When you hear mafia, I can almost guarantee that you instinctively think Italian, or even Italian-American. Words like “Capisce” and “The Don” might have popped up too. You aren’t wrong for thinking this, with shows like The Sopranos, and movies like “The Godfather”, the idea of a sinister Italian mobster is an idea that many of us are quite familiar with.
However – Mafia-esque organisations aren’t unique to Italy, in fact they aren’t even uncommon outside of Italy. From Mozambique to El Salvador, organised crime syndicates exist worldwide, operating in some form on a daily basis. Read on to learn all about organised crime in every corner of the globe.


Bratva – Russia

The Russian Mafia, also known as Bratva, is a powerful criminal organization that emerged in the Soviet Union during the 1980s. The collapse of the Soviet Union created a power vacuum that allowed criminal elements to take control of various industries, leading to the rise of the Russian Mafia. One of the most notable groups formed in this time period were the Solntsevskaya gang.

The Russian Mafia is involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, and extortion. They are also known for their involvement in organized crime activities such as human trafficking, prostitution, and contract killing. Members of the Russian Mafia are often highly organized and operate in a hierarchical structure, with a strong emphasis on loyalty and respect.

The Russian Mafia has a significant presence in many countries around the world, including the United States, Europe, and Asia. They are known for their brutality and willingness to use violence to achieve their goals, and have been implicated in numerous high-profile crimes and scandals. Despite the efforts of law enforcement agencies, the Russian Mafia remains a powerful force in the criminal underworld and continues to operate on a global scale.

In Russian Bratva means Brothers or Brotherhood.


The Yakuza – Japan

The Yakuza is a Japanese criminal organization that has a long history dating all the way back to the 17th century.

They are often described as the Japanese version of the Mafia, and are involved in a range of criminal activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, gambling, prostitution, money lending and consequently – aggressive loan sharking.

Much like the Italian-American Mafia, The Yakuza is known for its strict code of conduct and hierarchical structure, with members referred to as “brothers” and organized into various clans or “families.”

The Yakuza is also known for their Samurai-like rituals and more famously, their distinctively elaborate tattoos, which often cover much of the body and serve as a symbol of membership and loyalty to the organization. As with many organised crime syndicates, the Yakuza are also involved in various legitimate businesses like construction, finance, and entertainment.

While the Yakuza is technically illegal in Japan, it still operates openly and has a significant presence in Japanese society. The Japanese government has taken steps to crack down on the Yakuza in recent years, but the organization remains a powerful and influential force in Japanese criminal and social life.


Fun fact: Tattoos are so highly associated with the Yakuza in Japan that consequently, anyone with ink – regardless of their profession or nationality – cannot usually use public swimming pools, beaches, hot springs and even certain gyms. The government has even written into law that only qualified medical professionals such as doctors can legally tattoo people.


The word Yakuza means “good for nothing”.

It is speculated to have derived from a worthless hand in a Japanese card game oichokabu, similar to blackjack or baccarat: the cards yattsu-ku-san (“eight-nine-three”), when added up, give the worst possible total.

419 – Nigeria

Annoying emails aren’t the first thing one tends to think of when they hear the term “Organised Crime” yet here we are.

The rise of the internet has given way to a multitude of scams, illegal enterprises, and bizarre ways for people to make money. A 419 scam, also known as the Nigerian scam, is a type of fraud that involves convincing a victim to send money in exchange for a promise of a larger payout. You are likely already familiar with this one, simply check your emails till you find one from a Nigerian prince offering you millions, I guarantee that you have at least one of them in your inbox or spam folder.

419 scams are a type of fraud that originated in Nigeria but have since spread to other parts of the world. The scams typically involve a person or group claiming to have access to a large sum of money and asking the victim to provide bank details.

The scam typically begins with an unsolicited email or letter from someone claiming to be a wealthy individual or business in need of assistance in transferring a large sum of money out of Nigeria or another African country. The scammer then asks the victim to provide personal and financial information, and to pay various fees and expenses in order to facilitate the transaction.

In reality, there is no large sum of money, and the victim is simply being tricked into sending money to the scammer. The scam is often perpetrated by organized criminal networks that operate in Nigeria, and use sophisticated methods to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies. These criminal networks often have connections to corrupt government officials, and may also be involved in other types of organized crime such as drug trafficking and human trafficking.

The term “419” comes from the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code that deals with fraud, and refers to the various tactics used by scammers to deceive their victims. While the specific methods and targets of 419 scams have evolved over time, the basic premise has remained the same: convincing individuals to send money in exchange for a promise of a larger payout that never materializes.

The proceeds of 419 scams are often laundered through legitimate businesses or transferred to offshore bank accounts, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to trace and recover the funds. As such, 419 scams are considered to be a form of organized crime, and can have a significant impact on individuals and businesses that fall victim to them. Unfortunately many of the victims that tend to fall for these kind of scams are the elderly and people that suffer with learning-impairments.

The origins of the 419 scam, can be traced back to the 1980s when Nigeria was experiencing economic and political instability. The scam is believed to have started with letters that were mailed to individuals and businesses, but with the advent of email and the internet, it quickly evolved into an online scam that has become widespread and more sophisticated over time.

Despite efforts by law enforcement agencies and awareness campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of 419 scams, they continue to be a significant problem around the world, with thousands of people falling victim to them each year.


Cartels – Columbia

The Colombian cartels were drug trafficking organizations that were at their most powerful during the 80’s and 90’s. These cartels gained notoriety for their production and distribution of high-quality cocaine, which became one of Colombia’s largest exports. The two most prominent cartels were the Medellin and Cali cartels.

The Medellin cartel, led by the infamous Pablo Escobar, was the most notorious of the two. The cartel was responsible for numerous violent crimes, including bombings, kidnappings, and murders. The cartel’s power grew to the point that it was able to influence the Colombian government and judiciary.

The Cali cartel, on the other hand, was a more low-profile organization that focused on exporting cocaine to the United States. The cartel had a more decentralized structure, with several smaller groups operating under the Cali umbrella.

The Colombian cartels’ activities had a significant impact on the Colombian economy and society. The cartels’ vast profits were often used to fund political campaigns and purchase political influence. The violence and corruption associated with the cartels also destabilized the country and contributed to the rise of paramilitary groups.

While these two particular Colombian cartels like the Medellin and Cali cartels have largely been dismantled or weakened, drug trafficking organizations still operate in Colombia today. These groups include the Gulf Clan, also known as the Clan del Golfo, which is currently one of the largest criminal organizations in the country. Other groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were also involved in drug trafficking in the past.

In addition to drug trafficking, these criminal organizations are also involved in other illegal activities such as extortion, kidnapping, and illegal mining. The Colombian government and international partners continue to work towards dismantling these groups and reducing the impact of drug trafficking on the country. However, drug trafficking continues to be a major problem in Colombia, and criminal organizations continue to produce and traffic cocaine.