A photograph in this book shows three men in swimming costumes at some resort. They are all capaciously built - two of them have pronounced breasts - and they swagger with power and arrogance. Around their necks they sport chains of bling, so massive they would shame even the most extravagant rapper. The caption reads: 'Bulgaria's nascent capitalist class gathers for its annual general meeting. It speaks of a sort of ruthless consumption, an appetite for stuff that knows no moral, aesthetic or sensible bounds. You look at it and think: 'I wouldn't want to be in the way of what they want.
|Published (Last):||1 October 2008|
|PDF File Size:||13.86 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||7.66 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
A photograph in this book shows three men in swimming costumes at some resort. They are all capaciously built - two of them have pronounced breasts - and they swagger with power and arrogance. Around their necks they sport chains of bling, so massive they would shame even the most extravagant rapper. The caption reads: 'Bulgaria's nascent capitalist class gathers for its annual general meeting. It speaks of a sort of ruthless consumption, an appetite for stuff that knows no moral, aesthetic or sensible bounds.
You look at it and think: 'I wouldn't want to be in the way of what they want. It's a feeling that recurs throughout Misha Glenny's investigation into global organised crime. Whether in Bulgaria, Bombay or Brazil, or any of the other numerous locations Glenny visits, there is a sense, not necessarily deserved, that criminality has gained an historic upper hand over the rule of law. Glenny traces the modern spread of transnational crime to the break-up of the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc in the late Eighties and early Nineties and the simultaneous deregulation of global markets.
But his is not some crude ideological thesis, much less one that laments the passing of Cold War divisions and certainties. For it was the Soviet bloc that incubated such favourable conditions for the development of criminal motivation and expertise.
In Bulgaria, for example, the secret service played a key role in arms and drugs smuggling during the communist period. At the same time, the communist system created a management class steeped in corrupt practices with a contempt for civic responsibility. When communism fell, there were suddenly thousands of unemployed cops and spooks in Bulgaria with first-hand experience of international crime. And there were also a great many wrestlers and weightlifters, pumped-up on state-issued steroids, who would make for ideal muscle in the protection rackets that quickly sprung up.
Drugs, prostitution, car theft, money laundering and extortion followed on an industrial scale. And soon Bulgarians were in competition with Kazakhs, Georgians, Moldovans, Yugoslavs and, of course, Russians, all seeking turf in the new gangsterland of Eastern Europe.
Glenny is particularly strong on the bizarre economic liberalisation that took place under Boris Yeltsin and which produced the bloody reign of the oligarchs in the early Nineties. All price restrictions were removed by government, except those of Russia's natural resources: oil, gas, diamonds and metals. Overnight, a vast number of Russians were impoverished, while a tiny minority was able to buy up vital commodities at up to 40 times less than their global market price.
After the failure of the Soviet Union, in which the law was subordinate to shifting party requirements, Russia effectively privatised crime. It fell to Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB agent, to bring it back under state control, or, more accurately, guidance. As Glenny illustrates, Putin also supported the controversial regime of Leonid Kuchma that was temporarily unseated in the Orange revolution in Ukraine.
Nowadays, Glenny quotes a US official as saying, a Russian businessman is as likely to be a member of the intelligence services as a criminal cartel, and quite possibly to be part of both. The effects of the Russian organised crime boom have been experienced as far afield as Tel Aviv and New York, and all parts of Europe.
In this reading, the East is little more than an opportunistic supplier to the West's insatiable demand. This is undoubtedly true, up to a point, but it's a truth that is based on a more fundamental reality: when goods and activities are illegal, it's the criminals who make the profits. Glenny works hard to marry this timeless law to the contemporary globalised scene, in particular to the liberalised movement of capital.
The problem is not that the relationship doesn't exist, but that it doesn't conform to a narrative-friendly pattern. Thus the story begins to fragment into an episodic summary of crime enterprises around the world - hence the title's global-franchise reference. Some of the characters, like one Semyon Mogilevich, one of Russia's leading criminals, come across like Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects, an elusive, half-legendary incarnation of evil.
Others barely register amid the multinational cast of walk-on scoundrels and psychopaths that appear in a series of decreasingly shocking anecdotes. The scene shifts from Russia to the Middle East, India on to Colombia and South Africa, but with each jump the specific causes of crime become less well defined until all that's manifest is a general sense that a combination of unstable states and sought-after natural resources attract some highly unprincipled individuals.
This is in no way a reflection on Glenny's research, which is extensive. Rather the scale of the subject mitigates against the kind of plotting, themes and characters that lend non-fiction, at its best, a satisfying shape. Even so it is a substantial book that features, among a gallery of extraordinary crime scenes, some of the most compelling analyses of the Balkan tragedy and the creation of the post-Soviet economy.
Glenny is a fine reporter and he's not afraid to put himself in threatening situations - one imagines his name is conspicuously absent from the Christmas-card list of the world's major criminals. If the writing is occasionally a little colourful, the conclusions are mostly sober and sound.
Glenny correctly identifies the contradiction of the Wars on Drugs and Terror, in which the illicit trade created by the former sustains the enemy in the latter. Their current abuse Glenny blames on a mixture of aggressive American liberalism, European incompetence, Russian cynicism and Sino-Indian ambition.
It's important to remember that, however unattractive those Bulgarians in the photo may appear, capitalism and criminality are not the same thing. But to the extent that they coincide, it's capitalism that needs to reform.
The alternative is to leave it to the criminals. And in the matter of self-control, as this book so convincingly shows, their record is not encouraging. Blood Diamonds by Greg Campbell Basic Books Campbell explores the endemic corruption within the global diamond industry. Jean Hannah Edelstein. Topics Books The Observer. Society books reviews. Reuse this content. Most popular.
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld
Look Inside. Apr 08, Minutes Buy. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the deregulation of international financial markets in , governments and entrepreneurs alike became intoxicated by dreams of newly opened markets. But no one could have foreseen that the greatest success story to arise from these events would be the worldwide rise of organized crime. Today, it is estimated that illegal trade accounts for one-fifth of the global GDP. In this fearless and wholly authoritative investigation of the seemingly insatiable demand for illegal wares, veteran reporter Misha Glenny travels across five continents to speak with participants from every level of the global underworld—police, victims, politicians, and even the criminals themselves.
Best business books
Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book.
Michael V. He is multilingual. He specialised in reporting on the Yugoslav wars in the early s that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia. He published three books about Central and Eastern Europe. Glenny's later books continue an interest in international crime. From January , Glenny was visiting professor at Columbia University 's Harriman Institute ,  teaching a course on "crime in transition". In an interview in October , he also spoke about his new book, DarkMarket ; assessing cybercriminals with Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge; the Stuxnet cyberattack which resulted in "gloves off" attention from governments; and other more recent cyberattacks.