The Organized Crime Index | ENACT
Year:
Read the report
Samoa
x

    Profile

    Samoa

    Capital

    Apia

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 843.84 million

    Income group

    Upper middle income

    Population

    220,000

    Area

    2,840 km²

    Geography type

    Island

    GINI Index

    38.7

    2.430.40

    Criminality score

    188th of 193 countries 1

    11th of 14 countries in Oceania1

    2nd of 3 countries in Polynesia0

    Criminal markets

    2.970.52

    An assessment of the value, prevalence and non-monetary impacts of a specific crime type.

    Human trafficking

    3.500.00

    Illicit activity involving coercion, deception, abduction or fraud for the purpose of exploitation, regardless of the victim’s consent.

    Human smuggling

    2.000.00

    Activities by an organized crime group involving the illegal entry, transit or residence of migrants for a financial or material benefit.

    Extortion & protection racketeering

    1.00 n/a

    Crimes linked to exerting control over a territory/market including as a mediator and/or requesting a benefit in exchange for protection.

    Arms trafficking

    3.000.00

    The sale, acquisition, movement, and diversion of arms, their parts and ammunition from legal to illegal commerce and/or across borders.

    Trade in counterfeit goods

    4.50 n/a

    The production, transport, storage and sale of goods that are fraudulently mislabeled or fraudulent imitations of registered brands.

    Illicit trade in excisable goods

    4.00 n/a

    The illicit transport, handling and sale of excise consumer goods despite a ban or outside a legal market. Excludes oil and counterfeits.

    Flora crimes

    1.500.00

    The illicit trade and possession of species covered by CITES convention, and other species protected under national law.

    Fauna crimes

    3.001.00

    The poaching, illicit trade in and possession of species covered by CITES and other species protected by national law. Includes IUU fishing.

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    2.000.00

    The illicit extraction, smuggling, mingling, bunkering or mining of natural resources and the illicit trade of such commodities.

    Heroin trade

    1.000.00

    The production, distribution and sale of heroin. Consumption of the drug is considered in determining the reach of the criminal market.

    Cocaine trade

    3.501.00

    The production, distribution and sale of cocaine and its derivatives. Consumption is considered in determining the reach of the market.

    Cannabis trade

    5.501.00

    The illicit cultivation, distribution and sale of cannabis oil, resin, herb or leaves. Consumption is used to determine the market's reach.

    Synthetic drug trade

    4.001.50

    The production, distribution and sale of synthetic drugs. Consumption is considered in determining the reach of the market.

    Cyber-dependent crimes

    2.50 n/a

    Organized crimes that rely solely on using information communications technology with the aim of obtaining a monetary/material benefit.

    Financial crimes

    3.50 n/a

    Organized crime that results in a monetary loss via financial fraud, embezzlement, misuse of funds, tax evasion and abusive tax avoidance.

    Criminal actors

    1.900.28

    An assessment of the impact and influence of a specific criminal actor type on society.

    Mafia-style groups

    1.000.00

    Clearly defined organized crime groups that usually have a known name, defined leadership, territorial control and identifiable membership.

    Criminal networks

    2.500.50

    Loose networks of criminal associates engaging in criminal activities who fail to meet the defining characteristics of mafia-style groups.

    State-embedded actors

    2.501.00

    Criminal actors that are embedded in, and act from within, the state’s apparatus.

    Foreign actors

    2.500.50

    State and/or non-state criminal actors operating outside their home country. Includes foreign nationals and diaspora groups.

    Private sector actors

    1.00 n/a

    Profit-seeking individuals/entities who own/control a part of the legal economy free from the state, that collaborate with criminal actors.

    5.830.17

    Resilience score

    44th of 193 countries 3

    5th of 14 countries in Oceania-1

    2nd of 3 countries in Polynesia0

    Political leadership & governance

    4.500.00

    The State's role in responding to organized crime and its effectiveness. Strong political leadership/governance suggests higher resilience.

    Government transparency and accountability

    5.500.50

    The degree to which states have put oversight mechanisms in place to ensure against state collusion in illicit activities.

    International cooperation

    6.001.00

    A country's supranational structures and processes of interaction, policy making and concrete implementation to respond to organized crime.

    National policies and laws

    6.500.00

    A state's legal action and structures put in place to respond to organized crime.

    Judicial system and detention

    6.000.00

    Refers to a state’s judiciary’s power to effectively and independently enforce judgments on organized crime-related cases.

    Law enforcement

    6.500.00

    The state’s ability to investigate, gather intelligence, protect and enforce adherence to its rules and procedures against organized crime.

    Territorial integrity

    7.500.00

    The degree to which states are able to control their physical and cyber territory and infrastructure against organized criminal activities.

    Anti-money laundering

    5.50-0.50

    A state’s ability to implement measures to combat money laundering and other related threats to the integrity of its financial system.

    Economic regulatory capacity

    3.000.00

    The ability to control/manage the economy and regulate transactions (national and international) for trade to thrive within the rule of law.

    Victim and witness support

    5.500.50

    Assistance provided to victims of various forms of organized crime, including initiatives such as witness protection programs.

    Prevention

    6.500.50

    Refers to the existence of strategies, measures, resource allocation, programmes and processes that are aimed to inhibit organized crime.

    Non-state actors

    7.000.00

    The degree non-state actors are allowed to engage in OC responses and their roles in supporting State efforts/ as watchdogs to governments.

    5.83 1.90 2.97 5.83 1.90 2.97

    5.830.17

    Resilience score

    44th of 193 countries 3

    5th of 14 countries in Oceania-1

    2nd of 3 countries in Polynesia0

    Political leadership & governance

    4.500.00

    The State's role in responding to organized crime and its effectiveness. Strong political leadership/governance suggests higher resilience.

    Government transparency and accountability

    5.500.50

    The degree to which states have put oversight mechanisms in place to ensure against state collusion in illicit activities.

    International cooperation

    6.001.00

    A country's supranational structures and processes of interaction, policy making and concrete implementation to respond to organized crime.

    National policies and laws

    6.500.00

    A state's legal action and structures put in place to respond to organized crime.

    Judicial system and detention

    6.000.00

    Refers to a state’s judiciary’s power to effectively and independently enforce judgments on organized crime-related cases.

    Law enforcement

    6.500.00

    The state’s ability to investigate, gather intelligence, protect and enforce adherence to its rules and procedures against organized crime.

    Territorial integrity

    7.500.00

    The degree to which states are able to control their physical and cyber territory and infrastructure against organized criminal activities.

    Anti-money laundering

    5.50-0.50

    A state’s ability to implement measures to combat money laundering and other related threats to the integrity of its financial system.

    Economic regulatory capacity

    3.000.00

    The ability to control/manage the economy and regulate transactions (national and international) for trade to thrive within the rule of law.

    Victim and witness support

    5.500.50

    Assistance provided to victims of various forms of organized crime, including initiatives such as witness protection programs.

    Prevention

    6.500.50

    Refers to the existence of strategies, measures, resource allocation, programmes and processes that are aimed to inhibit organized crime.

    Non-state actors

    7.000.00

    The degree non-state actors are allowed to engage in OC responses and their roles in supporting State efforts/ as watchdogs to governments.

    Analysis

    01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11

    People

    Samoa is an origin and destination country for human trafficking. While the exact number of victims is unknown, the size of this market is considered to be small. According to the government, human trafficking is increasing in Samoa due to its proximity to Australia and New Zealand, which allows criminal actors from the latter countries to coordinate and commit this crime on the islands. Trafficked individuals in Samoa are commonly exploited in the logging, fishing and mining industries, indicating parallel criminal markets. Additionally, there have been reports of forced marriages between Samoan women and girls and foreign businessmen residing in the country. Foreign nationals are allegedly exploited for domestic servitude by Samoan families, and some are sexually exploited. Sexual and gender-based violence has been on the rise in recent years.

    Currently, Samoa is not part of any relevant transnational human smuggling route. As a result, this crime occurs on a small scale in an opportunistic manner. However, since borders reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of human smuggling in the Pacific region has increased. There is no evidence of extortion or protection racketeering in Samoa.

    Trade

    The scale of arms trafficking in Samoa is limited and has a negligible influence on society. Firearms are typically associated with gang activity and the illicit drug trade, rather than more common offences like assault and burglary. However, authorities in the region have recently expressed concerns about the increasing incidence of firearms trafficking.

    Even though evidence of counterfeit products in Samoa is limited, there has been an increase in the trade of counterfeited goods in the Oceania region as well as in the country, with growing demand. Counterfeit items such as clothes, pharmaceutical products, pesticides and electronic gadgets are becoming more prevalent in both commercial and e-commerce trade. Similarly, there has been an increase in the illicit trade of excise goods in Samoa, specifically tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, despite efforts made by the government to curb this illicit market. In 2018, excise tax on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages was increased in an attempt to reduce consumption, but the increase instead led to a shift towards less expensive, locally-made cigarettes and local substitutes for alcoholic beverages.

    Environment

    More than half of Samoa's territory is covered by forests and a significant number of citizens are involved in logging. While there have been some incidents of illegal logging, there is no evidence that these activities are systemic or backed by organized crime groups. The lower duty applied to imported timber helps to discourage overharvesting.

    Illegal fishing in Samoa is a rare occurrence, and there is no evidence of organized crime groups engaging in this activity. Most of the fishing business is legal and under relatively good supervision, but foreign vessels with improved fishing capabilities may pose a threat and create competition for locals. Recently, Samoa has seen a rise in the catch and sale of undersized marine species such as crabs, lobsters and fish. The Samoa Conservation Society warned that marine resources in Samoa are under more pressure than ever before.

    The Pacific Ocean surrounding Samoa's islands has trace amounts of mineral deposits, including cobalt, nickel and copper, but there are no reports of extraction – legal or illegal. NGOs have warned against deep-sea mining. Sand is increasingly being mined in Samoa for road and other infrastructure construction. While there is no evidence of organized criminal involvement, authorities continue to receive reports about illegal and unregulated sand mining.

    Drugs

    There is no evidence of an illegal market for heroin. Demand in Samoa is low but might increase as the Australian drug market grows. Samoa is slowly becoming a transit point for cocaine trafficked from Latin America to Australia and New Zealand; American groups seem to be involved in the shipment of the drug into the Pacific region. Increased trade has resulted in increased domestic use, but considering the high price of the drug, quantities and consumption are small due to the low purchasing power in the country.

    Cannabis is the most popular drug and the demand is high, despite cannabis use for any purpose being illegal and severely punished. Locally-grown cannabis dominates the market and with cultivation on the rise, law enforcement agencies are using drones to locate plantations. According to the police, the increase in possession cases is due to tightened controls.

    Synthetic drugs are the second most popular drugs in the country. Authorities have reported an increase in domestic consumption and availability of crystal methamphetamine in recent years, although generally in small quantities for personal use. This seems to be the drug of choice for the small Samoan upper class. Synthetic drugs are brought into Samoa from Asia, the United States and Latin America, en route to Australia and New Zealand. The recent increase in methamphetamine seizures in Samoa is likely a result of the economic downturns and exacerbated inequalities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Cyber Crimes

    Cybersecurity incidents in Samoa are infrequent and only a few isolated cases have been reported. Among these incidents, the government has been targeted by ransomware attacks that have affected customs, health and financial agencies. Given the limited capacity of the country to respond to such threats, it has relied on Australian authorities for assistance.

    Financial Crimes

    Samoa is known as a tax haven. Most financial crimes are committed by foreign actors through shell companies established in the country for the purposes of tax evasion and evasion of sanctions. The country remains on the European Union's list of non-cooperative jurisdictions due to a harmful preferential tax regime. Samoa also lags behind on certain financial indicators like company ownership, legal entity transparency, consistent personal income tax, and tax court secrecy. Other common forms of financial crimes include embezzlement of funds and banking fraud.

    Criminal Actors

    Criminal activity in Samoa lacks a clearly defined structure and leadership hierarchy. It does not exhibit the typical characteristics of mafia-style groups. Instead, the primary actors in illicit economies are loose criminal networks comprising opportunistic entrepreneurs who operate primarily in the cannabis market. Although there have been criminal gangs in the past, even at their strongest they did not conduct their operations with violence or extort businesses. One of the challenges Samoa faces is the presence of citizens who have been deported from other countries and who perpetrate criminal activity upon their return. The government has identified outlaw motorcycle gangs as an emerging threat in the country, as they have links to organized crime across the Pacific region. These gangs are mostly involved in drug trafficking but there is no evidence that they control territory. While Samoa has disrupted criminal gangs in the past, the links to expatriate Samoan communities in the USA and Australia provide ongoing opportunities for criminal networks to continue operating.

    Foreign organized crime groups with connections to Samoa have been involved in the trafficking of drugs into and through the country, primarily cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. However, criminal gangs are not the only challenge to Samoa's economy. Owners of large foreign business corporations looking for offshore locations for their firms have also had a negative influence on Samoa's legitimate economy, with their involvement in financial crimes. Domestic private-sector actors, on the other hand, do not appear to be a prominent. While corruption persists within the state apparatus, there is limited evidence of state-embedded actors involved in organized crime. Some high-level officials have been complicit in drug trafficking, and investigations are ongoing into suspected involvement of police officers in this crime.

    Leadership and governance

    Samoa is generally considered to be a politically stable country, with relatively low levels of organized crime. The constitutional and legal framework is largely democratic, even though only chiefs or family heads are allowed to stand as candidates. While corruption is by no means endemic, it is a cause of public discontent. Even though there are bodies tasked with pursuing allegations of corruption, there is no dedicated anti-corruption tribunal. The government operates with transparency for the most part, but the effectiveness of Samoa’s state auditing system remains under question. Work is currently underway to develop an access to information law.

    Samoa is an active participant in international cooperation and regional initiatives aimed at combatting transnational organized crime. While the country is party to several relevant treaties and conventions, it has not signed or ratified any of the UNTOC’s three Palermo protocols related to the smuggling of people, trafficking in persons, or the illicit manufacture and trafficking of firearms and ammunition. Nevertheless, international cooperation is strong, particularly with Pacific neighbours via the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (PTCCC). Although Samoa has an extradition act in place, extradition is only allowed with a bilateral treaty – there are concerns about how efficient the government is at executing requests for mutual legal assistance in a timely manner. Samoa has a robust legal framework to deal with organized crime, but its drug laws are considered outdated. Additionally, Samoa's commitments to cybersecurity are insufficient, although, cyber-dependent criminality does not constitute a major threat at the moment.

    Criminal justice and security

    Samoa's judiciary is widely regarded as independent and relatively free from corruption. However, recent legislation that allows executive powers to dismiss and discipline judicial officers may pose a threat to the judiciary's independence. The prison system suffers from a lack of resources, which results in overcrowding, undertrained staff and security vulnerabilities that have led to multiple prison escapes. There have also been reports of corrupt practices within the prison service.

    Samoa's national police force is relatively small and there is no domestic law enforcement unit specifically dedicated to combating organized crime. However, a unit has been established through the Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN) to address transnational crime in the Pacific region. The country also hosts the PTCCC. Generally, there is a high level of public trust in Samoan law enforcement; isolated incidents of bribery, corruption and police brutality have been condemned by senior officials.

    Samoa's cyber infrastructure is relatively weak and prone to cyberattacks. The country’s maritime borders are better policed and monitored by a specialized maritime unit. The United States supports Samoa's efforts to enforce maritime law through Operation Aiga (the Samoan word for ‘family’), which aims to combat illegal fishing and promote resource security and maritime governance.

    Economic and financial environment

    Samoa's small economy and banking sector have prevented it from becoming a hub for money laundering. However, the island nation is an offshore financial jurisdiction where registered entities have no currency or exchange controls, nor income tax obligations. While legal structures are in place, limited resources hinder investigative and prosecutorial capacity, making the country vulnerable to financial crimes. No cases of money laundering have been prosecuted and the penalty for money laundering is lower compared to other serious crimes. Samoa remains on the European Union's list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, with little progress made in implementing anti-money laundering policies.

    The Samoan economy relies heavily on agriculture and tourism; the latter suffered greatly from the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, judged as a whole, the economy has proven resilient in recent years. The banking sector is healthy, but there is a large segment of the population that does not have access to financial services. Financial exclusion is greatest for individuals employed in the agricultural sector, which results in a significant urban-rural divide. The government encourages foreign investment and trade with Asian countries, particularly with China. Compared to other global tax havens, Samoa’s impact is limited due to its small jurisdiction, but it is estimated that the country loses hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year.

    Civil society and social protection

    Samoa has limited support groups and services for victims of organized crime. However, the New Zealand Salvation Army is running programmes for victims of substance abuse and addiction. Samoa's drug-related legislation is weak on issues related to rehabilitation and drug treatment. The country has inadequate personnel for administering drug abuse treatment, and poor facilities for the treatment of drug abusers. While witnesses are afforded protection and certain measures are in place (such as providing evidence via video link), the government provides little support to victims of sexual abuse and harassment. Reporting levels remain low since instances of sexual harassment could jeopardize victims' careers or family life.

    Samoa participates in regional training and operations aimed at combatting and preventing various crimes such as drug and human trafficking, and human smuggling. The national strategy to prevent crime in general focuses on community policing and enhancing partnerships with NGOs. As a primary prevention mechanism, the police conduct routine awareness programs in schools, villages and churches. The government has taken steps to raise awareness about the growing problem of gender-based violence in the country, and NGOs receive government funding to implement advocacy programs in an effort to reduce incidents. In addition, the government allocated funds to improve its IT systems in sectors like education, health, business and development.

    Samoa welcomes civil society organizations (CSOs) and provides support to strengthen their work. While there are very few CSOs focused on organized crime, civil society actors play a crucial role in social and economic development. The traditional power structures, such as village authorities and the church, are also involved in preventive measures as well as in the fight against drug trafficking. Freedom of the press is generally respected in the country, but there have been reported cases of harassment and intimidation against lawyers who speak out on law reforms. Attacks on press freedom, politicization of the media landscape, and lack of access to state-held information have blemished the image of the government in past years. CSOs such as Greenpeace have a strong influence on environmental crimes, as they advocate for the preservation of the ocean and the curbing of extractive industries. However, the work of CSOs is often hindered by a lack of resources and skills. The government does not restrict internet access nor censor online content, but the prime minister did threaten to ban social media after critical commentary was posted about the government.

    For a better experience, please rotate your device.

    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    How to measure organized crime?

    A series of 13 discussion papers, one for each illicit market considered during the development of the Index.

    Read more on globalinitiative.net
    How to measure organized crime?

    Give us feedback

    We're constantly working to improve the Index. By participating in this survey, you will be providing us with insights and suggestions that will help us make the Index an even better resource.

    give us your feedback

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.