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The Syndicate

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"Well, I suppose the first thing you should know about us is that we have people everywhere."
Mr. White, Quantum of Solace

The Syndicate is the autocratic superpower of the criminal world. It maintains an iron grip on the Black Market, commands battalions of armed guards and controls large sectors of land (from districts to cities or whole planets). Its influence might extend toward law enforcement, labor unions, politicians and corporations, whether through blackmail, bribery, coercion or simple business. Its many activities include racketeering, extortion, kidnapping, gambling, smuggling and trafficking.

In addition to standard Mooks, its security apparatus may consist of a Murder, Inc., Bounty Hunters, Professional Killers and the Corporate Samurai. You know you're in trouble when the Syndicate somehow boasts Pinkerton Detectives and/or Private Military Contractors. Often, The Syndicate can be a bona fide N.G.O. Superpower.

There are several ways to structure the culture and chain of authority within The Syndicate, but the most common would be for it to carry a distinctly corporate flavor. In this sense, the Syndicate operates its enterprise by setting up illegal monopolies or illicit criminal networks, all the while conducting themselves almost like a business clique.

On a semantic note, a "syndicate" is nothing illegal per definition, as it is simply a group of companies working together for mutual profit (the most immediate example would be television syndication). However, "the Syndicate" only has one meaning in modern Western popular culture. In this sense, it may have gotten its name from the so-called "National Crime Syndicate" of ethnic gangs and the similarly vague "Commission," the Real Life governing body of the American Mafia. Both were organized by the Italian gangster Lucky Luciano and the Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky in the early 1930s. The former group didn't actually have a name (calling it the "National Crime Syndicate" came from the media, who had to call it something) and arguably wasn't even a group, more an informal agreement on the part of various gangs to stay out of each other's turf since turf wars are unprofitable and draw police attention. The only organized crime groups that had any real alliance were the Italian-American Mafia and the Jewish-American gangs.

Not to be confused with a short-lived BBC1 Game Show hosted by Nick Ross, a longer-lived BBC1 drama of that name or the companies which distribute Newspaper Comics to the papers themselves or the video game of the same name. Compare the Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy and Nebulous Evil Organisation. Funnily enough, in Spanish "Sindicato" means both "Syndicate" and "Trade Union" (the same goes for the French "syndicat"). Make of that what you will.

See also The Mafia (and its Russian cousin The Mafiya), The Irish Mob, The Triads and the Tongs, The Cartel, Yakuza, and Mafia Princess. For the Fantasy equivalent, see Thieves' Guild.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Case Closed has The Black Organization.
  • The Red Dragon in Cowboy Bebop. The whole reason Spike was almost killed in the first place was because they wanted to silence him after he tried to leave.
  • The all-encompassing, running the entire world behind the scenes group in Darker than Black is one of these and actually called "The Syndicate", but most the viewer ever sees of it is the cell Hei is in and the occasional one-shot agent they have to contact. Up until The Reveal of the conspiracy (which isn't all that ancient), there's not a high ranking Syndicate member to be seen — not even an Omniscient Council of Vagueness. It falls apart after Hei blows the lid of The Masquerade at the end of the first season.
    • End of season 2 sees the creation of a New Syndicate, of which Mao and Kirihara are members.
  • Meiousei aka Pluto in Detective School Q.
  • Enfant in Madlax is an international Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy with fingers in every criminal enterprise from weapon smuggling to political corruption to fueling a War for Fun and Profit.
  • Les Soldats in Noir, although they also venture quite far into the Ancient Conspiracy territory. Indeed, the main conflict in the organization revolves between those who emphasize the Ancient Conspiracy angle, and those who just perceive themselves as The Syndicate - that is, the idealists and the pragmatists.
  • From One Piece, there's Baroque Works, a secretive but extensive criminal organization led by a pirate-turned-privateer-turned back to a life of crime. Said leader used the entire organization as a means to overthrow the government of the kingdom of Alabasta, all so he could comb the country for a legendary ancient weapon of mass destruction. The whole shebang collapsed at the end of its story arc, all of its major players sent to Impel Down.
  • Demon Card in Rave Master.

    Comic Books 
  • The Malaysian pirate organization in Buck Danny. Originally a well-connected fraternity of Ruthless Modern Pirates, they saw their power enormously increased when they were joined by Lady X (the heroes' archenemy), a World War II era spy who offered them a map of all the weapons, supplies, and equipment the Japanese military had left in hidden caches throughout the Pacific during their long retreat. Most of those weapons are obsolete, but it doesn't matter: the pirates are preying on civilian shipping, not professional navies, and most of the navies in the region don't have the means to field cutting-edge weaponry in any case. The resulting organization covers the entire western Pacific, extorts payment from even the wealthiest shipping companies in the world, and has friendly relations with several local governments.
  • The 100 (a.k.a. The 1000) is another example from The DCU.
  • Vulture, in the 1950s Martian Manhunter strips, was a shadowy criminal group led by the enigmatic Mr. V. They flummoxed both J'onn and the police with their zany schemes, and every time that J'onn thought he'd finally caught Mr. V, it would turn out to be just another one of his Body Doubles.
  • The Maggia in the Marvel Universe.
  • Herr Wallenquist runs one of these in Sin City, where he is the prime benefactor of an assassins' guild that also specializes in the Black Market and indirectly controls the corrupt police precinct. In past stories, he has shown to have connections with other crime families such as the Lords and the Roarks.
  • Intergang from the Superman comics falls into this, and is a credible threat even to powerful superheroes because they get their weapons and technology from The DCU's ultimate Big Bad and Evil Overlord, Darkseid. (They also make a few appearances in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League cartoons.)
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Foot are supposed to be this, although they're not terribly effective at it. The Shredder and his men, it is eventually revealed, are pretty much a rogue faction of the main group (which mostly remains unseen outside the no-longer-canon Vol. 3), and the fact that Karai needs the turtles in order to stop the warring between factions does not bode well for the group as a whole. In the current story arc, it is revealed that most of the clan the world over had been killed by a group of mysterious warriors. So yeah...

    Comic Strips 
  • The Singh Brotherhood of The Phantom is a powerful criminal organisation which traces its origin back to the Viking Age.

    Fan Works 
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures/W.I.T.C.H. crossover Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters establishes that the Dark Hand seen in canon was actually just the North American branch of a worldwide organization. Due to Valmont's arrest, the North American branch was devastated by infighting between officers trying to take over; by the start of the story, the Asian branch leader, Chang, has come to fill the void and rebuild, and seems to be doing a great job at it. Later, it's revealed that the Dark Hand's true purpose is to manipulate the world's governments into accepting the existence of the supernatural and weaponizing it, in order to protect Earth from other worlds. Oh, and they've secretly controlled Section 13 all along.
  • The LOVE organization in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox serves as this. It is stated to have operatives in every facet of society (including positions close to judiciary and law enforcement), and its top-ranking members, who make up LOVE's Council of the Dawn are individually the leaders of their own crime syndicates, all of which are incorporated into LOVE's activities. The crimes LOVE facilitates center around the production, smuggling and distribution of a narcotic called Gold Sand, and they are also involved in racketeering, counterfeiting of cash, smuggling, gambling on underground fights, kidnapping, and provision of weapons for smaller-tier criminals.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: Early in Season 2, we're introduced to the Green Claw Syndicate, which is stated to be the most powerful criminal organization in Irken space, outright controlling the planet Slumia.
  • In Queen of All Oni, after Jade is transformed back into the Queen of the Shadowkhan, she recruits the former leadership of the Dark Hand and rebuilds the organization as the Shadow Hand. While this gets eclipsed plot-wise by the later hunts for the Oni masks and the Teachings tablets, it's implied that they're doing quite well for themselves on this front.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Cut To The Chase: The gang John Mansfield, "The Man", heads controls Shreveport's organized crime, and so far law enforcement has been unable to take them down.
  • Game of Death: In the 1978 version, Dr. Land's group even calls itself the syndicate, resides in the Red Pepper restaurant, controls the whole martial arts industry and takes its fair share out of bets.
  • The SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion aka SPECTRE, in the James Bond movies.
  • The John Wick series has the High Table, a council of crime lords from all around the world, including Italians, Russians, the Yakuza and even African warlords.
  • Mean Guns: The city is run by a criminal conspiracy which is actually called "The Syndicate". Although we don't see much of its operations, it has enough influence to build a maximum-security prison and then use it as a killing arena a day before it is to be handed over to the authorities.
  • Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation sees such a group actually called "The Syndicate", made up of discredited former agents from intelligence services from around the world. Their origin was not entirely criminal... The use of the name is a nod to the more conventional mob-like Syndicate from the TV series (mentioned below).
  • The Organization in the Virgil Tibbs adventure The Organization.
  • Payback pits Anti-Hero Porter against a syndicate. Just a slight bit of playing and Lampshade Hanging goes on as it's discussed at several points that the movie's syndicate actually used to be called The Syndicate, but changed its name to The Outfit while Porter was recovering from his wounds.
  • In Point Blank (1967), Lee Marvin battled a remarkably organized crime organization which was explicitly referred to as "The Syndicate". The Outfit was a loose sequel to Point Blank, and Charley Varrick inhabited a similar world
  • The Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil Film Series.
  • In Seven (1979), the seven most powerful crime lords in Hawaii join forces to cripple federal law enforcement on the islands so they can stage a takeover.
  • Star Wars: As in the old expanded universe (see literature), large criminal empires are a staple of this setting. While only the first three of them have appeared in movies so far, expanded materials establish that there are five organizations that control the lion's share of the galactic underworld and maintain a tense peace between them: Crimson Dawn, the Hutt Clan, the Pyke Syndicate, the Crymorah, and Black Sun. This is presumably the successor to the more unified Shadow Collective of the Clone Wars era (see Western Animation below).
  • Underworld U.S.A.: By the time Tolly identifies the other three men who killed his father, they are high-ranking members of a crime syndicate that controls vice across much of the country.
  • The Walking Dead (1936): District Attorney Werner describes an elite group of racketeers who hold the entire city under their collective thumb. When Judge Shaw sends one of their number to prison, the conspire to murder Shaw and frame John Ellman for the crime.

  • SCORPIA, the Nebulous Evil Organization from Alex Rider, whose name stands for Sabotage, Corruption, Intelligence, Assassination. They are basically the SPECTRE of the series.
  • Older Than Radio: Les Habits Noirs (The Black Coats) novels by Paul Féval, written from 1863 to 1875.
  • Blue Core provides us with The Anell house, of which Shayma and her parents are from a sub-branch, the Ells. They are wealthy enough to routinely buy safe passage in Leviathan waters, which isn't cheap, so they can engage in inter-continent trade, use drugs and other despicable means to enslave void magic users via addiction, and are arrogant enough to launch assassins at royalty in broad daylight, and myopic enough that when said royalty actually survives the assassination, and dares to so much as declare them persona-non-grata, the royals, and everyone who supports them, must be "punished" with assassinations as well.
  • Milo's syndicate in Catch-22.
  • The House of the Jhereg in the Dragaera novels is mostly composed of this. Members of the House can be uninvolved in any real crime (as Jhereg allows entrance to those born into the nobility or cast out of other Houses by simply buying your way in, and while the House is disreputable it's still socially better than being a barbarian or peasant, there are other reasons to join), but the criminal organizations within it have no actual employees who aren't members. (Customers being preyed on, people being forced into criminal relationships, but not potentially valued colleagues.) While a combination of social pressure, fate and divine interference conspire to keep House Jhereg firmly within this trope, the details have changed over the Empire's vast lifespan - at times the House has represented an anarchy of street gangs, guerrilla fighters and commandos, or a secret society. At the "present" time of the books, there are actually two criminal organizations in House Jhereg, mostly nonintersecting: the Right Hand of the Jhereg, which functions as this trope, and the Left Hand, which has a monopoly on the ways in which sorcery can be used illegally and which is organized in a cell structure, more like a spy network or a cult. These hire each other as needed but have differing interests at the top levels which prevent unification.
  • Frederick Forsyth mostly doesn't do this, preferring to use real life criminal or terrorist organizations as his villains. His novel The Cobra, however, does involve such a villain in the form of "the Brotherhood." A Colombia-based criminal organization, it succeeded the Colombian cartels, allied itself with local guerrillas, and expanded its activities into other countries until it gained a near-total monopoly on South American drugs, making it a criminal superpower without precedent. (On the other hand, this does simplify the heroes' task, since disrupting the drug trade, at least on the supply end, only means taking on one organization).
  • Umbra Corporation from A Game of Universe by Eric Nylund.
  • The Syndicate in the Illuminatus! trilogy plays this trope to the tee.
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial, the Broken Wheel Company disposes of goods for the various bandit bands in the Iron Teeth mountains. They are also rumored to be involved in assassination and other illegal activities.
  • James Bond
    • As mentioned under Film, SPECTRE. Ian Fleming was worried that Cold War villains would get outdated and invented the organization as a politically neutral replacement for SMERSH. Their membership consists of alumni from The Mafia, the Union Corse, a Turkish criminal organization, and several Secret Police forces, including SMERSH. Despite their highly diverse origins, all of these people can reconcile for the kind of profits SPECTRE's crime offers.
    • To hear James Bond tell it, SMERSH itself was one of these. They have no compunction against working with gangsters like Mr. Big, career criminals like Goldfinger, or serial killers like Red Grant (not as unlikely as it sounds — the US, at least, has historically used crime lords as intelligence agents).
    • Raymond Benson's novels would give SPECTRE a spiritual successor in the form of the Union. Originally a small mercenary group founded by former Right-Wing Milita Fanatics, it eventually grows into the most powerful crime syndicate in the world, with associations in North America, Europe, the former Soviet Bloc and the Middle East. By the third book of the trilogy, it's enough of a threat that the world's major intelligence and law enforcement organizations have declared war on it.
  • Phoenix Force sometimes battles MERGE (a criminal alliance of The Mafia, the Unione Corse, the Colombian cartels and the Mexican Mafia) and its Oriental equivalent TRIO — a union of the Yakuza, the Triads, and the fictional New Horde (a Mongolian crime group). Its members don't always get along.
  • Donald Westlake's Parker novels featured one of these, run along 60s corporate lines. Parker had some trouble with them in the first few novels, but arranged a détente of sorts after helping a new leader ascend to power. Parker even did a couple of jobs for them thereafter on a strictly cash basis.
  • The Arch-Enemy of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty, is the head of a mighty criminal organization filled with "a hundred broken fighting men, pickpockets, blackmailers, and card sharpers at the other, with every sort of crime in between." Holmes deduces that it is responsible for nearly all the undetected crimes in London, even powerful enough to threaten entire nations.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: The Honored Society is a fantasy version, where water wizards extort tribute from people by controlling their water supplies, cutting it off if they refuse. Additionally, they have assassins who will kill whoever displeases them, but can also be hired to get revenge on others' behalf, though it's extremely costly. They're divided into competing factions under individual water lords with their own territories. While banned by the foreign Valdani who rule Silerian, they can't really be stamped out given their absolute control of the water supplies. After the Valdani leave, they move to rule openly over the entire island.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Black Sun, the most powerful criminal organization of the galaxy, featured in Scoundrels and Shadows of the Empire. It's an Empire within an Empire (though predating it by centuries) and has a cozy arrangement with Palpatine (for example, providing logistical support to the construction of the Death Star) who considers it valuable enough that its leader, Xizor, is a respected member of the Imperial Court, the third most powerful man in the galaxy, and a rival to Darth Vader himself. All of its senior leaders are rich and powerful men independently of their Black Sun membership - Xizor is the CEO of the galaxy's largest transportation company, Durga leads a Hutt crime family that's powerful enough to rival Jabba's, Hityamun Kris is a Mandalorian warlord, etc. Later novels reveal that Black Sun accumulated most of its power not by bribery or intimidation, but by gathering information to blackmail high-level officials into cooperating, making it as much a private intelligence agency as a crime syndicate. (As a spy network, Black Sun is considered better than any Imperial agency, and second only to the - Rebel-affiliated - Bothan Spynet).
    • The other main criminal element in Star Wars novels are the Hutt syndicates, called "kajidics." Those are criminal wings of the Hutt clans that have a loose governing body but fiercely compete with each other for control of the underworld. They are closer to traditional gangsters than Black Sun, mostly concentrating on control of the slave trade or the spice (drug) trade rather than Prince Xizor's high-stakes games in galactic politics. The two most powerful kadjidics in the original trilogy era were those of Desilijic (Jabba's family) and its main enemy Besadii (Durga's family, which eventually ends up being absorbed by Black Sun, at least until Xizor's death).
    • In an earlier era, we've also seen the Crucible, a massive slave-trading organization that covers the entire galaxy. It was originally created by the Sith as a source of recruits: Crucible slaves would be made to fight each other in gladiator pits until they were forged into ruthless killers and their weaker members weeded out. (Since most of those slaves were kidnapped or press-ganged from the refugees created by the Sith wars in the first place, the process even feeds on itself). While the Sith Empire eventually collapsed, the Crucible lived on, sustained by the profit motive but maintaining the brutal methods they learned from their creators, until it's finally brought down about four millennia before the original trilogy.
  • Time Scout's criminal empire is composed of The Mafia, The Mafiya, the Yakuza, and many Corrupt Politicians.
  • The Shadow Fist Society from Wild Cards. They're a rag tag bunch of street gangs united by Diabolical Mastermind Kien Phuc, and they easily rival, if not exceed, the influence of the local Mafia family. Part of it is that they willingly accept and employ Jokers and Aces.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias had the Alliance, K-Directorate, the Covenant, etc.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The underground has a signifigant presence on the station, especially during the earlier seasons. However, after the kingpin N'Grath was taken down, the resulting power vacuum enabled smaller operators to rise up and take control of the rackets operating on the station.
    • In the episode "Rising Star" the Mars Mafia is revealed to be a major player in the underworld, operating mainly on the planet Mars.
  • Being Human (US): The Boston Family functions in a similar manner. Essentially, they're a vampire mafia, running operations to smuggle blood either stolen from hospitals or from actual living humans, and clean up the dead bodies if vampires kill when "carried away". They have front businesses such as clubs and a funeral home for this purpose, including some of their people being cops.
  • The Blake's 7 episode "Shadow" has the Terra Nostra (Cosa Nostra Recycled IN SPACE!) whose main revenue is the illegal drug Shadow. Our anti-heroes attempt (unsuccessfully) to buy their help in their struggle against the Terran Federation. The Reveal is that Shadow is being harvested on a planet directly controlled by the President of the Federation, and Terra Nostra is just another means of controlling the populace, this time via its criminal underbelly.
  • Carnival Row: The Black Raven, the Fae crime gang Vignette joins. It appears to control most crime within the Burgue, or the Row at least. Vignette gets a job running numbers.
  • Chuck is known for its evil organizations like FULCRUM, Fulcrum's parent company The Ring, and the current incarnation of the Syndicate: Volkoff Industries.
  • Defiance: Datak Tarr's crew seems to be the only game around in terms of criminal groups in the titular town, which makes him the unchallenged kingpin within the underworld.
  • The criminal organisation Niska represents in Firefly was never given an official name, but is usually referred to simply as 'the Syndicate'.
  • Hightown: Cape Cod's drug trade is run by Frankie Cuevas Jr.'s gang.
  • The Indian Detective: Gopal Chandakar's gang is indicated to run Mumbai's organized crime. They're shown as international also, getting drugs from Kenya and shipping them to Canada.
  • The infamous Shocker of the long running children's TV show Kamen Rider definitely fits into this one considering that it spawned a lot of evil organizations after.
  • Kidou Keiji Jiban has Criminal Syndicate Bioron, an underground crime organization looking to foment terror throughout Japan with futuristic biotechnology, in the name of collapsing the Japanese government and subjugating its population.
  • Law & Order: Organized Crime: Season Two shifts focus from The Mafia to the Kosta Organazation (consisting of Albanian-Americans), and the Marcy Killers (a Black group). The Italian families are in disarray after Richard Wheatley's arrest, and they move into the void to become the preeminent criminal outfits, initially at odds but then allying.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk's cartel in season 1 qualifies. It takes control of the New York City underworld after muscling out the last remnants of The Mafia. The cartel brings together Russian human traffickers, white-collar criminals, and what appear to be the local branches of the Yakuza and Triads but turn out to be part of a much older and more nefarious death cult. The cartel has been mostly burned down by the end of the first season, which doesn't slow Fisk down one bit: when he's released in season 3, he simply sets up a new syndicate by extorting the city's crime bosses into working for him in exchange for not being sold out to the FBI agents he's managed to subvert during his time in prison.
    • Luke Cage (2016): Late in Season 2, as she rebounds from losses incurred by her war with Bushmaster, Mariah Dillard allies her black mob with several of the other crime factions in Harlem, multiplying all their wealth and influence.
  • Mission: Impossible: The Impossible Missions Force faces off against "The Syndicate" several times.
  • In Lolly's flashback episode of Orange Is the New Black, the voices in her head tell her that a couple of bike cops work for the Syndicate, who in turn work for Starbucks who don't want her selling her own homemade coffee.
  • Pandora: The Hypatia Syndicate seems to be the main organized criminal group in Human space, with their hands in extortion and slave trafficking.
  • The Stargate-verse has the Lucian Alliance, a network of drug smugglers and black market dealers that developed into a consistent secondary threat to the Tau'ri after the Goa'uld Empire collapsed.
  • Starsky & Hutch: James Gunther, the Big Bad of the final story arc, is the leader of a vast criminal organization with members in almost every government agency and front organizations everywhere.
  • Star Trek:
    • Several shows in the franchise, including Deep Space 9, have the Orion Syndicate, although since most of the major characters were (essentially) military personnel it tended to be more of an around-the-edges nuisance than a direct threat.
      • Star Trek: Discovery reveals that in the 32nd century, following the Burn, the Andorians have left The Federation (along with many other planets) and joined the Orions in forming the Emerald Chain, an N.G.O. Superpower that's a serious threat to what's left of the Federation.
    • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "A Piece of the Action" has Kirk arrange for the formation of a syndicate of mobs. It's all for a good cause, of course: the planet in question is run by mobs straight out of 1920 Chicago, so The Syndicate is the closest equivalent to The Federation for the moment, and it helps to keep the Iotians working together.
  • Tidelands (Netflix): L'Attente, a commune which doubles as a drug trafficking organization, serves as this for the Orphelin Bay region.
  • Rittenhouse serves this role in Timeless.
  • The Wire:
    • The New Day Co-op is a sort-of example of this, a loose alliance of Baltimore drug kingpins who share money and resources.
    • The Greeks are a straighter example, an international trafficking ring that actually is the underworld superpower that the Baltimore drug lords wish they could be. The entire city is ultimately nothing but one investment among many to them, and when it doesn't work out they walk away with little damage to their organization and no risk at all to their leaders.
  • In The X-Files, the Omniscient Council of Vagueness is actually called "the Syndicate" (among other things). They are an international conspiracy of politicians and businessmen who discovered the existence of aliens after the Roswell Incident, and a few years later managed to negotiate a temporary truce with the homicidal aliens, buying themselves a few decades in return for assisting the alien colonization.
  • Your Honor: Desire, an African-American gang, and the Italian-American Baxter family control New Orleans' organized crime, vying for dominance.

  • Capcom's unreleased Kingpin has the unnamed mob of the Big City, which works like The Mafia but without the familial intimacy of that trope.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Your typical Thief's Guild in a big city will be one of these. Depending on the setting, a variety of other guids, like an Assassin's Guild or Mage's Guild, might be involved in nefarious criminal schemes.
    • The Shadow Thieves in the Forgotten Realms. They double as a Religion of Evil, since they are the devoted worshipers of Mask, the god of thieves. Also the Zhentarim, who are thinking really big and have their hands deeply in politics, effectively even controlling their own small country.
  • Exalted brings us the Guild, a syndicate so wealthy and influential that it qualifies as an N.G.O. Superpower, despite being a mortal-run organization in a world ruled by Physical Gods.
  • A subversion appears in a GURPS book of NPC villains. The villain is a homeless schizophrenic who was more or less literally raised by a television. He sincerely believes that there is an interstellar (he's in a science-fiction universe) crime syndicate, that he's a member of it, and that it sends him messages and instructions in mysterious ways(he interprets random happenings and the voices in his head as such). He's completely deluded, but has managed to convince a number of the local lowlifes that he's for real, and as such has a surprising degree of influence in his local area.
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Orzhov Syndicate. Officially, they're a church. Officially. Everybody on Ravnica knows that they're in charge of big business as well as organised crime... and if you owe the Orzhov a debt, you're going to pay it off, even after death.
  • In the Old World of Darkness, The Syndicate is the economic arm of the Technocracy.
  • The Free Enterprise secret society in Paranoia.
  • A few such syndicates exist in Shadowrun, and from time to time you'll be asked to infiltrate their corporate headquarters during your missions.
  • Pretty much how Dark Eldar society is organised in Warhammer 40,000. They live in an impossibly vast inter-dimensional city called Commorragh, and it is ruled and enforced by the Kabals, which are basically like a mix between crime syndicates, pirate fleets, and the old medieval Italian city state families. They constantly battle for dominance through political and military means, with the Kabalite Warriors being made-men, and Archons are basically Godfathers. A warrior can climb the ranks of a Kabal by killing those ranked above him.

    Video Games 
  • The plot of Ace Attorney Investigations centers around an international smuggling syndicate.
  • The evil organization hell-bent on world domination in Agent Armstrong is called the Syndicate.
  • Apex Legends: Half the explored galaxy is owned by the Syndicate, a conglomerate of outright criminal megacorporations. The titular Apex Games are sponsored by Syndicate bigshot Silva Industries.
  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate (what a surprise): This time around, the Templars exert control over London through drug trade and organizing local street thugs (along with a few legal but horrible means, like child labor). Your protagonists have the option of forming their own good-aligned syndicate to combat them.
  • Bangai-O involves dismantling the SF Cosmo Gang, an intergalactic criminal syndicate that took over the entire galaxy with its army of Humongous Mecha and hold on the fruit contraband market (yes, really).
  • City of Heroes: Going Rogue: has the Syndicate. Essentially, after the Hamidon Wars, Emperor Cole began cracking down on organized crime. This only caused it to "get more organized," and in the end, every gang in the city had banded under the name of the Syndicate. Players will run across members of the Syndicate, whose Primal Earth counterparts are heads of other gangs.
  • The Z Syndicate from Custom Robo. Strangely, the organization was originally formed for benevolent purposes, before the lieutenants decided to make it a criminal group and ousted their leader.
  • Dragalia Lost has an evil organization called The Syndicate who experiment on innocent people and forcefully fuse them with dragons and fiends. Aldred was one of their victims, and he has since developed some serious PTSD from their procedures.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the Camonna Tong, the native Dunmer Mafia. They're involved with nearly every seedy operation going on in Vvardenfell, particularly smuggling and drugs. They invert the Ruthless Foreign Gangsters trope, as they are much more ruthless than their Imperial import counterpart, the Thieves' Guild, who avoids murder and generally practices Honor Among Thieves. The way they operate is very Mafia-esque, with Orvas Dren as the kingpin of the operation while they conduct business out of legitimate bars and taverns. More recently, they've even gotten involved with the Sixth House cult, whose promises of driving the Empire out of Morrowind meshes well with the Tong's utter hatred of outlanders. The Tong has two members of the House Hlaalu council in their pocket, and also have control over the Fighters Guild due to controlling the faction leader's gambling debts. As if that weren't all bad enough, they also take it upon themselves to enforce Morrowind's pro-slavery laws, which includes hiring bounty hunters to ruthlessly hunt down escaped slaves while they themselves are known to use slaves as drug mules. Finally, their leader, Orvas Dren, is planning to have his brother, Duke of Vvardenfell Vedam Dren, assassinated.
  • In EVE Online, there is an entire region of 0.0 (lawless) space called The Syndicate. It was once described as a good place for a vacation by a Gallente Senator.
  • The goal of the Evil Genius games is to create a world-spanning criminal empire to finance your goal of conquering the world through the creation of a Doomsday Device.
  • Far Cry 3: Hoyt Volker's criminal organization is an immensely powerful organization dedicated in drug trade and human trafficking. And as if that was not enough, he has an army of bloodthirsty mercenaries at his disposal.
    Hoyt: "I'm a hunter myself. The noblest of professions. But you know, I like to hunt real game. I can offer you travel to slave markets in Rio, Hong Kong, New York. This is a global enterprise. Globalization is the future, bringing things from far away to me."
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Syndicate of Ul'dah is actually an official part of the city-state's ruling government, alongside the Sultanate. Most major decisions are made by vote with the Syndicate members and the Sultana. It's common knowledge that the Syndicate are corrupt and only looking out for themselves, and the Sultana is essentially reduced to a figurehead despite her efforts. When she tries to dissolve the Syndicate and the Sultanate to give power to the people in Ul'dah, she's assassinated by a psychotic member of the Syndicate (who is then killed immediately because he was too busy gloating), though it turns out that another member of the Syndicate intercepted the plan and faked the assassination to out the psychotic that he could then control the Syndicate and the Sultanate. Basically, Ul'dah is full of self-serving people that push the selfless people out of their way.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has Khamja, a shadowy criminal clan so powerful that it basically runs the country the game takes place in.
  • Fighting Force Has Zeng running one.
  • The Front Mission franchise has two of these — one in the main Front Mission universe and another in the Gun Hazard universe.
    • In the main Front Mission universe, the "Grimnir" led by Morgan Bernard (who also functions as the series Big Bad). It's also the main 'verse's multinational terrorist group.
    • In the Gun Hazard universe, "The Society" led by Henry Sherwood.
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Tommy Vercetti's criminal organization operates as a powerful organization based in and around Vice City.
    • Grand Theft Auto V: Trevor Philips Enterprises/Incorporated/whatever Trevor feels like calling it is a criminal enterprise run by local lunatic Trevor Philips. While the "organization" itself consists solely of Trevor, his neighbors and anyone he forces to do his bidding, throughout the game he quickly takes over the criminal enterprises of the desert as well as having connections to Mexican cartels (though his plans to work with the Triads falls flat). He's also not above hiring others to do his dirty work such as the protagonists of the Online multiplayer mode.
  • Gungrave is 100% based off of a syndicate and with its fair share of conspiracies. And zombies.
  • Nile in Hotel Dusk: Room 215.
  • The Guild in Jade Empire.
  • The Syndicate in Jak X is run by Krew's rival gang leader and practically runs Kras City. Fixes all the Combat Races, hires mercenary drivers, sabotages Jak's vehicle, and kills Blitz's father, though that happened before the game's events.
  • In Library of Ruina, "Syndicate" is just a synonym for any criminal gang, regardless of size and status. However, there's five extremely powerful organizations, collectively known as the "Fingers of the Backstreets", which control the most disreputable parts of the City and cannot be controlled by the City's rulers. Two Fingers are specifically explored during the story:
    • The Thumb is styled after the Italian Mafia, and they take hierarchies extremely seriously. For example: speaking rudely without an elite's permission is punishable by having your tongue cut off. This applies regardless of affiliation: in one istance, a Thumb Capo gets punished because they disrespected Angela - who, at the time, was the Thumb's enemy, but considered higher-ranking due to her status as the Library's director.
    • The Index has shades of being a Mystery Cult. On one hand, they don't extort money from civilians, and their members are forbidden from committing violence without justification. On the other hand, they sometimes give "Prescripts" to people (civilians or Index members), which usually are weird instructions like "in 400.000 meters, turn right". If followed, Prescripts always result in the Syndicate benefitting in some way; failure to follow them is punishable by instant execution.
  • Mega Man X7 has Red Alert, whose full name is the Red Alert Syndicate. It originally forms to help regulate the Mavericks, then gets manipulated by Sigma into using Axl to collect the DNA-Data of powerful Reploids to power Red Alert up. The game's intro FMV showcases Axl's Kill and Replace tactic to get to his assassination target, a criminal from a rival faction, by impersonating the target's right-hand man. They also use captured Mavericks as mooks, take civilian hostages and engage in terrorism in an attempt to get Axl back when he defects to the Maverick Hunters.
  • The Black Dragon to which Kano belonged and their rival parent group the Red Dragon from Mortal Kombat. Likewise, Sub-Zero's Lin Kuei and their rivals, the Shira Ryu, to which Scorpion once belonged. The White Lotus Society, to which both Liu Kang and Kung Lao belonged, is the "good guy" variant of this trope.
  • The Evil Syndicate from Nicktoons Unite! are named as such, though in practice they fit closer to the Legion of Doom trope.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: The Pizza Bat corporation is in control of a mafia the size of a small army. Their strong influence makes them run the city.
  • The crime syndicate called "The Syndicate" in Oni.
  • In the MMORPG Ragnarok Online we have Rekember Corporation. When something bad is happening you can be 90% sure that Rekember has it's fingers in it.
  • The Syndicate in Saints Row: The Third is a consortium of three powerful gangs, firmly in control of the city of Steelport and environs. The Saints themselves run a media empire and essentially become the world government by the fourth game.
  • A conglomerate of criminals and corporations known as The Syndicate is one of the possible threats to Space Station 13. One of it's randomly-generated member corporations will send either agents with 'uplinks' to carry out objectives varying in risk and loudness, or a team of three or more armed to the teeth with energy swords and bombs to detonate a nuclear explosive. Their actual effectiveness varies depending on the intelligence and skill of the operatives, but they're usually near the top of biggest threats to the station.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • The Black Sun criminal syndicate, which exists in some form or another during every period of the GFFA. Though dissolved after the Vong War, it makes a comeback during the Legacy era.
    • The Zann Consortium from Empire at War: Forces of Corruption essentially evolves into a galaxy-wide syndicate by the end of the campaign.
    • The Exchange in the Knights of the Old Republic games.
  • Any Mega-Corp Empire from Stellaris with the "Criminal Heritage" civics is explicitly called a "Criminal Syndicate", unless they also have "Gospel of the Masses" in which case they're a "Subversive Cult" instead.
  • John Woo Presents Stranglehold, being the sequel to classic Hong Kong film Hard Boiled, has three of them: the Golden Kane headed by Yung Gi, the Zakarov syndicate headed by Damon and Vladimir Zakarov, and Dragon Claw headed by Mr. Wong.
  • Shadaloo from Street Fighter started out as this, but as the series progressed, became more of a Nebulous Evil Organisation.
  • Streets of Rage has a criminal group only known as the Syndicate and their activities involve controlling several major areas like a downtown city, a bridge, factories, and so on. The Syndicate also controls the police and other government agencies, thus people that aren't with the corrupt groups can't do anything to stop them. The third game has the Syndicate set up bombs all over the city to distract the police while they kidnap and replace the Chief of Police (or the General in the Japanese version) with a robot duplicate. The entire organization is run by a single man who goes by Mr. X.
  • Classic PC hit Syndicate featured... you guessed it, a Syndicate. And the player plays a team of its agents, no less. While they're no strangers to playing dirty, the implication is that most of their income is from at least semi-legitimate sourcesnote .
  • Watch_Dogs: The Chicago South Club isn't just your typical Irish mob group — they control all of the Windy City through Mayor Donovan Rushmore.
  • World of Warcraft has a faction of rogues called the Syndicate. It's a subversion in this case as the Syndicate is a meaningless, almost powerless faction only feared by low level characters.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: At first, it's assumed that the Ganglion the heroes are fighting against are an alien race bent on destroying humanity for some reason. Later in the game we learn that the Ganglion is actually a crime syndicate... and not a particularly powerful one in the grand scheme of things. At least, not compared to the government they operate under, the Samaar Federation, who have control over multiple entire galaxies.

  • Bruno the Bandit tried to join a Thieves' Guild known as "The Syndicate" a few times before earning their permanent animosity. Some of their practices were clear references to the comic strip syndicates.
  • In Ray Fox most of the villains are part of the Monroe Syndicate or local gangsters doing jobs for them.
  • Ronin Galaxy: The Akuma gang in the first chapter. Possibly the Moritomi gang from the second.

    Web Original 
  • Tails of the Bounty Hunter has the Quintuple Cartel, an intergalactic criminal organization dealing with smuggling drugs and weapons, various assassinations, and conducting deals with several big-time criminals in the galaxy. They even have a Dirty Cop in their pocket who runs his own police force and a Mad Scientist who creates chemical weapons to be used in warfare.
  • It's also called "The Syndicate" in the Whateley Universe. In this world of mutants with superpowers, The Syndicate is run by shadowy supervillains, and staffed with armies of minions and Mooks.
  • Chakona Space: The abhorrently genocidal Humans First terrorist group is eventually revealed to be the public face of a massive interstellar syndicate that's responsible for the total ruin of entire planets. They were proven to have instigated a genocidal war just to create a stable pharmaceutical grey market, and their individual crimes against sapient life (and the very humans they pretend to care about) pile up in the contributed authors' tales.

    Western Animation 
  • Huntik: Secrets & Seekers has The Organization, which reportedly has agents the world over, has the power to erase bank accounts, and can even take over governments.
  • Of course, there needs to be a mention of THE number one syndicate in all of western animation... MAD from Inspector Gadget.
  • The Dark Hand of Jackie Chan Adventures is originally portrayed as this, having connections to nearly every major international crime out there. Because of Villain Decay, however, it is no longer the case.
  • In Samurai Jack, it is revealed in Season 5 that Aku's regime welcomes outlaws, bandits, gangsters and evil organizations. Interestingly, most of the antagonists have connections to Aku, from lowly thugs to ruthless mobsters, assassins and slave drivers.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: L. Thompson Lincoln's outfit is this (in fact, he was probably meant to be Kingpin, the example listed under Comics). He's the secret identity of The Big Man of Crime in New York, and bit players in the underworld think he's a myth — meanwhile, Lincoln himself is publicly believed to be an odd-looking philanthropist. By season 3, there's a three-way struggle over his power base between him, the standard Mafia, and the growing supervillain community.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Darth Maul forcibly unites a number of organizations into the underworld superpower known as the Shadow Collective, consisting of one dark side Force cult (the Nightsisters and Nightbrothers of Dathomir), one reactionary terrorist group (Mandalore's Death Watch), and three crime syndicates (Crimson Dawn, Black Sun, and the Pyke Syndicate).

Alternative Title(s): Crime Syndicate