What exactly makes an organization worthy of the title “criminal organization”?

For instance, say, at some particular bank, it is discovered that several high-ranking officials were involved in an embezzlement scheme. Over the course of three years, these individuals pocketed money intended for company use.

Does this make the bank a criminal organization? If not, then what would?

Also this scenario is happening in America.


"Criminal organization" is an informal term with no legal significance. It is, however, often used to refer to something specifically addressed by [18 USC 96], the RICO statutes. The definitions section refers to "racketeering activity", "pattern of racketeering activity", and "enterprise". The first term which starts by enumerating murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical, and moving on to pretty much every crime there is. "Pattern of racketeering activity" is committing two or more crimes. An "enterprise"

includes any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity

18 USC 1962(c), for example, says

It shall be unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.

The italicized part refers obliquely to the Commerce Clause, and similar expressions are commonly used to give the federal government the authority to outlaw or restrict certain activities, if they have something to do with business. The bold parts draw in what are commonly considered to be "a criminal organization", that is, an "enterprise", which has a "pattern of racketeering behavior".

Theoretically, the above scenario might fall within the ambit of RICO. There is a manual for RICO prosecution, which gives massive amounts of detail. I think the main issue in deciding whether to pursue a given organization is whether the organization seems to be by nature corrupt, as opposed to having some high-ranking corrupt people. There may be other reasons for not prosecuting under RICO.


Technically, the name for what you describe is the common law offence of conspiracy to do another crime. In NSW the Supreme Court has the power under Section 1 of the CRIMES ACT 1900 to deal with these summarily.

A criminal organisation is an organisation prescribed under the CRIMES (CRIMINAL ORGANISATIONS CONTROL) ACT 2012. These are organised criminal syndicates like the Mafia or Motorcycle Clubs that have been declared by a court to be a criminal organisation which allows the courts and police to take action against its members even if those members have committed no offence individually.

  • Thank you for your response, but I’m afraid I need an American perspective on this. I should’ve specified that in the post, my apologies. – Thomas Carter Aug 17 '16 at 4:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.