Organized crime growth falters

While organized crime did not increase significantly last year, gangs, which are mostly foreign, have expanded their activities well beyond the confines of Greece’s two largest cities, according to a police report obtained by Kathimerini. The report on organized crime in 2003 showed that, following a vast increase in recent years, the rate of growth decreased last year. This was mostly attributed to more efficient policing, and by a great extent to international cooperation in crime-fighting. A total of 157 cases of organized criminal activities were recorded last year, in which 889 people were treated as suspects. Only 551 were finally charged – 92 of whom were considered to be high-ranking gangsters. The gangs were mainly involved in sex-trafficking, smuggling weapons, drugs and cigarettes, illegal immigration, child pornography, forgery, extortion, armed robbery and fraud. On the other hand, there were no cases of human organ-trafficking, kidnapping, high-tech crime or the smuggling of nuclear materials. Apart from Athens and Thessaloniki, gangs are developing an increasingly strong presence in the provinces, and particularly in the border areas of northwestern and eastern Greece, as well as on the Aegean islands. Police see Chinese gangsters, who, for the time being, are mainly engaged in migrant-smuggling, as a major threat in the future. Greeks had a virtual monopoly on extortion gangs, although their activity declined in 2003. There was also a drop in sex-trafficking and cigarette-smuggling. Narcotics-smuggling, which was dominated by Albanian gangs, continued to increase. Although Albanian gangsters started off with smuggling cannabis, they have since turned to hard drugs and have developed direct contacts with South American cocaine cartels. In 2003, police investigated 753 suspected cases of money-laundering by organized crime gangs, 20 of which went to court. Assets worth a total 30 million euros were seized.