Over the last two decades, organised crime has dramatically increased its share of the world economy to as much as 20 percent.
Misha Glenny has spent the last three years investigating criminal networks in our newly globalised world.
In this four-part series for the World Service - How Crime Took On the World - he charts the explosion and growth of international crime.
Drug trafficking is the most lucrative illicit business in the world. In Programme One, Misha begins his journey in Canada, where the wholesale production of marijuana or BC Bud as it is known - is posing a profound challenge to the whole idea of the US-led 'War on Drugs'.
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In British Colombia alone, this illegal industry employs nearly twice as many people as the traditional sectors of logging, mining, oil and gas. A conservative estimate puts the number of residential properties in the province used as full-time growing operations for marijuana at some 20,000.
After cultivating contacts over many months, Misha meets members of marijuana crime syndicates in a small, rural community in British Colombia. These are people who make colossal profits smuggling hundreds of kilos of marijuana into the United States every year, where marijuana is sold for twice as much as it is in Canada.
This is a business with a high degree of serious scientific input not only must 'Steve', a marijuana exporter, neutralise the odour of the drug, he must also ensure a uniformity of density in the load travelling south so that US Customs x-ray machines do not pick up the 200lbs of cannabis stuffed into a hollowed out log.
While the activities of 'Steve' and his team are clearly against the law, there is an ambivalence to the marijuana trade in liberal, west coast Vancouver. For years Canadians have debated legalising marijuana.
It is a discussion that clearly irritates Canada's more powerful southern neighbour, the United States, where most politicians of whatever hue articulate a similar mantra on the 'War on Drugs'. But in Albany, New York, Misha meets District Attorney David Soares who is daring to challenge the mantra, and campaigning to change New York State's draconian drug laws.
First broadcast on April 28 2008