White-collar crime refers to illegal financial activities, defined as fraud by the laws of different countries. It received its name “white collar crime” by analogy with white-collar office workers, as opposed to blue-collar manual workers. It does not usually include the fraud practiced against individuals, even if it is often of a financial nature, but rather crimes committed in favor of a job in an organization (association, company, party, trade union, etc.), often to the detriment of the latter.
This crime can develop different scales:
- in the major international capital flows, these illegal financial activities are often carried out with the assistance of financial havens (often confused with tax havens, some of them can be both one and the other). The fight against financial crime is often limited by national justice systems that do not have sufficient legal tools adapted to face international large-scale phenomena.
These limits are amplified by the interests of major powers, such as the G8, whose sophisticated and capital-intensive economies are engaged in a fierce competition;
- at the level of enterprises, social organizations, various organizations, such as NGOs, associations, local authorities, it is often the criminal networks that operate to protect and promote economic, political or social interests. Correspondingly, there is generally a personal enrichment;
- to more modest levels, this crime may involve simple diversion of funds to a person or group of people.
In the United States, research on white-collar crime was launched in 1945 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland.
But as it was pointed by economist Steven Levitt, “we know only very few details of the crime (…) because there is a lack of data” and he adds: “Most of the authors of embezzlement theoretically lead a happy peaceful existence; employees who have their hands in the pockets of the company are rarely confused. “
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