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Report of the Annual Conference in Münster
The 16th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology, entitled ‘Crime and Crime Control. Structures, Developments and Actors’, was held between 21-24 September 2016,. It was hosted by the Criminology Department in the Faculty of Law at Münster University. One thousand fifty participants attended the conference and created fruitful discussions throughout the 900 presentations. The plenary lectures were presented by Frieder Dünkel, Alexandra Jour-Schroeder, Klaus Boers, Alison Liebling, Thomas Feltes, Robert Sampson, Manuel Eisner, Wim Huisman, and Alette Smeulers. The award winners were Jan van Dijk (ESC European Criminology Award) and Johann Koehler (ESC Young Criminologist Award).
Münster is a cosy town with 300,000 inhabitants. However, you can feel the energy and the vibration of science because of the 50,000 students belonging to the eight Universities located in the city. Münster is the bicycle capital of Germany, which means that this is the general mode of transportation in the city. Münster’s past is also very attractive, since many important events of the European history occurred here, e.g., the Anabaptist rebellion during the Protestant Reformation or the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War in 1648.
The venues of the conference were located in a beautiful green area where one could have lunch on the bank of the river “Münstersche Aa”. It gave participants a good opportunity to have a little rest in the middle of the day and recharge themselves to continue the vivid discussion during the afternoon sessions.
Our/The farewell dinner was in the Restaurant ‘Uferlos’, which is situated on the bank of Münster’s Lake Aasee. The band, ‘Box in the Attic’, created a fantastic atmosphere and encouraged almost everybody to dance.
Because of limited space in the report and because it was impossible to listen all the lectures, I will discuss only some sessions in detail. Nevertheless, I hope that it will give a good example of the importance of ESC conferences and the active work during the meeting. Since I am a member of the European Working Group on Organisational Crime (EUROC), I mostly attended these panel session, which focused on.the following issues: the prevalence and risks of corruption; the innovative responses to global corruption; the prevention of corruption in Germany; illicit markets for economic crimes; causations of corporate and academic crime; money laundering; reporting and whistleblowing in white-collar crime cases; the effects of sanctioning white-collar crime; regulation of markets and professions; and the criminal justice responses to white-collar crime.
In his plenary lecture – which belonged to this area – Wim Huisman talked about the twofold approaches of white-collar and corporate crime, like its legal and non-legal characteristics, the offender-based or offence-based definitions, the question of focusing the individual leaning or the organisational structures and cultures, applying rational choice or deterministic explanations, as well as concentrate exogenous or endogenous factors. It implies conceptualising these crimes. He argued that we need to create an integrated approach to understanding financial and economic crimes. He emphasised that we have to pay attention both to the system and to individuals. He proposed three levels, namely the individual actions and capacities, the institutional and organisational conditions and the social and economic systems, at/through which we could examine the different factors which promoting white-collar crime.
In the Follow-Up Panel on Economic and Financial Crime, one of the discussants, Nicholas Lord, used the so-called ‘organisation’ of white-collar crimes to understand the phenomenon. He argued that we have to consider the ‘real’ factors that influence these crimes, such as capacities, social relations, social distribution of opportunities, and capital,. He drawn up five ‘real’ factors such as the ‘crime commission’ the ‘criminal cooperation’, the ‘crime capital’ the ‘crime capacities’ and the ‘crime conditions’. He arose the question why certain industries, sectors and/or organisations are more immune to white-collar crime.
Corruption has been a recent focus of both the scientific and the social and political discourse. Peter Stiernstedt used grounded theory to analyse corruption transactions and argued that corruption is an opportunity based crime. The motivation and opportunity is conditioned by rationalisation and neutralisation. Fabrizio Costantino draw the attention to the fact that corruption hinders private companies access to the market and growth. I dealt with the Hungarian public procurement system and concluded that competition in public procurement remains limited in Hungary, while unpredictable regulatory changes burden hamper private business and investments.
Giang Ly Isenring compared two types of anti-corruption initiatives, namely the structural interventions which have led to an overall improvement in public services and governance, because they undermine the roots of corruption, and the effectiveness of the deterrence-based measures. Nikos Passas emphasised the problem of the ineffective anti-corruption initiatives, which sometimes create opportunities for serious misconduct in both the private and public sectors.
As far as illicit markets for economic crimes are concerned, Katie Benson talked about the organisational structures of counterfeit alcohol distribution. She pointed out how the legitimate market provided opportunities for concealment and how this is abused by the criminal enterprises.
Kai Bussmann expounded resent research results on money laundering in the non-financial sector. The German Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) registered roughly 16,000 allegations per year, mostly coming from the financial sector. In contrast, the number of reported suspicious cases in the non-financial sector is only approximately 260 per year. These are cases where there is doubt concerning the identity of the customers or when the customers avoid signing a contract. However, according to the survey, the number of suspicious cases in the financial sector is around 28,000 per year and 15,000 in the non-financial sector per year.
Judith van Erp examined the different motives of whistleblowers and ‘bellringers’ for reporting a crime. ‘Bellringers’ are external witnesses who maintain a close relation with the offending organisation (e.g., suppliers, clients, and competitors). They have no legal obligation to report the case. Despite this fact, according to her research results, when such individuals do report illegal activity, their motivations are generally driven by problems with unfair competition, moral obligations, and the reputation of the business sector.
The newly-introduced Follow-Up Panels was a really great idea, because it provided enough time to have further discussion on a certain topic. In my opinion, similar follow-up panels should be organised in upcoming conferences.
We congratulate all the delegates for their excellent oral and poster presentations contributing to the high scientific quality of the meeting. Thanks are also due to the members of the Organising Committee for their efforts in making the meeting a success. We would also like to recognise the student helpers for their dedication and enthusiastic assistance during the conference.
Éva Inzelt is Assistant Professor at the Department of Criminology, ELTE University Budapest