Organised crime gangs dealing in counterfeit goods and medicines, human trafficking, drugs, and the illicit wildlife trade earn nearly $90 billion annually in East Asia and the Pacific, a UN report showed Tuesday.
"Transnational Organised Crime in East Asia and the Pacific: A Threat Assessment" is the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the subject, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said.
It estimates that the top money-makers for criminal groups are the trade in counterfeit goods ($24.4 billion), illegal wood products ($17 billion), heroin ($16.3 billion) and methamphetamines ($15 billion).
Fake medicines ($5 billion), the black market trade in used electronics components to avoid legitimate recycling ($3.75 billion) and the illegal wildlife trade ($2.5 billion) also rank highly.
Migrant smuggling and the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution or general labour also earn crime bosses hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
UNODC deputy executive director Sandeep Chawla said the report opened the window on "the mechanics of illicit trade: the how, where, when, who and why of selected contraband markets affecting this region".
"It looks at how criminal enterprises have developed alongside legitimate commerce and taken advantage of distribution and logistics chains," he said.
Heroin on the up
Chawla highlighted the growing problem of heroin. Consumption is rising across the region -- estimated at 65 million tons in 2011 -- with Chinese the main users and Myanmar the key producer.
"Myanmar is the principal source of opiates in Southeast Asia. Doing something about tackling opiates in Myanmar is a very important thing for the region," said Chawla. More....