McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld
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McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld

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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,422 ratings  ·  184 reviews
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the deregulation of international financial markets in 1989, governments and entrepreneurs alike became intoxicated by forecasts of limitless expansion into newly open markets. No one would foresee that the greatest success story to arise from these events would be the globalization of organized crime....more
Hardcover, First Edition, 398 pages
Published April 8th 2008 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published 2008)
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Edward
Things I learned from reading this book:
Illegal trade accounts for 20% of global GDP.
If you want a hit done right and cheaply, hire the Serbs.
The fall of communism is the single most important event accounting for the rise of global criminal syndicates.
There are a lot of brothels in Tel Aviv.
Bollywood and the Indian mafia go hand in hand.
Park and wash your money in Dubai.
Nigerian email scams are the real deal (they actually do originate in Nigeria).
A lot of pot comes from Vancouver BC.
People who...more
Whitaker
Misha Glenny is a journalist. That tells you what you need to know about the approach that he takes to the topic of globalised organised crime in this book. It's large reportorial, with minimal analysis and no overriding thesis. Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view. The advantage of this approach is that it delivers a punchy narrative; the disadvantage is that the subject remains an unwieldy morass. (♪ (view spoiler)...more
Matthew
I'm generally sceptical of books that purport to change one's view of the world, but when one of them does come along, its a welcome surprise. McMafia ranks one of the two best books I've read so far this year -- the other being Alan Weisman's The World Without Us -- in the very personal terms of having expanded my understanding of how the world works and the consequences of actions and events.

Glenny was the Guardian's and BBC's Central Europe correspondent. Realising how intertwined their ecno...more
Ericka
In my International Studies senior seminar we had to pick a book that dealt with globalization/globalism and present a project on it. Naturally, most people thought to pick the obvious such as The World is Flat. After a quick Amazon search this book popped up and I figured it had to be good because Glenny has always done an excellent job of writing about the Balkans (my love). He did not let me down!

McMafia reviews different aspects of organized crime and how it is spreading. He begins with the...more
Tim Pendry
I was initially wary of this account of contemporary organised crime. Misha Glenny's 'Fall of Yugoslavia' had frustrated me as good narrative but weak analysis. I need not have been so concerned.

Yes, Glenny still does not quite 'get' that he is being fed a line sometimes by people who have an interest in extending their own power. And, yes, he still trots out liberal-imperial cliches in the short epilogue. However, the vast bulk of the book rises above the ‘given’ ideology.

It provides an excel...more
Will James
A very accessible, yet at times needlessly journalistic, look at organised crime since the dawn of globalisation in the 1980s and 1990s. From an IR perspective, it really drives home how important the role this 'shadow economy' plays in global finance and economics, and the pernicious and overwhelming influence organised crime plays in the international economy. Glenny does a great job of reminding the reader that organised crime is not simply a criminal justice issue, but a phenomenon that shou...more
Emily
Sep 01, 2009 Emily added it
saw an interview with the author on Charlie Rose - looks facinating!
http://www.charlierose.com/shows/2008...

And I just watched American Gangster over the weekend!

*****

Well this one has finally arrived from the library and I'm not sure I'm going to make it through before it has to go back. Its interesting reading but very dense and a bit depressing - an unrelenting parade of human greed, cruelty and avarice.

However, it is really interesting in its connections to international politics. Its also f...more
Kotinka
McMafia is certainly an apt title for this book; written in an easy-to-consume style, this book munches it's way through global organised crime networks at such a high pace you'll be suffering from indigestion before you've reached the fiftieth page.

Glenny does succeed, as I had hoped before opening the book, in illuminating some of the fascinating, charasmatic and plain scary people behind the world's extraordinary shadow economy. And yet, frustratingly, the book never quite manages to settle...more
Nicholas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J Higgins
Coupled with the collapse of the USSR, criminal enterprise has become a global issue. Criminal enterprise is what propped up the USSR at the tale end of communism. When the iron curtain fell, many entrepreneurial types people who had made tons of cash by using communism to buy raw materials cheaply and then selling them at market price (sometimes at a 500-1000% markup) expanding their enterprises around the globe. And that's just the first two chapters.

The book touches on many different types o...more
Garrett Burnett
I don't know how he got access to all these thugs and mobsters, but Misha Glenny bravely gathered fascinating facts and stories on the world of organized crime and lived to write about it. McMafia looks primarily at the economics driving the black market. Glenny discusses protection rackets in Eastern Europe, prostitution and money laundering in Dubai, and marijuana trafficking in British Columbia. Glenny starts his examination with the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union (a vo...more
Jamie
This book grabbed me from the beginning due to my obsession with all things Eastern European. I learned of a "country" that doesn't really exist (Transnistria, a breakaway of Moldova) Lots about how criminals that you think don't like each other actually use those "hatreds" as excuses to work together (Serbs and Croats and Bosnians, anyone?)

Also, how war on drugs actually keeps organized crime flowing. If it were legal, nearly 60% of organized crime's income would be taken away. Yet another reas...more
Brian
Kind of depressing look at the rise of the organized crime across the planet. Turns out "free trade" and "globalization" were the best things to happen to the world's mafias since the fall of Communism.

Also, did you know that Americans are bad? Well, they are. Just accept it. This author seems to think that no one else on the planet has to take responsibility for anything except Americans.

Sigh.
Paul Pessolano
This book is about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of Globalization, and how these two factors brought about a criminal underworld that puts the Mafia to shame.

I don't want to discourage anyone from reading this book, but I must say in all honesty, it is a very difficult book to read. The content is excellent, however, the author provides WTMI (way too much information). This is very evident in the first quarter of the book and once you get past that it becomes a little easier to r...more
Earl Grey Tea
Despite the title being a bit of a turn off for me, this book did contain a lot of information about the world of organized crime. Seeing that my upbringing consisted of a life in a Midwestern suburb, I've never really been exposed directly to any these situations. Or at least, I don't think I have; I am not the most observant person.

Misha Glenny starts his book with one of the biggest events in modern history that lead to the rapid expansion of organized crime: the fall of the Soviet Union. Eac...more
Kai
Un lottatore bulgaro con catene d’oro al collo taurino e occhiali da sole, dal passato remoto di agente dei servizi segreti, dal passato prossimo di imprenditore di successo e massone, e dal presente in una cassa da morto; un misterioso omicidio di una geofisica nella placida cittadina di Woking nel Surrey; una sequela di personaggi che si muovono tra India, Nigeria, Balcani, Stati Uniti, India, Giappone, Italia, Colombia, Canada e la “fantomatica” Transnistria cancellando la nitidezza dei confi...more
James Perkins
An impressive tour-de-force through the major organised crime syndicates around the world. The "Mc" of the title has nothing to do with McDonald's, as you may think; it's a wry comment on how organised crime is so pervasive in the world today, it's almost like the world's biggest fast food franchise, reaching into almost every country and affecting everybody's lives. An eye-opener for me was how even ordinary people like you and me are touched by the lives of gangsters - for example, a conductin...more
Alan
This is an eye-opening and shocking look at the burgeoning business of international crime. Glenny is an expert travel guide to some of the murkiest and most sinister corners of the world and he fills his account with colorful episodes and anecdotes. Even more valuable, he does a masterful job of explaining the political background and errors that enabled these international criminals to flourish.
Glenny is strongest when discussing the Balkans (his area of expertise) and the former Soviet Union...more
Ben
Glenny makes a fascinating case for how a series of events after the fall of communism, led to global gangsterism. Great fodder here for characters, syndicates, types of crimes, law enforcement, investigative journalism, cover-ups, political maneuvering/manipulation, hits/assassinations, stings, etc. Read about how the state of Macedonia survived in large part due to their explicit involvement in cigarette smuggling. Rogue nations looking for military and weapons technology weren't the only ones...more
Boris

Ever wondered how the world really operates? How we, as consumers, support organised crime all over the world? How without organised crime some countries just simply wouldn't function?
This book has been very well researched. It brings to life the world of organised crime that we rarely hear about. The Croats and Serbs may have been at war with each other but their crime gangs were in cahoots and making fortunes.
The fall of Communism was the mother of all gifts for crime gangs in Bulgaria. And th...more
Alistair
Nov 02, 2008 Alistair rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Peter Mandelson and George Osbourne
a silly title which i think refers to the global reach of criminal activity today ie Mcdonalds for people who wack each other , the book is a riveting trip through worldwide crime from gangster capitalism in Russia , cigarette smuggling in Montenegro ,VAT fraud in the EU , money laundering in Tel Aviv mostly for the jewish russian oligarchs, arms sales in exchange for diamonds in Africa , to the more familiar territory of cocaine production in Columbia and drug smuggling in Mexico .
a common feat...more
Paul
I can not overestimate the value of this book.

I'm not sure how I stumbled across Glenny. I later saw him on TED.com. A journalist who is the son of journalists who reported on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Glenny knows the language. He knows the culture. He gives a detailed account of the rise of organised crime in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. I could suddenly make so much better sense of events happening around me including within Cyprus [where I live] itself. [a m...more
Randy
Good overview of what's going on in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, Japan, China... While reading this book, especially the parts about the former Soviet Union, I kept thinking that it's also probably a good look ahead of what it'll be like in the US post-collapse in a couple of years. This review from the UK Guardian is what sold me:

A photograph in this book shows three men in swimming costumes at some
resort. They are all capaciously built - two of them have pron...more
J
Un lottatore bulgaro con catene d’oro al collo taurino e occhiali da sole, dal passato remoto di agente dei servizi segreti, dal passato prossimo di imprenditore di successo e massone, e dal presente in una cassa da morto; un misterioso omicidio di una geofisica nella placida cittadina di Woking nel Surrey; una sequela di personaggi che si muovono tra India, Nigeria, Balcani, Stati Uniti, India, Giappone, Italia, Colombia, Canada e la “fantomatica” Transnistria cancellando la nitidezza dei confi...more
Chrissy
An extremely fascinating read that suffers the tragic, ironic fate of containing too much information. The first third of the book, devoted to the Balkans (on which the author is an expert), is particularly dense with unfamiliar names, locations, and acronyms, though a general overestimation of the reader's prior knowledge infects the entire book and renders it less accessible than it could otherwise have been.
Perhaps as someone who has never studied history and who has limited knowledge of much...more
Bryan Alexander
A fascinating survey of recent international crime. Misha Glenny visits a variety of nations, from Japan to Canada, Serbia to Nigeria, Israel to China, exploring how new criminal organizations have emerged and prospered. The end of the Cold War opened borders, and crime natually seized the many resulting opportunities. The Russian mafiya are but one example of ambitious, global crooks.

McMafia is very accessible, structured and styled as a travelogue. We ride along with Glenny as he visits warlor...more
Natalie Keating
This book is EXCELLENT if you're interested in the nasty, nitty-gritty aspects of the criminal underworld –an underworld, that, shockingly enough, affects us regular people more than you realize. Misha Glenny traces the rise of global crime, which is connected with globalization, in diverse places such as Russia and other post-Soviet countries, the Balkans, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, China, and Nigeria, to name a few. He focuses on all aspects of crime: drug trafficking, human trafficking, money l...more
Amar Pai
Despite the stupid title, this is actually quite an exhaustive/meticulously reported account of transnational crime and the "Global Shadow Economy." The book is a bit overwhelming and feels somewhat unfocused, but there's a wealth of detail herein. Among other things, Glenny devotes chapters to:

South African "Numbers" gang
Brasilian prison gangs
Yakuza
Snakeheads & Triads
Colombian coke trafficking cartels of the 80's
Human trafficking out of the Balkans
Russian & 'native' organized crime in I...more
D.T.
I had read this book awhile ago and have started reading it again for research related to a new project.
This book is phenomenal, in my opinion. It traces organized crime operations around the world, starting with the Balkans and moving through Asia, Africa, North and South America. Although each chapter is another region, Misha Glenny does an excellent job of showing how each region is connected and interdependent. Not only that, he describes the 'grey areas' of organized crime, giving a little...more
Russell
I heard this guy on NPR and he described all these nefarious characters he had met while being a BBC reporter. His thesis on the NPR show was that organized crime has globalized with the rest of the world economy and is that much more nimble and frightening.

The book was another story though. It's written in this frenetic and casual way that is constantly interspersed with heavy handed editorializing. Instead of telling a bunch of entertaining true crime stories he details the connections between...more
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