Global Dynamics

Inteligence Profiling


Research indicates that transnational criminal organizations are beginning to work in conjunction with one another to accomplish common goals such as trafficking in narcotics, trafficking in humans and arms trafficking. These groups are increasingly working together, or at the very least, combined resources. These groups will be ethnic in origin, for example the Italian Mafia, the Russian Mafia, and Japanese organized crime groups.

The Triads of China and the Yakuza of Japan are two of the largest Asian organized crime groups and will be the focus of this research report.

When studying a crime map of Asia one would notice three broad areas which organized crime tends to be focused on: East Asia which consists of China, Japan, and south-east Asia, Southeast Asia which consists of the Golden Crescent in and around Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Russia Ukraine and adjacent areas of Eastern European countries (Shanty, 2008).

East Asia has three transnational groups who hold a strong influence: the Yakuza of Japan, the Snakeheads of China, and Triads of China. All of these groups work within similar areas of organized crime. Their crimes included human smuggling, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, fire arms trafficking, and pornography activities, and illicit sex industry (Shanty, 2008). It is possible to see these groups work in tandem on occasion, with “Yakuza in particular an increasing crime problem since the early 1990s due into small measure to a growing economy and the ability of organized crime to move freely throughout the country.” (Shanty, 2008, p. 67)

Organized crime in China is somewhat amorphous but generally takes two similar forms:

  • Involves criminal activities by gangs such as the triads frequently in cooperative ventures, involving black market activities, large burglaries thefts and hijackings. These gangs are also involved in extortion of small businesses.
  • Criminal Syndicates are involved in more sophisticated crimes such as prostitution illegal immigration, slavery. (Shanty, 2008, 67)

The drug trafficking networks from Japan and China are not just these individual groups. These groups have been seen networking with other organizations such as the Triads working with the Bamboo union gangs in Taiwan or the Yakuza working with the drug cartels of Columbia.

The drug trafficking networks from Japan and China are not just these individual groups. These groups have been seen networking with other organizations such as the Triads working with the Bamboo union gangs in Taiwan or the Yakuza working with the drug cartels of Columbia.

The U.S. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs reported that China is a major transit point for illegal narcotics produced in the Golden Triangle and the largest number of Seizures of Southeast Asian heroin now occurs within the country. (Shanty, 2008, p.67)

Although Asian Organized crime groups have traditionally been involved in the trafficking/sale of narcotics, they are increasingly becoming involved in the trafficking of persons for several different reasons. The business of trafficking illegal immigrants has become a lucrative business for organized crime. These individuals are not just sent to only one place but all over the world. The Triads is one of the Chinese organized crime groups which are deeply involved in the trafficking of human beings. They refer to these traffickers as snakeheads and they collect up to $30,000 per person in order to transport individuals to the United States. Snakeheads have developed a well-organized network within the United States which has fostered illegal immigration. Typically these groups will take control over smaller family-operated organizations.

While Asian Organized Crime Groups are primarily involved in human trafficking it is also important to note that they are also involved in more traditional forms of organized crime including extortion, and narcotics trafficking. It should also be noted that organized crime groups are able to exploit “the same economic liberalization, technology advances, and open borders that enabled multinational corporations to grow and prosper.”(Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States, n.d.) Criminal organizations are able to exploit ease of transit and modern telecommunications technology (IE the internet), also as the world becomes more globalized and national borders become more pours it will become increasingly easy to trafficking materials and humans across national borders.

Organized Crime Groups

Asian Organized Crime groups are similar in nature of the Italian Mafia they function much like a family (to the point where members will no longer associate with families of birth and will associate only with other members of the organization) also similar is the fact that these groups are hierarchical in nature. There is one leader at the top controlling all aspects of the organization.


Research indicates that:

The Chinese Triads, or secret societies, were formed out of self-preservation, patriotism and unity. In the late 17th century in mainland China the Qing dynasty, which was set up by the northern Manchu rulers, was seen as a repressive regime against the Han majority and was at the same time trying to break the rule of the older, weakened Ming dynasty. Kang-Hsi, the second emperor of the Qing, did not tolerate the existence of secret societies and outlawed Buddhist and Taoist practices.

As a direct consequence of these extreme policies the Hung Mun group was created. Secret forms of communication were developed to confuse and frustrate the spies of Kang-Hsi and to foster a sense of brotherhood and loyalty. (Asian Criminal Groups: The Chinese Triads, Japanese Yakuza and Vietnamese/Laotian Gangs |, n.d.)

Overall it does not matter if the Triads were originally formed as part of a secret society or if these stories are forms of revisionist history. What does matter is that Triad members believe that this was the reason behind the Triads original formation, therefore members may not view themselves as criminals but instead may view themselves as defenders of traditional society.

Today the Chinese Triads are some of the largest criminal organizations in the world. The Big Circle Boys and the Ghost Shadows are two divisions of the Triads that have been most active in transnational crime. They gained much notoriety throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Both gangs were conducting illegal activities in the Chinatowns of many large North American cities like Toronto, Vancouver and New York City.


It is believed that there are an estimated 80,900 Yakuza members worldwide. This group has also adopted a strong hierarchical structure and is known for their strict codes of conduct. While the actual origin of Yakuza is unknown it is believed that the Yakuza are the descendants of the 17th century Kubuki-Mono or Crazy Ones, these individuals were outlandish Samuri who wore outlandish clothing and spoke in elaborate slang and carried long swords.

The Yakuza are proud of being social outcasts, this is indicated by the group’s name, which originated from a traditional Japanese card came Hana Funda (flower Cards). In regional dialect Ya means 8, Ku means 9 and Sa means 3, the numbers add up to 20 which is a losing hand. Therefore the Yakuza are the bad hands of society.

Unlike in the United States, Yakuza influence is felt in all areas of Japanese society to the point where the Yakuza has a firm and longstanding political alliance with Japan’s right-wing nationalists.

As with other Mafia groups the Yakuza structure is a pyramid or hierarchical with a patriarch on the top with individuals of lower ranks below him. Within the Mafia structure a Boss rules the family with the assistance of an underboss, captains and soldiers and associates that implement the wishes of the Boss. While the Yakuza system is similar, it is much more intricate. This is because within the Yakuza the Boss of head of the organization takes on a father relationship with his underlings which are known as children and take on the child role. To be accepted into the Yakuza prospective members must accept this relationship. In turn the boss of the organization is willing to protect his underlings.


There are people who are willing to give someone their entire life savings in order to change their lives. Thousands of dollars can get a family from China to the United States and place them into a life of near slavery in order to pay off their debts. The Triads and Yakuza are both organizations who bring these desperate people to other countries in order to “better” their lives. These organizations are well organized and powerful within their respected countries as well as any place their do business.

As the world gets smaller through globalization issues such as trafficking of humans, narcotics, and weapons have become a worldwide issue so understanding these organizations are also important.


Asian Criminal Groups: The Chinese Triads, Japanese Yakuza and Vietnamese/Laotian Gangs | (n.d.). Online Magazine and Writers' Network. Retrieved September 1, 2012, from

Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2012, from

Shanty, F. (2008). Organized crime: from trafficking to terrorism. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio.