The crime syndicate system has many similarities to the bounty system and despite its name is not always a morally negative mode of play in that the player may choose opportunities that lend to helping the common man against ruthless cooperation’s or corrupt government bodies. Criminals have access to black markets and can often gain items and technologies early on that are difficult to acquire through any other means; however, they can never hold a structure or stellar asset and are often barred from faction events due to their infamy - a condition that can be rectified through a number of methods.
Syndicate is the name of a group of criminals usually with a particular mode of operation such as smuggling, raiding or piracy and unlike many other groupings criminals are encouraged to join/participate with many syndicates. A player may form their own syndicate, forming a band of thieves of sorts and can participate in galaxy events as rogues even interjecting in battle events between warring factions - possibly clearing their infamy and forming their own faction or further solidifying their rank as lords of crime.
The crime system is rather strongly oriented toward smaller more episodic story lines though a player can participate in the crime system with little regard for its underlying story, though many opportunities present the player with options which will have impact on the galaxy's story in one form or another.
Smugglers specialize in moving 'goods' from point A to point B; sounds simple enough but if it was easy it wouldn't pay so well. Smuggler syndicates often issue events to clear areas or draw attention allowing haulers to move the actual goods on occasion you will be the hauler or its escort.
Smash and grab smuggler syndicates specialize in fast strike assaults, typically striking soft targets like haulers, non-Terran stations and on occasion planetary supply stations. The events smugglers take on are all about getting in quick, grabbing the high value items and getting out before security has a chance to react.
Pirates are all around criminals and heavily equipped; they are uniquely capable of dealing with large forces and are ideal for resting control from companies, factions and even other syndicates. Pirates, unlike the others, don't tend to run away; the events you can expect for pirates are well-planned battles with key objectives defined to a military like level of detail.