Top 10 Underground Activities across the World

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The term “underground activity” simply refers to an activity that is hidden or away from the scrutiny of law and government. Underground activities may be economic ones in relation with the jobs, services, business transactions that are carried out to avoid taxation. On the other hand, underground activities may also be politically oriented, aiming to overthrow government or bring changes through illegal means.  Another set of underground activities is the social underground activities that are going on in aversion to the socially and legally accepted civil norms in the world. The underground economic activities are often referred to as black market activities in layman’s terms. When man faces agents of government which appear unjust to him, he might weigh the illegal alternatives available to him and may opt for them. This process of hiding away from agencies to operate illegally is called the process of going underground. The underground activities vary from country to country around the world as different countries have different laws and different sets of illegal and legal activities. Still if we talk of most prevalent underground activities of the world, the following shall be the part of top 10 underground activities’ list:

10. Secret societies and Insurgent groups:

secret societies

Secret society is a club or a social organization that conceals its activities, motives, functioning and ceremonies from the non members. These societies may or may not make their public presence felt and often involve transmission of secret knowledge and perform secret rituals. These societies may have political aim or even revolutionary aims. These societies are mostly illegalized. Societies may also be established at collegiate level, just like the famous Skulls and Bones secret society at Yale University. Insurgent groups are also underground groups and they aim at overthrowing the present political order as it appears unjust to them. Insurgent groups of India, like Naxalites or Maoists operate underground, though they do make their presence felt from time to time, to generate terror in political agencies.

Also See: Top 10 Unknown Secret Underground Societies 

9. Trade of currency in black market:

trade of currency

Currency is something which is often illegally traded in world black market on account of some reasons. These reasons may be setting fixed exchange rate by government, illegalizing possession of foreign currency by citizens, taxation on foreign exchange imposed by the government, or counterfeit currency. In this kind of illegal foreign exchange, individuals who possess the harder currency buy local currency in black market at much more lucrative and high rates compared to the rates officially offered. The US dollar is considered the most stable and safe currency, and about 37 percent of total dollar reserves are currently being circulated in the world. For flexible currencies, it may fall victim to speculation and loss.

8. Bootlegging:


Bootlegging refers to the illegal production and sale of alcoholic drinks. This underground activity is prevalent in almost all parts of the world. Alcohol is unlawfully made and transported without taxation and without licenses. Even after prohibition United States has seen notorious and organized bootlegging. Same is the case with most countries where free production and distribution of alcohol is prohibited. Bootlegged alcohol causes many deaths each year as it does not have to meet any quality standards. The illegal alcohol trade is a murky underworld activity which has serious repercussions of violence, punishment sickness and death. The centers where it is most prevalent are Sweden, Sharjah, Peshawar, San Francisco, Gujarat and Bethel.

7. Human Trafficking:

human trafficking

Human trafficking refers to transportation, harboring and receipt of humans for varying purposes like slavery, bonded labor and prostitution. Most victims of human trafficking enter the market once being lured work promises by individuals or organizations. On the other hand, children are sold for slavery by their parents for money. Estimates say that 27 million people are involved in slavery worldwide and 800,000 of them are trafficked across borders. Trafficking in persons is cited as the second most lucrative crime globally next to the drug trade. Also 30% of trafficking victims are aged below 18. Human trafficking occurs across the world and especially in United States in New York, California, Florida and Texas. High demands for trafficked victims and low rates of prosecution boost human trafficking from poor countries of Asia and Eastern Europe to developed countries like USA and Western European nations.

6. Arms Trafficking:

Armed to the Teeth

Arms Trafficking, also called as gunrunning is an illegal activity that involves smuggling of arms and ammunition against national and international laws. These include explosives, small arms ( like revolver, pistol, rifles and light machine guns) and light weapons (like heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft missile systems, rocilless rifles etc). Arm trafficking is more prevalent in regions of political turmoil; around 63 million guns have been estimated to be trafficked into India and Pakistan. Some examples from past and current gunrunning scenario include Mexico, Larne, El Salvador and Iran-contra affair. An estimated value of the global arms market is around $60 billion per year with illicit small arms market standing at 10-20% of the total global arms trade.

5. Corruption:


Corruption, literally and morally meaning deviation from the ideal is a broad term generally concerned with misuse of funds and authority for private or personal gain. Corruption is an underground activity as it is unlawful and exists in hidden form. Corruption exists everywhere, in all the countries, though the levels vary. The United Nations uses the corruption perception index, an index used to rank countries on the basis of their perceived levels of corruptions. Various scams and scandals unveiled in different parts of the world are a result of this prevalent menace of corruption. According to the recent UN rankings, Denmark, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland and Sweden are the least corrupt nations of the world. Among the most corrupt nations are Sudan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and of course Somalia leading the list.

4. Prostitution:


Prostitution is a practice of getting involved in sex with customers in return of money. The prostitution law varies from country to country with prostitution being legal in some parts of the globe and recognized as a profession ( US, Germany, Austria, Greece), while regarded as crime punishable by death in others (like Kenya, Nigeria, UAE). In remaining places prostitution itself is legal but related activities like soliciting in public, operating a brothel, and procuring or pimping are illegal, like India. There are problems of sex trafficking, sex tourism, child trafficking and abuse associated with prostitution in various parts of the world.  In 2000, twenty four countries had criminalized child sex tourism, e.g. in Australia. In areas where prostitution and the surrounding activities are illegal, prostitutes are charged with crimes that range from loitering to tax evasion.

3. Illegal drug trade:

illegal drugs trade

The illegal trade in banned drugs is a global black market involving cultivation, production, distribution as well as sale of drugs, against the drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions globally prohibit trade of such drugs except under licenses. A UN report said that the global drug trade accounted for an estimated amount of US$321.6 billion in the year 2003 that is around 1% of total global trade. Consumption of illegal drugs is also a widespread social problem around the globe. In many countries long periods of incarceration, flogging and death penalty are forms of punishment for smuggling drugs. It is in fact regarded the most serious offence around the world. In a lot of parts worldwide, illegal drug trade is directly linked with violent crimes like murder. In late 1990s FBI, US estimated that around 5% of murders in the country were drug-related. This trading fetches large profits that lure people to undertake it. In 2007 the estimated illicit drug market in UK stood at £4–6.6 billion per year.

2. Gambling:


Gambling refers to wagering money or material things, called stakes on an event that has an uncertain outcome with the intent of winning additional amount of money and goods. Gambling is a major global commercial activity. The legal gambling market totals to an estimated value of $335 billion, as per stats of 2009. In other forms, gambling may be conducted with material things having value but are no real money. Various gambling games include table games, poker games, bingo among the casino ones and pool, lottery, scratch card games like Mahjong, card games, coin tossing games among the non casino ones. One major part of gambling has been betting on team sports like football pools in UK, horse racing, NCAA basketball tournaments etc. Illegal betting in other sports like cricket is very profitable and lucrative but has hard repercussions

1. Terrorism:


Terrorism is an underground politically oriented activity that systematically uses terror as a means of coercion. However, in the international community terrorism has no criminal law definition. It commonly refers to those violent acts which are carried out to create fear and are perpetrated for some religious, political, or even ideological goal. The perpetrators of terrorism could be individuals, groups of individuals, or even states. A state can sponsor terrorists and fund or harbor them and their terrorist organization. There is a list of recognized terrorist organizations by national governments of the world and inter-governmental organizations. The significant global terrorist groups in this list are Al-qaeda, Lashkar-e-taiba, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, LTTE, Islamic Jihad Union and Taliban.



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