The whole world is the playground of today's criminal masterminds. The worst thieves and thugs have found the dark side of globalization, exploiting the same technologies that make the Earth seem small and ripe for legitimate international commerce and trade. They have unleashed an unprecedented crime wave that is truly borderless.
Less hierarchical, and operating as elusive networks, today's criminal gangs are able to nimbly take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. They hack, steal, smuggle, launder and kill on a global scale, working with different partners and evading various law enforcement units and agencies. The most troubling convergence: the merging of international criminal activity with violent terrorism.
The world's 10 most wanted fugitives
No surprise then that Osama Bin Laden tops Forbes.com's first-ever list of the world's 10 most wanted fugitives. The most wanted man in the world is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, perhaps in the Waziristan region. US President George W Bush has said Bin Laden is wanted dead or alive. But for six years, Bin Laden has been able to evade the largest manhunt in international history by sticking to the unruly tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Most wanted on the run
Others on the list may not be as familiar. Among them: Joaquin Guzman. Mexico's most powerful drug trafficker, Guzman has taken over the narcotics racket once dominated by Colombians like Pablo Escobar. Guzman, known as el Chapo, or shorty, heads the Sinaloa Cartel, specialising in importing cocaine from Colombia, and smuggling it into the US, often through elaborate tunnels. Ruthless and determined, Guzman has lorded over a bloody power struggle in Mexico over transport corridors to the US that have left thousands dead.
Others on the list include Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, the face of the modern Russian mob; Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, India's most wanted man, who heads D-Company, an organised crime group based in Mumbai; Felicien Kabuga, arguably the driving force behind the Rwanda genocides; and Matteo Messina Denaro, the Italian mafia's playboy, with a taste for Porches and Rolex watches.
Various law enforcement agencies have their own most wanted lists that usually focus on crimes that took place in their local or national jurisdictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list, created in 1950, is the most famous of its kind. But given the current state of globalized crime, an international most wanted list makes more sense now than ever.
Forbes.com consulted with law enforcement agencies in the US and around the world to identify these 10. With the exception of Osama Bin Laden, there is little consensus over who should be included on a list that is ultimately subjective in nature. But we tried to come up with basic ground rules.
Everyone on the list has been criminally indicted or charged, some in national jurisdictions and some by international tribunals. They all are accused of a long history of committing serious crimes and are considered a dangerous menace to the world. Each of the members on the list also represent a type of criminal problem that legal institutions are grappling with in diverse jurisdictions.
"What they all have in common is that whether their crimes have occurred principally at the national or international level, their crimes have been so significant that they should be pursued globally," said Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble after taking a look at the Forbes.com list. "With regard to the world's most wanted criminals, it is always easy to see the tremendous local impact that their crimes have had."
Indeed, most of the Forbes.com top 10 most wanted fugitives in the world have been criminally indicted in US courts and are wanted by the US government, which has expended serious resources investigating and chasing them. Forbes will periodically review the list to determine whether a replacement is warranted and will scratch off those fugitives who are put out of action.