Organised crime has a major impact on society

There is no single precise definition of the concept of organised crime. Organised crime usually refers to a group of individuals that systematically commits serious crimes. These activities may take various forms, but they are usually more or less continuous.

The main motivation behind organised crime is typically to obtain the maximum possible financial gain through criminal means. This can be achieved by utilising, for example, information networks, legal structures of society, corruption, and violence or threat of violence.

Traditional areas of organised crime include the manufacture, smuggling and trafficking of drugs; the manufacture, smuggling and trafficking of highly taxed products (e.g. cigarettes); human trafficking and smuggling; the manufacture, smuggling and trafficking of firearms; and money laundering.

An organised criminal group has its own specific definition in criminal law (chapter 6, section 5, subsection 2 of the Criminal Code). The definition requires that the following requirements are met: 

  1. a structured group of at least three persons
  2. established over a period of time
  3. acting in concert to commit offences for which the maximum punishment provided is imprisonment for at least four years. According to the definition, the offence committed by an organised criminal group may also be agitation against a population group (chapter 11, section 10 of the Criminal Code) or threatening a person to be heard in the administration of justice (chapter 15, section 9 of the Criminal Code).

Structures are often diverse and network-like

Organised crime is expected to grow, internationalise and become more serious in Finland in the coming years. The number of criminal groups operating in Finland has grown considerably over the past few decades.

The most visible form of organised crime has traditionally been criminal groups that wear special insignia, such as certain motorcycle gangs. However, the field of operators is considerably more diverse.

Europol estimates that the majority of organised crime organisations operating in Europe are loosely structured, network-like groups. Strictly hierarchically organised groups are in a minority. Many complex networks and project-based groups that do not use visible insignia also operate in Finland. It is difficult to draw a line between the groups because criminal groups with insignia cooperate with other groups.

In addition to the actual members of criminal organisations, professional enablers and service providers (crime-as-a-service) must be taken into account. These are types of support functions that are necessary for organised criminal activities, and they may include counterfeiters and forgers, legal advisers, technical experts or money launderers. There are also actors who, by not intervening in wrongdoings, enable serious crime.