The bloody brawl on May 3, 2024 in Port Louis, which cost the life of Goolam Khodabux, 68, shocked more than one. This war between two gangs raises crucial questions about legal measures and strategies to fight against the criminal association. What the law says ? Where are the gaps located? How to fix the problem? Lighting with Me Ravi Rutnah.

What is a criminal association (banditry)?

Article 188 of the Penal Code defines the term “criminal association” as follows: “Any criminal association against people or owners is a crime against public peace. »

However, this article cannot be read in isolation. Its scope is provided for by article 189 of the Penal Code. Such an association exists when there is:

(a) an organized gang;
(b) correspondence between that band and its leader(s); And
(c) an agreement whose purpose is to report or to distribute or share the proceeds of their illicit acts.

Why do certain individuals associate with a group of criminals?

One of the main motivations would be linked to the lack of feeling of belonging. Many factors can put a youth at higher risk of becoming a gang member. These could include: low self-esteem; as well as the feeling of hopelessness about the future due to:
(1) lack of educational opportunities; (2) lack of finances;
(3) unstructured free time outside of class hours;
(4) minimal adult supervision;
(5) family history of gang involvement or affiliation;
(6) a childhood or adolescence in an area with high banditry activity;
(7) mental health disorders, such as attention deficit disorder or depression or mental health disorders related to alcohol or drug use. The list is non-exhaustive.

Research has consistently shown that gang-involved youth tend to lack strong connections with family, friends and school. It is therefore easy to see how the attraction of joining the close-knit environment of a gang can attract young people in this type of situation.

One study showed that young people who perceived fair treatment from teachers and other adults at school. It also found that those who felt a sense of belonging at school were more likely to avoid joining a gang. Same observation for those who lived in neighborhoods benefiting from adult support.

In the absence of healthy connections, gangs can satisfy a young person's needs in several ways:
(1) By providing them with a feeling of family;
(2) By providing them with a community and an identity;
(3) By giving them a status of belonging;
(4) By ensuring their protection and security;
(5) By fostering loyalty and support;
(6) By offering them acceptance;
(7) Providing them with a means to express their emotions; And
(8) Encouraging dependence.

Although gang membership may provide some short-term psychological benefits, the long-term consequences can be detrimental. This can affect individuals, their families and communities as a whole.

What is its modus operandi?

The use of violence, corruption and money laundering are the most typical characteristics that shape the modus operandi of criminal gangs. The use of violence and intimidation against victims, members of groups within the same organization or members of other organizations, has been defined as an ingredient of mafia behavior. This results in the “law of silence” which requires associates to remain silent.

The use of influence and corruption among politicians, public administration, the criminal justice system and representatives of the private sector is considered a tool of organized groups that facilitates their operations.

What the law says ?

The law stipulates that such a crime exists by the simple fact of the organization of a band and its leaders or commanders or of an agreement intended to account for a distribution of the goods produced by their actions. illicit.

Any person who is part of such a gang, and who knowingly and voluntarily provides it with weapons, ammunition, instruments of crime, accommodation or a place of retreat or meeting, is also guilty of association of criminals. The sanction provided for is a prison sentence of up to twenty years.

How is a criminal association formed?

The association is formed like any other group with a common goal. The only difference is that the criminal conspiracy is a group of individuals whose aim is to engage in criminal activities that cause havoc and social unrest.

Such an association is generally formed by a group of individuals who are frustrated or who believe they have been abandoned by the system or society. This is why they take the law into their own hands.

However, there is another category of individuals whose goal is to commit organized crimes. The association is created with the aim of harming society through a series of criminal activities.

What about the dangers for society?

Many large communities are at high risk of gangster activity. Gangs generate negative problems, such as fear related to loss of economic opportunities. This situation leads to the degradation of the social status of the region and the destruction of the family fabric of society.

Community members live in constant fear that their lives, as well as those of their family and friends, will one day be threatened by theft or violence. Gang activities deprive citizens of peace and comfort in their daily activities.

Most people are now forced to live their lives like prisoners behind burglar-proof security systems. This leads to additional expenses for the installation of additional security devices, surveillance cameras, or even the use of private security services. Adults, seniors and children are all affected by constant fear as well as unjustified violence perpetrated by gangs and their members.

What are the consequences of banditry?

The population can be a direct victim of extortion, rape or murder, used by gangs to strengthen their domination. Their activities disrupt and harm the daily lives of citizens. When war between gangs or against the police becomes permanent, the phenomenon of victimization intensifies.

Gang members themselves may be victims of violence, killed or injured. They can also be captured by the police. The families of gang members killed or imprisoned suffer similar consequences. Although gang members cannot expect to earn a fortune, their absence can mean destitution for their family members.
Gang activity also disrupts the functioning of services such as health care and education, among others. This may happen because movement restrictions have been imposed on populations or because employees of these services no longer feel sufficiently safe in the neighborhood.

Gang violence particularly impacts countries, regions or communities that have already been weakened by a difficult social and economic environment. Gang activities also cause even greater disruption of the coping mechanisms that have been developed.

A glaring example of this dynamic is the money extorted from economic actors, whether they operate in the informal sector or in the few formal businesses located in neighborhoods controlled by gangs. Traders have no choice but to endure these imposed levies, which prevents them from growing their businesses and limits their ability to prosper.

As for formal businesses, they choose to relocate as soon as they have the opportunity or simply cease their activity. The loss of these jobs reduces the number of opportunities available to young people, thus pushing them further into gangs. The prisons in which members of different gangs are detained are also the scene of numerous clashes between gangs and atrocities inflicted on other prisoners (rape, murder and extortion, among others).

Where are the gaps?

Young people often join gangs to fill the emotional void, the need for attention, recognition and protection that they lack at home. The breakdown of traditional family ties is also an important factor.

Many young people grow up without having a positive adult role model to follow. Many witness domestic violence, as well as alcohol and drug use within their homes.
The lack of parental involvement, as well as the absence of family rules and rituals, allows older gang members to become authority figures for younger adolescents and children. Having low self-esteem, some young people in search of the status they lack, due to unemployment or academic failure, join gangs.

Many street gang members continue a family tradition established by brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts or cousins ​​whom they consider as role models. Additionally, lack of employment opportunities, lack of positive recreational choices, and lack of effective responses to peer pressure can create a climate conducive to gang membership.

Many adolescents and young people have no interests outside of school. Joining a gang allows them to have friends with whom they can share their free time.

The financial allure of gang membership is difficult to counter. Gang members share in the profits from drug trafficking and other illegal activities. For a teenager, money is synonymous with social status.

Many people are without a job or source of income. Becoming a gang member can provide a teenager with the opportunity to earn large sums of money quickly. Because many gangs are involved in the illegal sale of drugs and firearms.

To coerce others into joining their gang, members may recruit using scare tactics. People are then forced to join to protect themselves and their families from the local gang or its rivals. Gang membership can also be seen as a refuge for a child living in a gang-infested community.

How can we combat this growing phenomenon?

To prevent individuals from joining gangs, communities must adopt several strategies. First, a balance between prevention, intervention and suppression strategies is important to the success of any community.

Next, prevention programs can target young people at risk of joining gangs. Strategies are needed to implement sanctions to deter young people from joining gangs.

What are the sanctions ?

In Mauritius, anyone found guilty of the offense of criminal conspiracy risks a prison sentence of up to twenty years.


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