The rise of syndicates — a consideration of organised crime

South Africa

Organisations should understand how syndicates operate, what to look out for, and what legal recourse they have.

In SA most people are familiar with the idea of criminal syndicates. You may have read reports of hijacking syndicates (with some operating out of the country’s airports), for example. Alternatively, you may have heard about the poaching syndicates that are such a threat to SA’s endangered wildlife. Less well-known — but potentially even more damaging to the country’s economy — are the organised crime syndicates that target SA businesses of all sizes.

While some of these syndicates still operate in the realms of physical theft, such as the ones responsible for stealing thousands of tonnes of coal from Eskom, an increasingly large number have international operations that specialise in white-collar crime.

To protect themselves against these syndicates, organisations need to ensure that they understand how the syndicates operate, what to look out for, and what legal recourse they have, should they find out they’ve been the victim of a criminal syndicate. However, it is also critical that they know what obligations they have regarding protecting their customers and employees from the effects of criminal activity.

A syndicate is not an employee raising a fraudulent invoice. While that’s undoubtedly an example of criminal activity, it may well be a one-off incident. Syndicates are groups of inpiduals who perpetrate crimes that actively target inpiduals and organisations.

In the white-collar world criminal syndicates aren’t just groups of loosely affiliated inpiduals trying to commit various forms of crime against businesses. They are highly organised and are sometimes set up akin to a business.

Typically, there will be different players within the syndicate, each playing a unique role. The masterminds who sit at the top of the operation are smart in terms of what they want to achieve, and won’t get their hands dirty. Instead, they recruit other people into the syndicate to carry out different tasks.

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