- Extortion racketeering
- Links between organized crime and corruption
- Bribery versus extortion
- Liability of legal persons
Published in April 2018
Regional Perspectives: Pacific Islands Region - added in November 2019
Regional Perspectives: Eastern and Southern Africa - added in April 2020
This module is a resource for lecturers
Extortion consists of obtaining property from another through the wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear. Such coercive extortion is synonymous with the term blackmail, which is an older term used to indicate extortion. Common law jurisdictions also refer to a second type of extortion, extortion "under colour of office" or "under colour of official right", which is the wrongful taking by a public officer of money or property that is not due to him/her, whether or not the taking was accomplished by force, threats, or use of fear.
Besides some exceptions, such as in the case of extortion "under colour of office" or "under colour of official right", the act required for extortion is the threat of future harm. Generally, extortion statutes require that a threat must be made to the person or property of the victim. The nature of the threatened harm varies by jurisdiction, and it can include bodily harm, damage to property, damage to reputation, criminal accusations, or abuse of a public office. The extortionate threat required must be serious enough to place a reasonable person in fear. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offence.
In many jurisdictions, the intent to take money or property to which one is not lawfully entitled must exist at the time of the threat in order to establish extortion. In other words, making the threat is sufficient and the actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offence.
Extortion is different from the crime of robbery: in robbery, the property is taken against the will and without the consent of the victim, while in extortion the victim consents, although unwillingly, to surrender money or property. Another distinguishing factor is that the nature of the threat for robbery is limited to an immediate physical harm to the victim. Extortion, on the other hand, encompasses a greater variety of threats relating to future harm (Neumann and Elsenbroich, 2017).