Transnational Linkages Between Violent Right-Wing Extremism, Terrorism, and Organized Crime

September 19, 2023
Alexander Ritzmann  —  CEP Senior Advisor

In March 2023, CEP published a study demonstrating that several violence-oriented right-wing extremist (VRWE) individuals and groups in Europe and the U.S. engage in or maintain ties with organized crime (OC). Many of the identified cases have a transnational dimension, for example, through cross border activities like the acquisition of illegal drugs for distribution or parallel memberships in VRWE and transnational OC groups. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, VRWE-affiliated football hooligan groups, white supremacist prison gangs, and a range of other VRWE individuals and groups are part of such transnational networks, which are particularly visible in Austria, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.

The study finds that the linkages between VRWE and OC are multifaceted and vary in intensity, ranging from mere operational contacts to supply illegal materials to a full-scale transformation of VRWE structures into OC structures that follow an VRWE ideology. VRWE-OC cooperation seems to be driven by the pragmatic principle of “form follows function.” Even ideologically motivated VRWE are flexible with their “values” and cooperate, e.g., with perceived “non-white” OC actors if it serves their “higher” purpose. Not appreciating this sufficiently can lead to incomplete risk assessments.

Interestingly, there are significant differences in the quantity and quality of identified VRWE-OC linkages between the country chapters. This could mean that such cooperations are strongly connected to national strategies, developments, and opportunities. It could, however, also mean that the smaller number of VRWE-OC linkages found in some countries is the result of an absence of targeted and systematic law enforcement investigations into this phenomenon and a lack of official statistical categories that could reveal such connections.

In general, a “follow the money” approach, which has been successfully deployed against OC and in the prevention and fight against Islamist extremism and terrorism, has not been adopted by any of the governments of the countries analyzed in the study with regard to violent right-wing extremism. To foster a better understanding of the scope and size of the challenges posed by the linkages between violent right-wing extremism and organized crime, data collection, analysis, and sharing practices related to OC activities and strategies by VRWE actors outlined in this study should be improved on the international, European, and national levels. To operationally address the phenomenon’s national and transnational dimensions, Joint VRWE-OC Task Forces should be established on the EU level and on the national levels to better enable targeted investigations. 

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

View Archive