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Book Review: by Lang Reid
was two pages into the introduction of McMafia (ISBN
978-0-099-48125-6, Vintage publishers, 2009, B. 450 Bookazine) when I was
hooked. By the end of the introduction there had been three organized
gangland killings, with all the links being clearly shown.
He details the illicit trade in cigarettes through the Balkan area and just
quietly drops in the fact that the cigarette manufacturers R.J. Reynolds and
Philip Morris were accused of being complicit and indicted by the EU
prosecutors. Deals were done at high level, and the cigarette trade
diminished, and the third player, the Colombian drug cartels who were
laundering money at the same time had to look for other avenues.
Misha Glenny highlights the fact that international sanctions, whilst
sounding good to those who propose them, are in actual fact some of the
drivers of organized crime. This fact is also known by those who would
sanction! A frightening thought. He writes, “Virtually overnight, the vote
at the UN Security Council ordering sanctions created a pan-Balkan mafia of
immense power, reach, creativity and venality.”
The Russian oligarchs are exposed and even the poisoned Alexander Litvinenko
gets his mention. A fame I would not wish for myself or family. Another
topical figure mentioned is Viktor Bout, currently resident in the Bangkok
Jail and subject of much political argument. The machinations that occurred
after the collapse of the former Soviet Union were many, and it is
interesting to ponder on origins of the wealth of these extremely rich
The world mafia trades in drugs, cigarettes, oil, weapons and women, and
anything else they can make money from by being part of the world’s chains
of supply. The further you go in this book, the less you like your
neighbors, be they Balkan, Russian, Jews, Saudi Arabians, Indians,
Pakistanis, Brazilians, Colombians, Nigerians, South Africans, Canadians,
Americans, Chinese, Japanese or even (dare I say it) Thailand.
The epilogue reinforces just how much we, as individuals, have a part to
play. Chemical testing of the waters of the river Po show that the
inhabitants are using one and a half tones of cocaine each year. And cocaine
is not a crop irrigated by the river Po. Fudging on tax and VAT is costing
some governments over 100 billion dollars a year. Which we all pay for in
the end. And just as deplorable, the tax havens where the rich place their
ill-gotten gains, like the British Virgin Islands, as used by a former Thai
PM. At the back of the book there is a section called Notes on Sources.
This book is fascinating and well researched, and we are all part of the
subject in one way or another. Organized crime is a world-wide phenomenon,
hence the McMafia in the title. The book poses a question we probably do not
wish to answer: what would we do under the circumstances? Profit or point
the finger? As the author indicates, have you ever bought a pirated DVD,
taken drugs or fallen for a ‘phishing’ scam? If the answer is yes, then you
too have become the end user in a world-wide organized crime group.
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