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Combatting organised crime


Over the last two decades, governments and law enforcement agencies have paid increasing attention to organised crime and its finance.

In the UK, the Home Office estimates the annual revenue derived from organised crime is more than £11 billion, while the resulting economic and social costs are close to £25 billion. According to the UN, profits of international organised crime are as high as $870 billion.

Georgios Antonopoulos, Professor of Criminology at Teesside University, has become a leading expert on global organised crime and illegal markets, working with UK government bodies and international agencies to inform smarter approaches for preventing and dealing with organised crime.

The Research

Antonopoulos' body of work has included a series of in-depth investigations into tobacco smuggling, cocaine smuggling and counterfeiting. While his research has focused on national and EU case studies, the findings have much wider international significance due to the global nature of organised crime.

A study on tobacco smuggling challenged common assumptions, showing that smugglers are an extremely diverse group who are not always part of a criminal structure. Later, Antonopoulos' research on the cocaine business in Greece highlighted the pivotal role of professionals from the shipping industry and actors from the upper echelons of society in the transportation and importation of cocaine to Western Europe and Greece.

Research into China's cigarette counterfeiting business showed tobacco counterfeiting was a result of state planning, local government competition emphasising profit, personal greed, and market dynamics heightened by globalisation.

In 2015, Antonopoulos co-published the report Financing of Organised Crime. Informed by survey data from all EU countries, interviews with active criminal entrepreneurs and law enforcement and judicial authorities, the book provided a detailed account of the social organisation and financial management of illicit markets, as well as clear recommendations for policy makers and law enforcement practitioners.

REF 2021 TU Research is combatting organised crime

Research carried out at Teesside University has informed the development of key national security strategies to counter criminal activity and illicit financing, helping to make communities safer and reducing social harm.

The Impact

The impact of this research was felt in the UK and abroad, playing a crucial role in helping policy makers and law enforcement officials to be more flexible and agile when devising enforcement actions for organised crime.

In Bulgaria, the research informed and influenced national policy-making processes, with the findings forming the basis of a roundtable in which senior officials debated legislative methods to counter criminal markets and illicit financing.

The research was also used by EU law enforcement agency EUROPOL and EMCDDA, as part of an in-depth analysis of the illegal drugs market in Europe. This report later informed EUROPOL’s Strategy 2016-2020, which focused on delivering the most effective support to member states’ investigations.

At home in the UK, Antonopoulos was the only criminologist to take part in the Cabinet Office’s National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA), with the report setting out the UK’s National Security Strategy 2015. That document has gone on to act as the standard reference point for other security strategies and policy documents both national and internationally.

“[Antonopoulos’ input] has helped [the Cabinet Office] to shape the third iteration of the NSRA, which captures our current understanding of risks to the UK and its interests abroad in the medium and long term; and has informed the government’s strategic judgement through prioritisation of risks into tiers according to impact and likelihood.”

Deputy National Security Adviser, UK Cabinet Office

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