The UN's drugs and crime office launched a new media awareness campaign on Monday to highlight the threat posed by the multi-billion dollar operations run by organised crime groups worldwide.
International crime rackets pull in an estimated annual turnover of $870 billion (710 billion euros), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a statement issued early Monday.
That sum was the equivalent of 1.5 percent of global GDP -- or six times the amount officially spent on development aid around the world, it added.
"Transnational organised crime reaches into every region and every country across the world," said Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC, which is based in Vienna.
"Stopping this transnational threat represents one of the international community's greatest global challenges," he added.
UNODC'S multimedia campaign will underline the huge sums of money involved in organised crime, which covers everything from drug and arms trafficking to cyber crime to the smuggling of migrants.
And it will stress that these are anything but victimless crimes.
"Crime groups can destabilise countries and entire regions, undermining development assistance in those areas and increasing domestic corruption, extortion, racketeering and violence," said UNODC's statement.
The agency identified drug trafficking as by far the most lucrative trade for criminals: they estimated it brings in $320 billion per year.
The counterfeiting of goods, it said, brought in $250 billion annually.
Human trafficking and migrant smuggling totals an estimated $39 billion a year; while trading of ivory and animal parts generates $3.5 billion in criminal revenue.
According to the World Health Organisation, around 1.0 percent of the world's medicines are thought to be counterfeit, a figure which rises as high as 30 percent in parts of Asia, Africa and South America.
"Money ... is laundered through banking systems, undermining legitimate international commerce," said UNODC in its statement.
"People become victims of identity theft with 1.5 million people each year being caught out," it added.
"Criminal groups traffic women for sexual exploitation and children for purposes of forced begging, burglary and pick pocketing."
And fake medicines and food products put lives at risk while at the same time undermining the legitimate market.
The campaign will go out on Twitter, Facebook and the social networking site Google+ as well as on the dedicated site www.unodc.org/toc.