According to conventional wisdom, organized criminal activity is perpetrated primarily by non-state, private actors who are occasionally [or not] protected by corrupt government officials. From this perspective, a hard distinction is made between those who provide protection to criminals (e.g., politicians or law enforcement officials) and the criminals themselves (e.g., smugglers or producers of counterfeit goods). It further treats the involvement of state-affiliated actors as a by-product of corruption in public office, rather than, in some places, a feature of it. This article builds on emerging evidence that state representatives play a far more direct role in supervising, organizing and sometimes managing crime than assumed in the majority of the literature. It shows that there are inherent theoretical, policy-level biases that misguide the analytical thinking about organized crime in the Global South, and argues that there is a need to reconsider existing approaches to develop more accommodative definitions of organized crime.