Most often than not, human traffickers and drug lords are rich beyond the dreams of avarice. That’s because anyone who is involved in illegal trade has to be a certain kind of person to tolerate that kind of livelihood.
Take a closer look at the world’s top ten lucrative crimes and get to know the reason why some people turn to the dark side.
10. Human Organ Trafficking
Sometimes referred to as “neo-cannibalism”, human organ trafficking brings in around $1.2 billion per year. This unpalatable trade thrives on the poverty of individuals from underdeveloped countries such as Peru, India, Turkey, Brazil and the Philippines. In exchange for a month’s worth of groceries for their families, they sell their organs to the highest bidders from the U.S., Canada, Japan and Italy. While it is frowned upon by the World Health Organization and other humane organizations, the international trade in human organs is on the rise, no thanks to rising poverty numbers, the decline in organ donation as well as unscrupulous traffickers.
9. Illegal Gold Production
Rumors have it that a kilogram of gold can cost twenty times more than a kilogram of cocaine. As such, more and more artisan operations are brewing in countries such as Ghana, Russia, Mali and Colombia to take advantage of this profitable business. In fact, almost 90% of the gold mines in Colombia are operating without licenses. Illegal gold mining rakes in around $2.3 billion annually. That’s because operating on a much smaller scale eliminates recurring expenses such as income taxes and license fees, as well as high labor costs for the miners themselves. These miners work long arduous hours only to be paid a miserly proportion of the real value of the gold produced. Truth is, illegal gold mining will always thrive, as long as there is supply.
8. Lumber Trade
Occurring in all types of forests; from Brazil to Canada, Indonesia to Russia, and Kenya to Tanzania, illegal logging is said to be raking in a profit of $4.9 billion annually. The business thrives because there is high demand for timber products from Europe, U.S. and Japan, as well as from emerging economies such as China. The international trade of illegally logged timber is a major problem for many timber-producing countries. Not only does it push the market price of timber down, it also contributes to lost revenue, as well as the obvious destruction of natural resources. Unfortunately, another reason it thrives is because of very weak law enforcement, which makes it easy for unscrupulous businessmen to get away with operating this kind of business. Some corrupt government officials even issue fake work permits to collect a sizeable portion of the profit for themselves.
7. Art Theft
Year on year, thieves make billions out of cultural artifacts and stolen art, typically taken from galleries and museums in China, Thailand, Iraq with poor security measures. They resort to robbing valuable art pieces, which are worth tens of millions of dollars, and in turn, provide them with a high potential payoff. The stolen art industry is worth around $6.3 billion each year, with art theft growing in popularity because there is high demand from wealthy customers in Europe and the U.S. to amass rare pieces for their own personal collections. Illegally acquired art is also used as “currency” within major drug cartels, as they use it as collateral or payment. In fact, drug cartels are also behind most of the illegal trade in stolen art.
6. Illegal Wildlife Trading
Estimated to be worth around $25 billion every year, illegal wildlife trading thrives because rich buyers in China, Europe and the U.S. would pay large sums of money to acquire ivory, fur and even animals’ body parts to make traditional machine. In fact, during the last eight years, the tiger population in India has been cut by 50% as a result of wildlife poaching and trafficking.
5. Illicit Oil
Trading around 500,000 illegal oil barrels a day, the illicit oil business is worth around $10.8 billion each year. The sales tend to originate from oil-rich countries including Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria and Mexico; however it is unknown whom the goods are being sold to.
4. Illegal Fishing
In an effort to evade taxes and keep operational costs low, fishing companies based in Southeast Asia and Africa operate illegitimately without fishing permits and government licenses. They sell their goods to customer countries Japan, Europe, the U.S., South Korea and China. Indonesia alone is responsible for 1.6 million tons of illicit fish sold on the international markets. Not only is illegal fishing potentially more harmful for the marine ecosystem, it is also counterproductive to the economy. It hampers the governments of the developing countries to provide socio-economic benefits for their people.
3. Human Trafficking
Touted as the modern-day version of slavery, it is disheartening to know that human trafficking does not only exist, it actually thrives. In fact, the industry has an estimated market value of around $31.6 billion in 2012. Worldwide, there are 2.5 million victims of human trafficking from underdeveloped countries such as Brazil, Colombia, India, Pakistan and China, that’s the total population of the state of Utah.
While they say imitation is the biggest form of flattery, they forgot to say it’s also very profitable. The trade of counterfeit goods amounts up to a whopping $250 billion annually. Everything, from bags to leather shoes, perfumes to shampoos and cellphones to MP3 players, are being counterfeit and sold to developing countries, whose population could not afford to pay original price for the real deal. In fact, countries such as China, Russia, Malaysia and the Philippines have developed expertise in creating “Class A” goods, and surprisingly, these products also make their way to the U.S. and Europe for reselling.
Drug cartels are very common in South America, especially Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. They are primarily responsible for more than half of the world’s cocaine and heroin production, which is estimated to rake in profits of around $88 billion annually. While the international drug trade is estimated to be worth over $300 billion a year, its market value is widely understated, because it does not include the profits of locally-produced drugs such as marijuana and amphetamines. Doesn’t it surprise you how far people would go to make money?