What are Transnational Crimes?

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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 10 March 2020
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Transnational crimes are offenses that have significant effects in two or more countries. These crimes often involve border crossing; certain offenses may occur entirely within one nation, however. Examples of these crimes include cybercrime, money laundering, terrorism, and smuggling weapons, drugs, or people. Organized crime groups are usually responsible for transnational crimes. Despite unique challenges, countries are working together to combat these crimes by sharing information and extraditing offenders for prosecution.

Persons committing transnational crimes may never leave their home country, but the offenses often have a direct impact on other nations. For instance, criminals often use the Internet to commit a multitude of offenses known as cybercrimes. The Internet has no boundaries, and anyone with web access is a potential victim. A typical crime involves thieves in one nation setting up a phony website that mimics the website of a legitimate company. The criminals use the site to trick people into transferring money, credit card or banking account mumbers, or personal information.

Organized crime gangs or organizations are often responsible for most transnational lawbreaking. These groups vary in size, structure, and criminal activities. They often spring into existence to take advantage of a specific opportunity such as transporting people, drugs, or weapons across the border of a neighboring nation. Groups involved in transnational crimes often focus in one particular type of criminal activity.


To illustrate, a criminal organization may focus upon sex slavery in which they kidnap women and/or children from one country and transport them to another country. The victims are then forced to commit sex acts. If the women or children refuse, they are tortured. Essentially, the criminals specialize in a particular criminal activity. It is generally unusual for a group involved with sex slavery to engage in other transnational crimes such as smuggling weapons or drugs.

Nations fighting transnational crimes face unique challenges. First, each country has its own unique laws and court system which makes it difficult to capture persons or transfer individuals from one nation to another to face prosecution. Second, some countries lack the resources to fight criminal activity occurring within their borders. Some countries also do not consider certain activities occurring within their nation, such as growing marijuana, as illegal. Third, law enforcement agents and political officials in some countries are often corrupt because they receive bribes or themselves are directly involved in criminal activities.

Nevertheless, to fight transnational crimes, nations enter into cooperative agreements or treaties with each other. This allows them to transfer persons accused of criminal activities to one another for prosecution. They also share information, exchange or protect witnesses, and participate in joint operations to capture criminals. Wealthier nations also provide financial aid to nations with less resources to help them improve their justice systems.


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