Research

Following organised crime money

Following organised crime moneyDisposing of crime proceeds and the financing of terrorism have both been the subject of considerable analysis, but little has previously been done in terms of targeting the individuals, structures and processes that benefit from such illicit activities.

Georgios Antonopoulos, Teesside University’s Professor of Criminology at the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law, leads research on the financing of organised crime activities. His work forms part of an international project – Financing of Organised Crime Activities (FINOCA) – which is coordinated by the Centre for the Study of Democracy, in Bulgaria, with the participation of Teesside University and Trento University in Italy.

Professor Antonopoulos’ research into organised crime financing has been based on a variety of datasets, including compelling interviews with active criminal entrepreneurs operating in the illicit tobacco, cocaine and counterfeit products markets. He used this information to create case study accounts of the social organisations within those markets and, pivotally, the details of their financial management.

The impact of Professor Antonopoulos’s extensive research has been felt internationally and domestically through the uptake of its findings by law enforcement agencies and other governmental organisations.

In 2014, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Task Force on Charting Illicit Trade used Professor Antonopoulos’s study of the Greek cocaine market to create a clear methodology for measuring illicit trade according to individual sectors. The OECD also used the research to map criminal networks, while the study also formed the basis of a European Parliament report for the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering.

The following year, the Bulgarian Internal Security and Public Order Parliamentary Committee organised a roundtable discussion to debate Bulgaria’s current state of criminal markets, focusing on illegal cigarette smuggling, the cocaine market and VAT fraud.

It proved to be a notable moment of endorsement for the research

‘The Chairman of the committee emphasised the importance of the recommendations advanced by FINOCA and suggested they serve as a foundation for establishing reliable mechanisms for addressing the financing of organised crime,’ reflects Professor Antonopoulos

Professor Georgios Antonopoulos

In addition, EUROPOL – the law enforcement agency of the EU – exploited the findings in 2016 for an in-depth analysis of the illegal drug markets in Europe. Furthermore, in the context of FINOCA, a manual was produced to increase the capacity of law-enforcement agencies to tackle organised crime groups by targeting their weakest points. This publication has been distributed to law enforcement agencies throughout the EU.

Professor Antonopoulos has also advised investigative journalists in the UK, provided expertise for a Channel 5 television documentary on contraband in the UK and acted as a consultant for the intelligence unit within Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ Excise Tobacco Team.

Currently, in the context of a study funded by Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research, he is collaborating with Dr Alexandra Hall, Dr Jo Large and Professor Anqi Shen to produce a National Trading Standards set of guidelines that translate the findings of the research into practical advice for law enforcement.