Wed May 17th, 2006 at 11:55:48 AM EST
This is directed to european lawyers among the readership of this site, but americans may also find it of interest.
As a layman - IANAL - i've always found the concept of a "criminal organization" interesting. Many, if not all european laws, have clauses pertaining organized criminality, making the participation in such "criminal organizations" punishable, but when one looks at what some highly honorable organizations do one has to wonder how they manage to evade being tagged "criminal".
The concept of a "criminal organization" is intuitive, and insofar as I understand Austrian law, it defines as criminal organizations which routinely and customarily transgress laws in order to make gains. A drug-selling gang clearly falls within that definition, and prostitution and kiddy-porn rings also make it. These would be two examples of the more disgusting kind.
But lets look at another kind of organization: corporations. Lets take as an example of what I mean the german REWE group (http://www.rewe-group.com), americans may want to look at Wal-Mart (http://www.walmart.com). REWE owns a significant part of retail shops in Austria (Billa, Spar, Penny, ...) and in other parts of Europe. They make neat gains year after year. That in itself would be OK, but in order to make their profits they treat their employees like shit. As a part of their day-to-day business practices, they not only routinely transgress on labor laws in many ways, but they bilk their employees, who work for hunger wages, out of millions of euros. In order to do this they fals thatify, sorry, "correct" working hour records so that over-hours are never shown, they routinely fire people who become sick, who take vacations, who would have the right to maternity protection under the law, they routinely "forget" to pay overhours if these are recorded, they extort employees into working 12 and 16-hour days for weeks (w/o just compensation, of course) should these want to keep their job.
So, how is REWE (or Wal-Mart) different from the people who sell drugs or who make kiddy-porn films ? REWE routinely and as part of every-day business operations subverts and transgresses against standing laws and do real damage to real people. A significant part of their earnings comes from their customary transgression of laboral laws, from bilking their employees out of substantial amounts of compensations and benefits they should otherwise receive under standing laws, just as a significant of the earnings of any drug-running gang comes out of them breaking laws against selling drugs ...
Is the difference that these (and other) corporations invest some of their gains in lawyers and PR people ?
Does the difference stem from the fact that part of their business is legit ?
Second question to the lawyers: how does one go about having an organization declared criminal if one is neither a lawyer nor part of the judicial system ?Is there any example ?
Update [2006-5-19 9:53:2 by name]:
I am not talking here about "not being nice". I am talking about corporations clearly breaking the laws of the land, be that land called france, spain, austria or the US or whatever. "not being nice" would IMO fall under harassment or mobbing, in some jurisdictions punishable with prison terms.
what i am talking about here is: if the law says "the minimum wage is $n per hour" and corporation X pays their people less than $n per hour, that IMO is a clear violation of laws. if the law says "pregnant women shall not be dismissed" then pushing pregnant women out is IMO a clear violation of laws. in both both cases laws are being broken for profit. in both cases these corporations get away with it.
second clarification is about my question. what i want to know is what is the criteria in various jurisdictions - mainly european - to declare that an organization is a criminal organization (and since we are at it, why are not organizations like ENRON prosecuted under RICO ?) and treat it accordingly:
- must an organization, corporation, whatever, derive "some" of its income from fraud, extorsion or any other violations of the law in order to be treated as a criminal organization ?
- or must this corporation "customarily" violate laws, even minor ones, in order to make profit, so that it is seen as a criminal organization ?
- or must this corporation derive "at least so and so much percent" of its income from law transgressions ?
- or must a corporation derive "most" of its income from law transgressions ?
- or is there any other criterion or set of criteria used in order for "iustitia" to acquiesce to the fact that this organization is criminal ?
for the sake of argument i bring in another, added, question: the mircosoft vs. EU case: AFAIK M$ violated laws and did so continuously and knowingly and calculated the profits derived from those transgressions into their business so that they ultimately rested their business model on continued violations of the law. why is the EU then "in talks" with M$ instead of giving them the obvious treatment they deserve, namely to throw the top 2-3 echelons of management and all their lawyers into the slammer ?