Hello everyone, and welcome to the Sarlacc Pit. This week I will be discussing something mentioned often in the background of Star Wars canon, but very rarely focused on: crime in the galaxy. As you can imagine, the galaxy of Star Wars is very large and there is really all sorts of different crime that occurred, so I’m going to focus on some of the more prevalent types of crime as well as a few of the major criminal organizations. Some of this will be familiar to even the most casual movie watchers, but there will definitely be some lesser-known topics as well. There are major spoilers, and the information for this post comes from all across canon, with major emphasis on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” I would not consider this a totally complete post, as there are so many different criminal organizations in the Star Wars canon, and many continue to pop up, but this will give a good overview of crime in the current Star Wars galaxy.
Our knowledge of crime in the Star Wars galaxy begins shortly before the Clone Wars. While we can assume that there was still crime throughout the galaxy, the Clone Wars saw a shift in funds from safekeeping and policing different star systems, to funding the war effort against the Separatists. Therefore, during the Clone Wars many criminal organizations were founded and were able to thrive due to the lack of law keeping in the galaxy. Some star systems, such as Wilhuff Tarkin’s home planet of Eriadu, had localized security forces, but many were outmatched by the larger, well-funded, crime syndicates.
Crime was especially abundant in the Outer Rim territories, where there was less Senatorial representation and even less funding. Crimes such as slavery, spice smuggling, and piracy were rampant in the Outer Rim star systems. This did not mean that crime was only found in the Outer Rim, but this area suffered the most from it.
After the Clone Wars ended, and the Empire gained power, crime was much more difficult to define. Many criminal organizations made deals with the Empire to assist with intel-gathering and other favors in exchange for the Empire allowing them free reign. Furthermore, some crimes, such as slavery, became somewhat decriminalized, as long as the Empire benefited, of course.
One major term I need to define here is spice. Spice was an illicit substance used as a recreational drug. Spice was especially abundant on Kessel, but could also be found in mines on Ryloth and Naboo. While the form of spice known as ryll had scientific and military applications, the main use of spice was recreational. The spice trade was illegal throughout Star Wars canon, and as such there was high demand for skilled spice smugglers.
Major Crime Syndicates
The Black Sun
The Black Sun rose to power as one of the larger crime syndicates during the Clone Wars, though it had existed for a very long time before then. Run by a group of Falleen noblemen from their fortress on Mustafar, the Black Sun was very influential across the galaxy. They were particularly well-known for their large military strength and specialized in smuggling and slavery, as well as non-sanctioned bounty hunting. During the Clone Wars, the Black Sun briefly joined with the Pykes, the Hutts, and Death Watch as the Shadow Collective under the leadership of Darth Maul.
Once the Empire came to power, the Black Sun was able to form a strong relationship with the Emperor. Their slave trade and vast galactic influence and information connections proved useful to the Empire. Once the New Republic was founded, the Black Sun was mostly excluded to the Outer Rim, but remained a viable criminal enterprise.
The Pyke Syndicate
A group of Fife based on Oba Diah, the Pyke Syndicate was the major player in the spice trade throughout Star Wars canon. During the Clone Wars, the Pykes also joined with the Shadow Collective. The prevalence of the spice trade allowed them to stay in business after the rise of the Empire, but the maintained illegality of spice smuggling implies that the Pykes were not able to make a deal with the Empire as the Black Sun did.
Fans of Han Solo know that the Millennium Falcon‘s major claim to fame was that it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. The Kessel Run was the path taken by smugglers hired by the Pykes to move spice from the spice mines of Kessel to paying customers on Coruscant. The run involved numerous extreme changes in velocity in order to go into and out of hyperspace. Since there was a large amount of time spent in and out of hyperspace, time became too complicated of a metric to use to measure a pilot’s ability to make this run, so the amount of distance traveled, which corresponded with a pilot’s maneuvering abilities, became the method to measure how capably the pilot made the run. 12 parsecs beat the former record by a large margin and, as of current Star Wars canon, was not beaten.
The Hutt Clan
The Hutts were a species of obese slug-like sentients from Nal Hutta. Centuries of having their over-sized hands in every criminal enterprise made the Hutts known for their opulence and heavy indulgence. The Hutt clan was divided into five families, or kajidics, and were spread across the galaxy, though the Grand Hutt Council was based on Nal Hutta. During the Clone Wars, the Hutts financially backed Darth Maul’s Shadow Collective, but eventually backed out, which caused many other crime organizations to do the same. After the rise of the Empire, the Hutts formed an alliance with the Emperor, who called on them for favors often. Darth Vader himself even went to Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine to ask for assistance in learning the identity of the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star.
After Jabba’s death in “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” many Niktos, a reptillian humanoid species who had found themselves in servitude of Jabba’s kajidic, attempted to take over the Hutt’s criminal empire. This attempt was largely halted by an investigation led by Princess Leia.
The Shadow Collective
After being defeated by Obi-Wan Kenobi a second time, Mother Talzin gave Darth Maul the idea to enlist the aid of the galaxy’s largest criminal organizations. Maul joined with the Black Sun, the Pyke Syndicate, the Hutt Clan, and Death Watch and targeted Mandalore. The crime families all attacked different parts of Mandalore, and Death Watch would swoop in to stop them. This caused the Mandalorian people to desire the leadership of Death Watch, instead of their Duchess Satine Kryze, Obi-Wan’s long-time friend (See my post on General Obi-Wan Kenobi). Maul eventually arranged for a puppet leader, Almec, to take the throne of Mandalore, and Kryze to be put in prison, luring Kenobi to Mandalore. Once Kenobi arrived to save Kryze, Maul killed her, gaining revenge for the pain Kenobi had put him through. Afterwards, Maul and the Shadow Collective maintained control of Mandalore, until the Hutts pulled out their financial backing, causing the other criminal organizations left, and Darth Sidious captured Maul, leaving only Almec and Death Watch to rule Mandalore.
A portion of the Shadow Collective kept their loyalty to Darth Maul long enough to free him from Darth Sidious’ imprisonment, but the organization did not last much longer than that.
The Ohnaka Gang
Based on Florrum and operating throughout the Outer Rim, the Ohnaka Gang was a group of Weequay pirates led by Hondo Ohnaka. Their main criminal activities were raiding ships and holding people for ransom. The Ohnaka Gang even once held Count Dooku, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker for ransom, though they were able to escape before the ransom was paid. This instance particularly angered Count Dooku, who tried numerous times to destroy the gang. The Ohnaka Gang was known to do pretty much anything and help or go against pretty much anyone, as long as the effort was profitable. The Ohnaka Gang did not survive past the rise of the Empire, though Hondo Ohnaka, their leader, continued to operate, doing whatever he could to make a credit or two.
The Zygerrian Slave Empire
Based on the planet Zygerria, Zygerrian slavers had successfully run a very successful and widespread slaving empire for thousands of years before the Jedi began to crack down on slavery and the Old Republic illegalized it, forcing them to operate mostly in the shadows of the Outer Rim. However, during the Clone Wars, policing the galaxy was a near-impossible task, and the Zygerrians saw opportunity. Hoping to gain favor with the Confederacy of Independent Systems, Zygerrian slavers captured an entire peaceful Togrunta colony, with the intention of auctioning the colonists as slaves. Anakin Skywalker was able to infiltrate the slavers and, together with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano, was able to save the Togrunta colonists. During this time a Republic strike force arrived on Zygerria and was able to destroy the slave facility, effectively putting a stop to the Slave Empire. Zygerrians continued to participate in the illegal slave trade, and many assisted the Empire in acquiring slaves used to build the Death Stars and other projects.
No talk on galactic crime is complete without mentioning the brave men, women, droids, and beings of other genders and sentience levels that brought criminals to justice. Within the galaxy there were many places criminals could hide, so once someone hopped in their ship and jumped to hyperspace it was often very difficult for them to be found. Bounty hunters were private individuals who hunted down others for pay. During the reign of the Empire, most bounty hunters were affiliated with the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, which was authorized by the Imperial Office of Criminal Investigation. These Guild-affiliated bounty hunters were authorized to access the Imperial Enforcement DataCore, giving them access to all sorts of confidential information. However, there were numerous ways to make money as a bounty hunter. Many individuals could place bounties with varying levels of legality, and bounty hunters would also double as mercenaries, taking pay for jobs other than bringing in criminals. Furthermore, crime organizations would often pay skilled bounty hunters top dollar to remain on retainer, answering to the crime organization before anyone else.
Any place with laws will have crime, and the galaxy of Star Wars was no different. Whether it was smuggling spice, taking slaves, or raiding ships there was no shortage of illegal ways to make a lot of credits. Of course we can add different crimes and there are plenty more criminal organizations (such as the newer Kanjiklub and Guavian Death gang), so I cannot say that the above information is totally complete, as there is still a large amount of canon material coming out, but it’s a good overview of criminal activities and organizations in Star Wars canon.
I hope you enjoyed reading. Unfortunately, next week I will be on a research cruise where I will be living on a ship for about nine days. During that time I may or may not be able to post a new blog, but the next time I do post I am going to try something that I have not done before and may or may not do ever again: I am going to discuss a fan theory. The next Sarlacc Pit discussion will be all about everyone’s new favorite desert scavenger, Rey, and fan theories on who her parents are. I will discuss several theories put forward by fans and analyze the evidence for and against them. The material will obviously have major spoilers for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” so if you have not watched it yet then go do that right now. Thank you for reading, and may the Force be with you!