(New York, N.Y.) — Last month, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) released a report authored by CEP Senior Advisor Alexander Ritzmann along with 11 other researchers from CEP and other institutions in the U.S. and Europe exploring the connections between right-wing extremists and organized crime. Their work, which was commissioned by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, is the first critical analysis of its kind.
To read the CEP report, Transnational Linkages Between Violent Right-Wing Extremism, Terrorism And Organized Crime, please click here.
The report identified that in the U.S. and several European countries including Austria, Poland, Germany, and Sweden, violence-oriented right-wing extremists (VRWEs) are cooperating with organized crime (OC) actors. Key actors include VRWE football hooligan groups, prison gangs, and neo-Nazi organizations as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs like the Bandidos or Hells Angels.
In many instances, researchers found examples of cross-border activities such as “the acquisition of illegal drugs for distribution or parallel memberships in VRWE and transnational OC groups” though links “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 a [right-wing extremist] ideology.”
Ritzmann, who explained the key findings and recommendations of the report in a CEP Webinar on March 29, said that “the existing law enforcement strategies in Europe and the United States often miss out on identifying connections between VRWE and organized crime actors or networks. Law enforcement should consider reframing their approaches to not miss out on this component of extremist and terrorist financing.”
Law enforcement and policymakers are currently ill-equipped to fully understand the financial strategies employed by VRWE groups and individuals in many countries. A statistical category which could display linkages between VRWE and OC would be a first step. Data collection, analysis, and sharing practices related to OC activities and strategies by VRWE actors should be improved on the international, European, and national levels.
The report’s authors further observe that the Financial Action Task Force is ideally placed to explore transnational VRWE and OC cooperation. Also, national and regional Joint VRWE-OC Task Forces should be created to investigate the existing linkages between VRWE and OC further. Broader criminal networks and strategies could be exposed and mitigated as a result. The financial industry should be included in this effort as well.