebels who are fighting with Assad’s Syrian forces and their allies from Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. The U.S. is caught in a complex geopolitical trap as result, because it has been waging economic warfare against Russia and Iran for years in the form of sanctions, and now, while it attempts to fight ISIS on the ground in the Middle East, it is reluctant to join forces with Russia and Iran because of its history with these two nations. Moreover, the U.S. wants to support the moderate rebels fighting Assad, as these rebels are also supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, with whom the U.S. is an ally. The issue is very complex and not as simple as simply attacking ISIS. There are geopolitical concerns, such as the laying of oil pipelines and energy infrastructures that are at stake, which directly impact the economies of all countries concerned. The role of ISIS in this situation, which seeks to spread violent jihad against the West through its wide arrange of terror networks, helped by social media, makes the issue more complicated.

However, corporations like Facebook, Google and Twitter are working together with nations to help to stop the reach of ISIS by blocking terror-friendly users, who seek to spread hate and hate speech on social media (BBC, 2015). This has allowed criminal justice systems within Europe to call off their “probes” into these social media companies, which it identified earlier as facilitators of terrorism (Smith, 2016). Thus, in this instance, it can be seen that criminal justice systems, since they have difficulty going directly after the members of groups like ISIS, can at least come down on organizations that have a role in facilitating the reach of these organized crime groups. In this case, social media management teams are now being forced to adhere to the rules set out by nations who want to stop the influence of ISIS and other terror/hate groups within their borders.

The effectiveness of the systems’ response to the Brussels attack specifically and to ISIS in general is measured in the ability of the various agencies to work together to bring the group to justice. The recent arrests in London, reported by Burke (2016) show evidence that the system is working and that its response is effective in preventing further attacks from happening. However, more could be done to implement an even greater strategy of effectiveness against ISIS — and that is to settle the geopolitical issues among the various nations first, so that a more direct approach to defeating ISIS can be pursued. It is not as though nations in the West do not know where ISIS is. Russia has carried out a very effective campaign against the organization — which has upset Turkey and Saudi Arabia and put the U.S. in an uncomfortable position. But in order to save lives and stop the threat of terror represented by ISIS, the U.S. has to come to some understanding with both of these countries so that it can more directly go after ISIS. Until that happens, the criminal justice systems in the West are limited in their capacity. They are left to act quickly to stave off another attack; meanwhile, the crime syndicate that is ISIS continues to steal and sell oil to countries like Turkey and Israel, and it continues to recruit men and women to its cause around the world.

In conclusion, global crime is a major issue born of the rise of globalization and the impact of new communications technology like social media. Global crime can take many forms — from counterfeiting to human trafficking to terrorism. Some criminal justice systems are cracking down on aspects of global crime in an effort to reduce the rate of incidence; however, the main issue pointed out in this paper is that global crime is largely made possible because of complex geopolitical issues between various nations around the world. What is good for one country, for example, is not always viewed as good for another country. These nations must work out their differences on a geopolitical level — and then organized crime groups like ISIS can be dealt with more effectively by the criminal justice systems and their coordinated efforts.


BBC. (2015). Facebook, Google, and Twitter agree German hate speech deal.

BBCNews. Retrieved from

Baksi, C. (2015). China tackles problem of counterfeit goods head-on. Raconteur.

Retrieved from

Burke, D. (2016). London Eye ‘was next ISIS target for Paris and Brussels bombers’.

Metro. Retrieved from

Counting the Cost of Counterfeiting: A NetNames Report. (2015). Retrieved from

Smith, G. (2016). Germany drops its hate speech probe into Facebook managers.

Fortune. Retrieved from

Sorin, K. (2015). Chinese counterfeiting continues to thrive despite resistance. Luxury Daily. Retrieved from

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