Assessing the economic value of illicit markets in the EU

A pack of banknotes in hand with a face value of five hundred euros, photo by Evgeny Savchenko/Adobe Stock.

Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

Organised crime groups in the EU are becoming increasingly international in their reach, with more than 5,000 operating across borders in 2017 according to official Europol statistics. As the ‘dirty money’ generated from their criminal activity is laundered through legitimate businesses, these criminal groups present a risk to both the EU economy and its society.

How are we helping?

Addressing the infiltration of the economy by serious and organised crime is one of the EU’s top priorities in this area. To help policymakers understand the size of this issue and develop ways to effectively tackle it, RAND Europe researchers are analysing the economic value of illicit markets in the EU, alongside the factors which enable organised crime groups to access these criminal finances.

The study will focus on nine illicit markets:

  1. Illicit drug trafficking
  2. Illicit tobacco trafficking
  3. Firearms trafficking
  4. Trafficking in human beings
  5. Migrant smuggling
  6. Cybercrime
  7. Fraud
  8. Environmental crime
  9. Organised property crime

Sponsored by the European Commission Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs, this project aims to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the collective value of illicit markets in the EU and will help to serve as a baseline for future research into this issue.

The study will be carried out by RAND Europe researchers in partnership with EY, the Centre for the Study of Democracy, the Government Transparency Institute, and Optimity Advisors.

Related research

  • Filter cigarettes on a heap of loose tobacco, Photo by Maren Winter info@maren-winter.de/Adobe Stock

    Identifying an approach to measure the illicit market for tobacco

    13 Mar 2019

    Researchers are exploring how the illicit market for tobacco is currently measured, what data sources are available, and what additional data could improve the method. Their goal is to develop an independent methodology to measure the illicit market for tobacco.

  • Laptop and cursor with a gun icon pattern

    Dark web enables illegal arms trade in Europe

    20 Jul 2017

    The dark web is an enabler for the circulation of illegal weapons already on the black market, as well as a potential source of diversion for legally owned weapons. Although the arms trade is small in volume compared to other products trafficked online, its potential impact on international security is significant.

  • Cyber drug dealer

    Online Drugs Trade Growing but Still Dwarfed by Traditional Markets

    05 Aug 2016

    Illegal drug transactions on cryptomarkets have tripled since 2013, with revenues doubling. But at $12-21 (€10.5-18.5) million a month, this is clearly a niche market compared to the traditional offline market, estimated at $2.3 (€2) billion a month in Europe alone.