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United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, Resolution 55/25 in (Nov. 2000).


This Convention is the main international tool for combating organized crime. In 2005, the United States ratified the Convention as well as the companion Protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

Among other provisions, the Convention provides for greater law enforcement cooperation and mutual legal assistance across nations where there were no previous agreements for such assistance. With the evolving transnational nature of organized crime, this coordination with international organizations is essential. Further, with increasingly open borders and the expansion of the Internet, organized criminals are a threat not only from within the borders, but beyond.

Although the Convention does not provide a single, agreed definition of organized crime, its provisions do provide elements of a concept of organized crime. For instance:

  • An organized criminal group is defined as three or more persons working together to commit one or more serious crimes in order to obtain financial or other material benefit.
  • Transnational crimes are defined as:
  • offences committed in more than one State;
  • offences committed in one State, but a substantial part of preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another;
  • offences committed in one State, but involving an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State;
  • offences committed in one State, but having substantial effects in another State.

Serious crime is defined as conduct constituting an offense punishable by a maximum deprivation of liberty of at least four years or a more serious penalty.