Portugal is a “transit country and destination for trafficking in human beings, one of the largest criminal markets in the country”, it is a “transit country for arms trafficking whose destination is Africa” and also a “transit country and destination for cocaine trafficking “and a “source of cannabis production”. According to the Global Organized Crime Index 2021, these are the main factors that lead our country to score 4.55 (on a scale of 1, best, to 10, worst) in organized crime rates.
This global assessment analyzes the 193 countries that make up the United Nations. Portugal is in 117th place in relation to this total and 24th among 44 European countries. Among the eight countries in Southern Europe it is in 5th place.
The good news is that, in this ranking, the State manages to be “sufficiently effective” in combating these phenomena, with Portugal evaluating it with a score of 6.46 (from 1, “non-existent” or “extremely effective” to 10, ” highly effective”) not as far as “resilience” is concerned. It ranks 29th among the 193 UN countries, 21st in Europe and 2nd among southern European countries. Here the highest marks go to police policies and the functioning of international cooperation (with 7.5 points), followed by “political leadership and government”, “national policies and legislation”, “support for victims” and of national “non-state actors”.
Still, visas gold and corruption systems are seen as weak points in this same state resilience. (see texts below and to the side).
Last week, at the ceremony to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the PJ, the Minister of Justice considered a Portuguese classification “honourable”, but pointed out that, despite this, it is still appointed as a transit and destination country for the trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of migrants, as well as trafficking in cocaine and other narcotics, with an increase in the use of black web for the drug trade. “For this reason, Francisca Van Dunem stressed, “it is crucial to deepen and accelerate the justice response, continuing to modernize and equip the Judiciary Police to combat these phenomena, which affect the lives of citizens, companies and of public administrations”.
At the global level, this one, developed by a non-index organization based in Geneva, concluded that “democracies have higher levels of resilience to crime than authoritarian states”. It was also found that “more than three quarters of the world’s population lives in countries with high levels of crime and in countries with low resilience to organized crime”. Four other rights stand out: Asia is the continent with the highest levels of crime; trafficking in human beings is the most widespread crime globally; state officials are the most frequent in actions to facilitate illicit economies and in hampering resilience to organized crime. These are the ones who, the report said quickly, “hold over the state authorities, the dominant brokers of organized crime, not cartel leaders or mafia bosses, as one might suppose.”
Fight against corruption
Organized crime is one of the main priorities of the Portuguese government, in terms of prevention and investigation. The Global Organized Crime Index states that “the majority of cases of corruption related to organized crime are sporadic”, noting that “the only evidence of systemic corruption was an example of fraud and money laundering in 2014, which involved senior officials of the State, including the prime minister at the time “(José Sócrates and Operation Marquis). However, it is stressed that the “mechanisms in place in Portugal to end state corruption are included”. In addition, it is edited, “a public perception of corruption, distrusts public officials and the police”. At the international level, Portugal has ratified all international legal instruments relevant to organized crime and “has been complying with most of the common measures by these internationals”. However, “a single violation related to the implementation of international instruments in Portugal seems to be associated with the issue of corruption”.
justice and security
The points out that Portugal has a specific department in the judicial system to investigate violent and organized crime (Polícia Judiciária), but “its effectiveness report has been analyzed in the last two years, due to the small number of investigated cases”. In addition, he notes, “cases related to trafficking in human beings are under the jurisdiction of another police agency (SEF), which is also responsible for investigating crimes that aid illegal immigration” – however the SEF was terminated and these powers passed to a PJ. The document says that “although it is difficult to assess public confidence in law enforcement, several media outlets have successful investigations and detections related to organized crime.” “With its extensive coastline, geographical location and historical ties to South America, Portugal is especially vulnerable to transnational organized crime”, with the gold visa system having been “identified as a potential threat to the country’s territorial integrity “
Private security in the crosshairs of organized crime
The Global Organized Crime Index states that “Portugal has several provisions to prevent activities related to financial economic crime” but legislative regulatory frameworks are not always respected. “It is earlier than” some sectors of the economy also seem to be under the influence of groups of organized crime, particularly the private security market and the agricultural sector. “There are also several entities responsible for investigating offenses associated with money laundering, but there have been reported cases” that involved not only criminal agents but also senior officers state officials”.
criminal markets in Portugal
trafficking in human beings
According to the Global Index, “Portugal is a country of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking, which is one of the two largest criminal markets in the country”. Spain is the most common destination for people trafficked from Portugal. Some reports, this study also points out, indicate that Portugal has also become part of a route of criminal networks in sub-Saharan Africa. Labor exploitation is the most common form of identification by authorities. However, there have been incidents of trafficking for sexual purposes, exploitation and forced begging.
The Index states that as networks of illegal immigration or “migrant smuggling” they have Portugal as their origin, passage and destination.
Agriculture and hotels are the most common sectors that employ irregular migrants and this smuggling involves criminal networks with links to companies. “There have also been cases where human smuggling involved the participation of state actors, including the border police, but these are the exception rather than the norm,” the report said.
“Portugal is a transit country for the trafficking of firearms to Africa”, points out the Global Index. Furthermore, “the conversion of firearms is a popular mechanism for acquiring illicit weapons in the country and its importation into Portugal is increasing”. The dark web is used to make illegal circular weapons, especially ones that are already on the black market. The dark web is also used to divert weapons that are legally held. The report says that “the participation of state officials in the arms trafficking market is quite common, along with mafia groups.”
Portugal is a transit and destination country for cocaine trafficking, with most of the seized cocaine originating in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is distributed internally or trafficked to other European countries. There are state officials and mafia groups represented. Authorities have expressed concern about the increased use of the dark web for this trade. With regard to cannabis, Portugal is considered a “country of origin”, with the countries of Europe, Brazil and Guinea-Bissau as the main destinations. It is noted that “although domestic production appears to continue, despite the covid-19 pandemic, there has been a decrease in availability and an increase in price”.
In synthetic drugs, “Portugal is a key transit and destination country,” the report said. MDMA / ecstasy is considered the second most used drug in Portugal. Drugs are usually trafficked into the country from the Netherlands, followed by Spain, Belgium and France. There are mob groups involved in the internal distribution of methamphetamines.
As far as heroin is concerned, our country is both a transit and a destination country, with the Portuguese authorities verifying that “trafficking has been gaining traction”. Most of the heroin seized in Portugal comes from Spain and Mozambique and is then sold internally or trafficked to Europe. Most of the seized heroin was transported overland.
Inaction and Gold Visas
As networks operating in Portugal, they are often allied with foreign networks, which are responsible for the production and transport of drugs, or for the recruitment and transport of human trafficking deaths, to Portugal. According to this study, “there are several foreign criminal groups in Portugal that are involved in robberies, general violence and homicides”. The cases where there are links to state actors “relate to situations where government officials facilitate crimes by their inaction”. The Global Index highlights that “most notable is the use of the gold visa scheme, which offers a gateway for corrupt, solicitous and businesses to enter Europe, and allows for money laundering and tax evasion.”
It underlines that although organized crime is not considered an “important issue in Portugal”, there were, however, “some specific types of organized mafia groups identified as operating in the domestic market” such as the Hells Angels (detained and on trial ) and Los Bandidos (no longer existing), who “were in conflict with each other over territorial disputes”. These groups are involved in murder, extortion, theft, drug trafficking and illegal possession and trafficking of arms and ammunition.