Women, Brokerage and Transnational Organized Crime. Empirical Results from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor


Kleemans, Edward R., Edwin W. Kruisbergen, and Ruud F. Kouwenberg. 2014. “Women, Brokerage and Transnational Organized Crime. Empirical Results from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor.” Trends in Organized Crime 17 (1-2): 16- 30.

Authors: Edward R. Kleemans, Edwin W. Kruisbergen, Ruud F. Kouwenberg


This paper analyzes the role of women in various types of transnational organized crime and tests the ‘gendered markets’ hypothesis by Zhang et al. (Criminology 45 (3):699-733 2007) for a wide cross-section of 150 cases from the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor. The main information sources for the Dutch Organized Crime Monitor are closed Dutch police investigations into criminal groups, often spanning a period of several years. Following four data sweeps, a wide cross-section of 150 cases was collected about various forms of organized crime (period 1994-2011): ‘traditional’ drug trafficking cases (cocaine, heroin, and cannabis), but also other—less frequently prioritized—phenomena such as synthetic drugs (production and export), human smuggling, human trafficking, and fraud and money laundering. The paper discusses several important theoretical perspectives from the organized crime literature: the gendered markets hypothesis; the social embeddedness of (transnational) organized crime: and the idea of brokerage. Furthermore, empirical data are presented on how often women play a (prominent) role in different types of criminal activities and which roles they play. These findings are related to the ‘gendered markets’ hypothesis and alternative explanations. Further qualitative analysis is presented on the transnational aspects which can be discerned in the studied cases: transnational marriage and transnational relationships; language and mediation; and migration and legal status. Finally, the main conclusions are discussed as well as their theoretical and empirical relevance.

Keywords: women, crime, organized crime, brokerage, social networks, theory



“In 102 cases, women were involved as suspects. Overall, we gained data on 247 women, their roles, and the context of the criminal groups and the criminal activities in which they were involved. This means that11% of all suspects (N= 2295) were female. Many of the criminal activities concerned various forms of ‘transit crime’: international smuggling activities, such as drug trafficking, smuggling illegal immigrants, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, arms trafficking, trafficking in stolen vehicles, and other transnational illegal activities, such as money laundering, fraud, and evasion of taxes (e.g. cigarette smuggling, oil fraud, and Value Added Tax fraud).” (8)

For human trafficking for sexual exploitation, 21% of the suspects were female. This is the largest percentage in the study. (9)

“Women are not absent and women play also other roles than victim roles, but still the picture of ‘men trafficking women’ prevails.” (11)

Topics: Corruption, Economies, Gender, Women, Sexual Violence, Female Perpetrators, Male Perpetrators, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking

Year: 2014

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