Organized Crime Research (kvl-homepage) Recent German Publications on Organized Crime
by Klaus von Lampe

(from: Criminal Organizations Vol. 12, No. 1&2, p. 37-39)

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Organized crime is currently a very popular topic on the German book market. Many publications, however, are merely translations of foreign works. The purpose of this review is to highlight some of the original German language publications from the last three to four years. In the center of attention are two anthologies and a book series which comprised six volumes by the end of 1997.
The first anthology, Organisierte Kriminalitaet, edited by Christoph Mayerhofer and Joerg-Martin Jehle (Heidelberg: Kriminalistik Verlag, 1996, ISBN 3-7832-0596-4), includes papers presented at a conference sponsored by the Neue Kriminologische Gesellschaft in Vienna, Austria, in October 1995. The second anthology, Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet, edited by Ulrich Sieber (Cologne: Carl Heymanns Verlag, 1997, ISBN 3-452-23425-8; 3-88784-737-7), comprises papers presented at a conference sponsored by the Association for European Criminal Law in Trier, Germany, in December 1994. Both conferences were similar in their international profile, but while the Vienna meeting featured only speakers from Central Europe (Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Italy), the scope was more global in Trier with participants from as far away as Russia, the United States and Japan. The book series titled Organisierte Kriminalitaet in Deutschland (Organized Crime in Germany), edited by Willi Flormann, is designed so that experienced members of the law enforcement community can share their knowledge of particular aspects of organized crime. Thus one should not expect sophisticated treatises. Rather, each volume more or less contains a digest of the pertinent police literature and a first hand account by each author of his area of expertise. The introductory volume by Willi Flormann (Heimliche Underwanderung. Luebeck: Schmidt/Roemhild 1995, ISBN 3-7950-3801-6) summarizes the organized crime debate from a police official's perspective and lists the relevant types of crime. Peter Sehr, along with Kirsten Preisler, Willi Flormann, Wolfgang Nikolaus, Jutta Jung, and Wilfried Kohlhof, discusses trafficking in stolen motor vehicles (Internationale Kraftfahrzeugverschiebung. 1995, ISBN 3-7950-3801-4). Paul Wamers outlines the legal and administrative framework for combatting illegal exports of technology (Illegaler Technologietransfer. 1996, ISBN 3-7950-3802-2). Werner Wegner analyzes the drug-smuggling routes from Asia to Western Europe ("Balkan-Route" Contra "Seidenstrasse." 1996, ISBN 3-7950-3803-0). Peter Krevert assesses the pervasiveness of protection rackets (Schutzgelderpressung. 1997, ISBN 3-7950-3804-9). Finally, Holger Lemmel describes the activities of Kosovo-Albanian burglars in Germany before the backdrop of the social and political situation in the Kosovo region in Yugoslavia (Kosovo-Albaner in Deutschland. 1997, ISBN 3-7950-3805-7).
Taken together, the eight aforementioned books give a good impression of the issues currently dominating the organized crime debate in Germany. Since the 1960s, the German debate on organized crime has gone through roughly three stages. Originally, organized crime was viewed as more or less an endemic problem in the U.S. and Italy, but one largely confined to those nations. From the mid 1970s to late 1980s, police officials pressed for a uniquely German understanding of organized crime, independent of the Mafia paradigm. Since 1990, the debate appears to have come full circle in that attention is once again focused upon foreign crime syndicates and "Mafias." Only now, Europe is regarded as a single area of operation for these transnational criminals. The reviewed volumes give ample evidence of this notion.
The application of the American concept of organized crime to the German crime picture of the 1970s and 1980s had produced an obvious conflict. The Mafia imagery surrounding the term "organized crime" hardly found a resemblence in Germany's rather fragmented underworld (See Cyrille Fijnaut in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet on the European dimension of the dilemma).
To solve this contradiction, police officials tried to create a specifically German definition of organized crime. It took federal and state agencies sixteen years and three attempts to finally reach an agreement in 1990, as Flormann recounts in some detail. Since then. organized crime has been officially defined as:
"The planful commission of crimes for profit or power which by themselves or as a whole are of considerable relevance if more than two participants cooperate over a longer or undetermined period of time in a division of labor through the use of business or businesslike structures or through the use of violence or other means of intimidation or through the influence of politics, the media, public administration, the justice system or the economy."
The definition is used to delimitate jurisdictions within and between law enforcement agencies. If, beyond that, it was hoped to end the semantic debate in Germany and neighbouring countries, it has done so only superficially.
For one, the adequacy of the definition has been questioned. Sehr, for example, states that there are instances where all criteria of the definition are met and still one should not speak of organized crime. Secondly, the term "organized crime" continues to be used in a variety of ways ranging from referral to certain types of criminal activity to specific structural arrangements among criminals to designation of an anthropomorphic entity.
Most descriptions of organized crime focus on ethnically-defined "criminal organizations," though ethnically-heterogenous groups also exist (see appendix in Flormann).
The so-called "Russian Mafia" is currently of greatest concern, not least because of a number of brutal murders in Germany during the past few years have been attributed to gangs of criminals from the former Soviet Union. Two journalistic studies dealing with the history and structure of the "Russian Mafia" and its influence in Germany and other countries are worth mentioning here: Werner Raith's Das Neue Mafia-Kartell (Berlin: Rowohlt. 1994, ISBN 3-87134-094-4) and Die Russen Mafia (Hamburg: Rasch und Roehring Verlag, 1996, no ISBN available) by Juergen Roth. Raith provides a careful analysis with special emphasis on the relationship between Eastern European and Italian criminals. The Roth book is particularly interesting for its naming of names, although a series of court injunctions has forced Roth to remove references to several persons suspected of involvement with the "Russian Mafia." Another interesting contribution is a paper-by Joerg Trauboth contained in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet which deals with the extortion of Western businesses in Russia.
The criminal groups usually falling under the organized crime label are said to be involved in a wide range of activities: trading drugs, smuggling stolen cars, alien smuggling, trafficking in persons, pandering, gambling, counterfeiting and a variety of predatory crimes. Some ethnic groups, such as Vietnamese who control the street sale of untaxed cigarettes in East Germany, appear to be specialized in certain crimes.
One crucial question in the organized crime debate concerns the structure of organized criminal groups. In the publications reviewed here, and in the German literature in general, a dichotomous view is prevalent according to which criminals either belong to loose networks or to more tightly-structured "criminal organizations." The description of the latter hardly ever goes beyond the approximate size of membership and the distinction between two or three hierarchical levels.
For several reasons, this approach seems to fall short of adequately describing the structural characteristics of German or Central European organized crime. First of all, it is probably less appropriate to consider networks and organizations as two ends of a spectrum, than to assume that networks transcend more cohesive organizational arrangements. Moreover, it seems over-simplistic to automatically ascribe a set of social, economic, and power relations to one autonomous structural entity. Finally, it is doubtful whether criminal organizations, in the strictest sense of the word. actually exist in every case where they are said to exist.
The problem of accurately describing organized criminal groups is not only one of observation. To a great extent it lies in a certain conceptual paucity of the German organized crime literature which stands in the way of a more thorough and unbiased analysis, even where sufficient data are available. For example, despite their potential for unraveling the complex relations among criminals, such heuristically valuable concepts as Joseph Albini's patron-client-model, Francis lanni's distinction between associational and entrepreneurial networks or Alan Block's typology of power and enterprise syndicates have so far largely been ignored.
An important first step towards systematically analyzing contemporary organized crime in Germany is being taken by Ulrich Sieber, who presents his studies in Organisierte Kriminalitaet and in an updated and supplemented version in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet (see also Ulrich Sieber & Marion Boegel, Logistik der Organisierten Kriminalitaet. Wiesbaden: BKA-Forschungsreihe, 1993, ISSN 0 174-5433; and Marion Boegel. Strukturen Und Systemanalvse der Organisierten Kriminalitaet inDeutschland. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1994, ISBN 3-428-08253-2). Sieber uses the concept of business logistics to describe organized criminality in the fields of trafficking in stolen motor vehicles, prostitution, trafficking in persons, illegal gambling, and EU-fraud. Each area of crime is dissected into different logistics aspects: procurement-logistics, production-logistics, marketing-logistics, investment-logistics and what Sieber calls comprehensive logistics (e.g., the flow of information or the concealment of activities). Within this framework, the data collected from interviews with police agents, prosecutors, and other experts result in a rather detailed picture of each of the illegal markets under investigation. The overall picture is complemented by an in depth study of the investment aspect (i.e., the laundering of illicit profits). Sieber concludes that complex criminal groups use sophisticated logistics to carry out business-like activities in oligopolistic rather than monopolistic markets. The organizational structures, according to Sieber, vary from loose networks (e.g., among German pimps) to strictly hierarchically structured organizations, particularly in the case of foreign criminal groups.
Here again one could question the accuracy of this account. For example, a study conducted in the mid-1980s which explored the views of police detectives on organized crime (Erich Rebscher & Werner Vahlenkamp, Organisierte Kriminalitaet in der Bundesrepublik. Wiesbaden: BKA-Forschungsreihe, 1988, ISSN 0174-5433) discovered that officers investigating specific cases tended to report the existence of criminal organizations, while respondents from offender-oriented units monitoring the entire range of activities of certain criminal suspects did not. Possibly in this way, Sieber's emphasis on interviewing experts specifically knowledgeable in certain areas of crime has had an influence on his findings.
One of the strengths of Sieber's logistics approach lies in the fact that it provides a framework for analyzing the potential weaknesses of illegal enterprises. He argues that prosecuting organized crime figures is insufficient, and possibly even counterproductive, because it could contribute to a Darwinian selection process. Instead he calls for a combined strategy that also aims at the logistical structures of organized criminal activities. This would entail the legalization of certain illegal goods and services, as well as the use of electronic surveillance.
With his extensive list of suggestions, Sieber bridges the gap between advocates of rigorous law enforcement, on the one hand, and civil rights, on the other, that have long marked the criminal policy debate (see Winfried Hassemer in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet). In all the controversy, like other European countries, Germany has passed important legislation to combat organized crime since the early 1990s, especially with regard to money laundering and asset forfeiture. Unlike Austria and Switzerland, it has refrained from criminalizing the management of and membership in a criminal organization, partly because the German Criminal Code already contains the offense of membership in a "criminal association" that predates the organized crime debate. But this statute, with its narrow scope and lenient sanctions, is only rarely the basis for indictments. More often it is used as a predicate offense for wiretap authorizations. Walter Gropp, Roland Miklau and Ulrich Weder, in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet. provide comprehensive reviews of the anti-organized-crime-legislation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, respectively.
The individual European countries have made some progress in adjusting their legal systems to the challenges posed by organized crime. Nonetheless, international co-operation and the harmonization of criminal law and criminal procedure are still at an early stage of development within the European Union, the OECD, and the United Nations, as Ernesto Savona points out in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet.
In sum, the books reviewed here give valuable insights into the organized crime debate in Germany. The two anthologies deserve praise for putting the debate into an international perspective. The book series Organisierte Kriminalitaet in Deutschland is useful in that it goes more deeply into a broad range of relevant topics. When it comes to recommending certain works, Sieber's updated paper in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet is a good introduction to both the criminological and the policy aspects of organized crime in Germany. Those not able to read German will find Ronald Goldstock's paper on American organized crime and Savona's comparative paper interesting.
Both are contained in Internationale Organisierte Kriminalitaet in an English version. Wamers' book on technology smuggling will be helpful to anyone researching Germany's role in the illegal trade of nuclear material and arms production components. Lemmel's account of Kosovo-Albanian criminals is interesting and unique in not only presenting his experiences as the head of an interstate police task force, but also for taking the underlying social and political factors into consideration. The "must reads" on German organized crime, however, are of an earlier date: the aforementioned studies by Rebscher & Vahlenkamp (1988), Sieber & Boegel (1993), and Hans-Juergen Kerner's pioneering work Professionelles und Organisiertes Verbrechen (Wiesbaden: Bundeskriminalamt. 1973. no ISBN available).