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What is the term for a person who conducts illegal business? Surely it is not illegal businessman, but maybe that could work.

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may be Don ?....... –  Srinivas Reddy Thatiparthy Apr 28 '11 at 6:35
    
"I'm a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall him, if he should get shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning, then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room. And that, I do not forgive. But that aside, let me say that I swear on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace that we have made here today." - Don Corleone, The Godfather –  Paul Amerigo Pajo Apr 28 '11 at 7:39
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There are very specific words, as many have mentioned, for specific crimes. Can you specify the illegal business? –  Sam Apr 28 '11 at 13:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It will be in any case a criminal, maybe a career criminal. When it goes to drug business, you call it a druglord, which in himself is a kind of kingpin. You can choose your poison.

But in the end, without contest, the word which would best fit your definition is a racketeer, although career criminal or illegal businessman are not bad themselves.

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Let's not forget loanshark, blackmailer, trafficker, gangster, pimp, conman, etc. –  ogerard Apr 28 '11 at 8:30
    
grifter, smuggler, hitman, burglar, rapist, murderer, bookie,... –  Sam Apr 28 '11 at 13:57
    
@Sam: the occupation of burglars, rapists and murderers doesn't strikes me as what we commonly call business –  Eldroß Apr 28 '11 at 14:00
    
I agree that it would be uncommon, but not out of the question. A hitman, for instance is a professional murderer. I suppose the difference is the motive. If it's profit, wouldn't it qualify as business? –  Sam Apr 28 '11 at 14:05
    
@Sam, you may have noticed that I didn't question the fact that the hitman was doing "business", I was only talking about burglars, rapists and murderers amongst the list of name you gave. –  Eldroß Apr 28 '11 at 14:07

You might be able to use the general sense (not just of liquor) of bootlegger. See the definition for bootleg:

to produce, reproduce, or distribute illicitly or without authorization

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I think crook suggests the idea of illegal business better than criminal; a criminal is anyone who commits/is convicted of committing a crime, which is too broad IMHO.

Depending on the illegal business in question, there may be more contextual suggestions...

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I still think that racketeer hits the mark better than crook when no context are given. For me, crook doesn't mean necessary illegal business. –  Eldroß Apr 28 '11 at 14:00

A white-collar criminal

is someone who commits crimes involving business activities, mostly desk-work crimes like accounting or insurance fraud.

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