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Transnational Organized Crime


The United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) does not contain a precise definition of 'transnational organized crime'. Nor does it list the kinds of crimes that might constitute it. This lack of definition was intended to allow for a broader applicability of the UNTOC to new types of crime that emerge constantly as global, regional and local conditions change over time..

The Convention does contain a definition of 'organized criminal group'. In Article 2(a):

  • a group of three or more persons that was not randomly formed;
  • existing for a period of time;
  • acting in concert with the aim of committing at least one crime punishable by at least four years' incarceration;
  • in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.

The UNTOC covers only crimes that are 'transnational', a term cast broadly. The term covers not only offences committed in more than one State, but also those that take place in one State but are planned or controlled in another. Also included are crimes in one State committed by groups that operate in more than one State, and crimes committed in one State that has substantial effects in another State.

The implied definition 'transnational organized crime' then encompasses virtually all profit-motivated serious criminal activities with international implications. This broad definition takes account of the global complexity of the issue and allows cooperation on the widest possible range of common concerns.