Drugs, weapons, prostitution. Just of a few things that are always in high demand, and someone is always selling. It's a big money business people kill for.
For all those that live in a fantasy world, crime pays. It pays in kilos, euros, dollars and yen. Sometimes it even pays in blood. In fact the United Nations Office On Drugs and Cocain, estimates that it is a $870 billion industry. From drugs (worth a staggering $320 billion) to human trafficking (worth $32 billion) crime is an extremely lucrative career and criminal organizations (or mafias) know this.
These organizations are in a constant struggle for their piece of the market, which they enforce through violence, intimidation and murder. Although many of these organizations present themselves as chivalrous heroes of the people and they actually do, do good in their local communities, while they spread death elsewhere. And all that murder and mayhem for the sake of profit. These are some of the wealthiest mafias in the world.
One of the biggest Yakuza groups in Japan and with enough financial power to topple the entire country’s economy, the Yamaguchi-gum is one of the wealthiest mafias in the world. Even more impressive (or terrifying depending on the perspective) the Yamaguchi-gumi is considered by Robert Feldman, an analyst working for financial giant Morgan Stanley, as Japan’s second largest private equity organization with a yearly income of $80 billion dollars. It counts an estimated 23.400 members and is active in all but three of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
If you are scratching your head wondering what the difference is between the Yakuza and Yamaguchi-gumi, Yakuza is a umbrella term for organized crime, mafia. Yamaguchi-gumi is the specific clique or group (like the Italian mafia’s Gottis or Gambino families). The Yamaguchi-gumi has been known to deal in the low brow rackets of gambling and prostitution but also in the extremely high-brow and often legal trading on the stock market. Although they are a huge criminal organization, they many of their assets are legal in the form of businesses, stocks, construction and adult entertainment…as in internet porn. Their reign isn’t restricted to the 44 prefectures they control in Japan either, as recently as 2012 the U.S. Treasury froze assets owned by the organization in American in an attempt to weaken their financial might.
Part of the worldwide Russian mafia the Solntsevskaya Bratva was founded by a prisoner in the late 80s that started recruiting disenfranchised and unemployed youths from the streets of Moscow. Their criminal activities initial concentrated on the import of automobiles. The organizations activity is said to have spanned from Tel Aviv to New York. Unlike the Yamaguchi-gumi which follow a strict hierarchy based on overseers and subordinates, the Solntsevskaya Bratva is loosely organized into small factions that pool their money together. The pooled funds are managed by a board of 12 “bosses” which meet in various locations around the world. The gang at this point is said to have 9,000 members. Their main source of revenue are drugs and human trafficking. In their short history they have established their reputation as a violent, vicious gang that steam-rolls anyone in their way. One of the organizations biggest cash crops is heroine, which they sell heavily in their own home-country, and business is good considering that even though Russia contains 0.5% of the world’s population it consumes 12% of the world’s heroine supply. They have also been known to deal in stocks like their Japanese counterparts under the company YBM Magnex International Inc. on the Toronto Stock Exchange, well until the FBI caught wind of it. They are estimated to produce $8.5 billion annually.
One of the biggest gangs in the Italian Mafia the Camorra is known for its propensity and ease at which they resort to violence. Starting and based in Naples the Camorra is one of the most feared mafia groups in Italy if not the world. They established their choke-hold on Naples during the 19th century, when during the bloody political instability of the period they offered protection and political leverage, to both the poor and those who asked for it. They make the majority of their $4.9 billion dollars from human trafficking, drugs, extortion, protection and gambling.
One of the Camorra’s competitors on Italian soil the ‘Ndrangheta is based in the Calabria region of Italy, their main difference being that this organization because of its ties with South American cocaine dealers, has a practical monopoly on the European drug trade. In a unbelievable power shift the ‘Ndrangheta beat out the much more powerful at the time Cosa Nostra, for dominance of drug purchasing from the Colombians. The drug producers preferred the much more calm, collected and diligent ‘Ndrangheta. Being successful comes with its downfalls though the ‘Ndrangheta has seen many internal feuds, resulting in the death of members at the hands of their fellow brethren and even the Pope excommunicated them when they killed a 3 year old boy during the assassination of his grandfather. Also many of the senior members of the organization are forced to live in homes with broken down decrepit exteriors to minimize their visibility.
Yet even though the ‘Ndrangheta is responsible for 80% of Europe’s cocaine supply, what truly made them notorious was their environmental destruction…yes, as if they hadn’t committed enough sins against man, they had to commit some against nature too. At some point the ‘Ndrangheta was put in-charge of getting rid of toxic waste, so they would fill up ships with hundreds, if not thousands of barrels of toxic sludge and sink it in the middle of the Mediterranean, or they would send them to Somalia where, certain unsavoury Somalis would bury the barrels of industrial refuse in exchange for guns.
Created by a group of Mexican Commandoes that worked as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas or the Cartel Del Norte as they have recently have been calling themselves, is one of the bloodiest, brutal and ruthless gang probably in the world at the moment. Their modus operandi consists of beheadings, mutilations, torture and sexual violence instead of bribery to resolve conflict and intimidate their adversaries. Considered by the U.S. Authorities as one of the most technologically advanced gangs on their continent at the moment, the Los Zetas have recently taken over as the largest drug cartel in South American, dethroning the Sinaloa Cartel after the incarceration of its leader, El Chapo Guzman. Their organizational structure reads more like a terrorist organization. During the period of one year the Zetas had murdered a staggering 350 migrant workers after they refused to join them, they started recruiting what are essentially trained assassin/death squad members that fought during Guatemala’s bloody civil war and have established training camps all around Mexico to recruit children as young as 15…and teach them how to most effectively kill and maim for intimidation.