COVID-19 is reshaping and challenging governments, social order and the world economy in previously unimaginable ways–including changes to the illegal flow of goods and services. Livelihoods are shrinking or disappearing altogether, and mafias, gangsters and profiteers are adapting to find
new routes for illegal commodities, from counterfeit drugs to trafficked wildlife and people.
Shortages, lockdowns and citizen responses have brought the underworld and upperworld into greater convergence, as criminals strive to meet needs, maximize opportunities and fill governance vacuums. Unscrupulous fraudsters are touting fake remedies to desperate people: counterfeit drugs and illicit
wildlife used in traditional medicine. Social distancing and lockdowns have seen online financial transactions and cyber-communication and -operations replacing or supplementing physical shipments and interactions, again affording new opportunities for fraudsters and cyber-criminals. Heavy-handed
state responses have also, quite literally, created new illicit markets by prohibiting the sale of particular goods and services, while some elites have capitalized on the pandemic for personal or political gain.
The pandemic has cast a long shadow over the rule of law. Criminal Contagion uncovers its impacts on the global illicit economy, and unpacks the long-term implications of these extraordinary developments.