The Syndicate

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Syndicate is The Empire of the criminal world. It's omnipotent, maintains an iron grip on the Black Market, and it has eyes and hands everywhere. The Cartel, The Mafia, The Mafiya and Yakuza are its regional branches, as are The Triads and the Tongs; Murder, Inc. is their HR department. Any Corrupt Corporate Executive or Corporate Samurai most likely works for them. Badass Longcoat Career Killers all worked for them at some point. And on top of it all is The Omniscient Council of Vagueness, consisting of one Man Behind the Man behind the other. It may even be related to an Ancient Conspiracy or two.

The crime syndicate is a great way to bring Old World concepts of kingdoms, heirs, tribal wars, etc. into a modern or Science Fiction setting. On a semantic note, a "syndicate" is nothing illegal per definition, as it is simply a group of companies working together for mutual profit (most immediate example would be the television syndications), however, "the Syndicate" only has one meaning in modern 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.

Not to be confused with a short-lived BBC 1 Game Show hosted by Nick Ross, 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.

Examples of The Syndicate include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Red Dragon in Cowboy Bebop.
  • Demon Card in Rave Master.
  • Enfant in Madlax.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gungrave is a series 100% based off of a syndicate and with its fair share of conspiracies. And zombies.
  • Meiousei aka Pluto in Detective School Q.
  • Detective Conan has The Black Organization. It may or may not be the same one that exists in the earlier, related series, Magic Kaito.
    • The Word of God (Aoyama Gosho, the author of both series) stated clearly that it is not.

Comic Books

  • 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 the Superman and Justice League cartoons, but as a lesser threat).
    • More recently, reinvented as the Church of Crime. Same deal, only with fewer Apokaliptan superweapons, and more Apocalyptic revelations.
  • The 100 (a.k.a. The 1000) is another example from The DCU.
  • The Maggia in the Marvel Universe.
  • 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...
  • The Singh Brotherhood of The Phantom is a powerful criminal organisation which traces its origin back to the Viking Age.
  • 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.
  • 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 Syndicate in the Illuminatus! trilogy plays this trope to the tee.
  • Umbra Corporation from A Game of Universe by Eric Nylund.
  • 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.
  • Les Habits Noirs (The Black Coats) from the various novels by Paul Feval. The novels were written from 1863 to 1875, making this example Older Than Radio.
  • The House of the Jhereg.
  • Milo's syndicate in Catch-22.
  • 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.
  • Time Scout's criminal empire is composed of The Mafia, The Mafiya, The Yakuza, and many Corrupt Politicians

Live-Action TV

  • Pick a Crime-Time TV. If it doesn't have The Syndicate, pick the next one: it's bound to be in.
  • The Star Trek franchise, particularly Deep Space 9, had 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.
  • 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.
  • Alias had the Alliance, K-Directorate, the Covenant, etc.
  • 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.
  • Chuck is known for its evil organizations like FULCRUM, Fulcrum's parent company The Ring, and the current incarnation of the Syndicate: Volkoff Industries.
  • The Impossible Missions Force faces off against The Syndicate several times.
  • The criminal organisation Niska represents in Firefly was never given an offical name, but is usually referred to simply as 'the Syndicate'.

Tabletop Games

  • A few such syndicates exist in Shadowrun, and from time to time you'll be asked to infiltrate their corporate headquarters during your missions.
    • Mitsubisha is actually a Yakuza gang that accidentally got into the corporate sector. Same thing with a Russian/Filipino/Japanese corporation.
  • In the Old World of Darkness, The Syndicate is the economic arm of the Technocracy.
  • The Shadow Thieves in the Forgotten Realms. They double as a Religion of Evil, since they are the devoted worshippers 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.


  • Classic PC hit Syndicate featured... you guessed it, a Syndicate.
    • And the player plays a team of its agents, no less.
    • A little subverted though as while they're no strangers to playing dirty, the implication is that most of their income is from at least semi-legitimate sources.
      • Playing dirty might be putting it a little lightly. The game's story and setting are a pretty shamelessly obvious example of Black and Black Morality.
  • The unnamed crime syndicate run by Mr. X in the Streets of Rage trilogy.
  • 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.
  • The Zann Consortium from Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption essentially evolves into a galaxy-wide Syndicate by the end of the campaign.
  • The Exchange in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Also Black Sun in the Star Wars Expanded Universe
  • The Guild in Jade Empire.
  • Front Mission gives us "The Society" in its Gaiden Game "Gun Hazard".
    • In the main games, we have "The Grimnir" led by Morgan Bernard, the series Big Bad.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 vaction by a Gallente Senator.
  • The Syndicate in Jak X that 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.
  • Shadaloo started out as this, but as the series progressed, became more of a Nebulous Evil Organisation.
  • The plot of Ace Attorney Investigations centers around an international smuggling syndicate.
  • Nile in Hotel Dusk: Room 215.
  • The Z Syndicate
  • 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 Syndicate (or rather, a syndicate, because the actual names are randomly generated) attacking the station is one of the possible events to occur on Space Station 13. Effectiveness varies based on the intelligence of the syndicate members, but usually, being a team of three or more foes armed to the teeth with energy swords and bombs and hell bent on destroying the station, they're near the top of biggest threats to the station.
  • The Pizza Bat corporation in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle is in control of a mafia the size of a small army.
  • The Syndicate in Saints Row: The Third is a consortium of three powerful gangs, firmly in control of the city of Steelport and environs.
  • 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.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has Khamja. They basically run the country the game takes place in.


  • Ronin Galaxy: The Akuma gang in the first chapter. Possibly the Moritomi gang from the second.

Western Animation

  • 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.
  • Of course, there needs to be a mention of THE number one syndicate in all of western animation... MAD.
  • 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.