UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme – 2015 Annual Report online

Container Control ProgrammeThe year 2015 has been the most active one ever for this joint WCO – UNODC initiative, which tackles illicit trade in containerized transport.

A number of new countries joined the Container Control Programme (CCP), more than 130 training events, private sector meetings and study visits were implemented and significant seizures of drugs, counterfeit goods, cigarettes etc. were made by the Port Control Units established in the framework of this programme.

The 2015 CCP Annual Report also contains interviews with the Directors General of Georgia and Azerbaijan Customs as well as several statements by Customs’ and Private Sector stakeholders. Source: WCO

War Against Ivory Smuggling

Smuggled Ivory

In January 2014, while x-raying a Vietnam-bound container declared to hold cashews, Togolese port authorities saw something strange: ivory. Eventually, more than four tons was found, Africa’s largest seizure since the global ivory trade ban took effect in 1990. [Photo: Brent Stirton, National Geographic]

Last year, one of Kenya’s most adored elephants, Satao, was killed for his ivory. Poachers shot the bull elephant with a poisoned arrow in Tsavo East National Park, waited for him to die a painful death, and then hacked off his face to remove his massive tusks.

Poachers continue to kill an estimated 30,000 elephants a year, one every 15 minutes, fueled to a large extent by China’s love of ivory. Thirty-five years ago, there were 1.2 million elephants in Africa; now around 500,000 remain.

A recent documentary, 101 East, released by Al Jazeera, traces the poaching of elephants and smuggling of ivory from Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam through the port of Zanzibar to Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world. It handled nearly 200,000 vessels last year and is a key transit hub for smugglers transporting ivory from Africa to China. Between 2000 and 2014, customs officials seized around 33 tons of ivory, taken from an estimated 11,000 elephants.

With the huge challenge faced by customs and other law enforcement agencies in West Africa, wildlife crime is on the rise. Regional traffickers and organized crime groups are exploiting weak, ineffective and inconsistent port controls throughout the region.

U.N. Action in Africa
To address the issue, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized a workshop in Accra, Ghana, from August 25 to 27 August, and in Dakar, Senegal, from August 31 to September 2. The objective was to provide training for national law enforcement agencies to better fight wildlife crime through the control of maritime containers. The workshop was led by trainers and experts from UNODC, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the CITES Management Authority.

The Container Control Programme has been developed jointly by UNODC and WCO to assist governments to create sustainable enforcement structures in selected sea and dry ports to minimize the risk of shipping containers being exploited for illicit drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime. The implementation of the program is an opportunity for UNODC to work with governments in establishing a unit dedicated to targeting and inspecting high-risk containers.

UNODC, in partnership with WCO, delivers basic training programs and provides technical and office equipment. For example, the equipment connects the units to the WCO’s ContainerCOMM – a restricted branch of the Customs Enforcement Network dedicated to sharing information worldwide on the use of containers for illicit trafficking.
Sustainability.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon argues: “Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law, degrades ecosystems and severely hampers the efforts of rural communities striving to sustainably manage their natural resources.”

Wildlife trade is a transnational organized crime that raises profits of about $19 billion annually. In addition, it is often linked to other crimes such as arms trafficking, drug trafficking, corruption, money-laundering and terrorism – that can deprive developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues.

Shipping
It’s hardly surprising that many of the big ivory seizures made in recent years have been detected in shipping containers, says Dr. Richard Thomas, Global Communications Coordinator for the environmental organization TRAFFIC. “Partly that’s due to the sheer quantity of ivory being moved (the largest-ever ivory seizure was 7.1 tons) – which from a practical and cost point of view makes sea carriage more attractive than air carriage.

“Also in the smugglers’ favor is the huge numbers of containers moved by sea. Some of the big ports in Asia deal with literally thousands of containers per day. Obviously it’s not practical or feasible to inspect each and every one, and that’s something the organized criminal gangs behind the trafficking rely upon.”

There’s lots of issues to be dealt with, says Thomas: For example, even when an enforcement agency makes a seizure, it’s not easy to find out who actually booked the passage for the container and who knew precisely what was in it and actually put it there. “That’s one area where transport companies can collaborate with enforcement agencies to assist follow-up enquiries. Obviously companies have records of where the container is headed too, obviously key information for follow-up actions,” says Thomas.

TRAFFIC recently ran a workshop in Bangkok under the auspices of the Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) project, targeting the movement of illicit wildlife cargoes across borders.

“The transport industry can serve as the eyes and ears of enforcement agencies as part of a global collaboration to eliminate the poaching and trafficking of illegal wildlife commodities,” said Nick Ahlers, Leader of TRAFFIC’s Wildlife TRAPS project.

“To be successful, the entire logistics sector needs to be part of a united push to eliminate wildlife trafficking from supply chains. In particular, we would welcome participation from major shipping lines and the cargo and baggage-handling sector.”

If nothing is done to stop the ivory trade, Africa’s wild elephants could be gone in a few decades. Source: Reuters.

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UN launches global campaign targeting the criminal counterfeit trade

UNODC Anti-Counterfeit ImageThe World Customs Organization (WCO) welcomes the new global campaign launched by the United Nations (UN), under the auspices of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to raise awareness among consumers on the dangers of counterfeit goods and their link to organized crime.

The campaign – ‘Counterfeit: Don’t buy into organized crime’ – is centred around a Public Service Announcement, entitled ‘Look Behind(click hyperlink to view), which will be shown on the NASDAQ screen in New York’s Times Square and will be aired on several international television stations, starting from 14 January.

With the aim of urging consumers to consider who and what lie behind the production of counterfeit goods, the campaign is a bid to boost understanding of the multi-faceted repercussions of this illicit trade, which according to the UNODC is worth 250 billion US dollars a year.

UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, noted that, “In comparison to other crimes such as drug trafficking, the production and distribution of counterfeit goods present a low-risk/high-profit opportunity for criminals.”

Fedotov further noted that, “Counterfeiting feeds money laundering activities and encourages corruption, and there is also evidence of some involvement or overlap with drug trafficking and other serious crimes.”

Counterfeiting is a crime that affects us all, from exploited labour being used to produce counterfeits, through to the harmful and potentially deadly dangers attached to these goods, and the links that these illicit goods have in potentially funding cross-border criminal and organized crime activities.

“With a long history of fighting counterfeiting and piracy at the national, regional and international level, the global Customs community is ready to support its United Nations partners in their efforts to raise awareness about this illicit trade activity,” said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.

Mikuriya further stressed that, “The WCO is firmly committed to countering the relentless attack on consumers by criminals involved in counterfeiting, as their illicit and even dangerous goods which are flooding markets across the globe pose a huge risk to public health and safety.”

Fraudulent medicines also present a serious health risk to consumers, as criminal activity in this area is big business, with the UNODC reporting that the sale of fraudulent medicines from East Asia and the Pacific to South-East Asia and Africa alone amounts to some 5 billion US dollars per year.

Criminals use similar routes and modi operandi to move counterfeit goods as they do to smuggle illicit drugs, firearms and people; in 2013, the joint UNODC/WCO Container Control Programme detected counterfeit goods in more than one-third of all seized maritime containers.

The WCO expends enormous resources on combating the counterfeit trade using a variety of means, including the organization of global enforcement operations and the introduction of IPM, a WCO tool which promotes cooperation and the sharing of information between Customs and rights holders.

Of particular relevance to the campaign is the WCO’s theme for 2014 which highlights the importance of communication and the sharing of information for better cooperation, which is highly instrumental in the fight against counterfeits in tandem with the Organization’s public and private sector partners.

Concluding, Secretary General Mikuriya took the opportunity to commend the UNODC on its latest initiative, offered his full support for the UN campaign, and urged WCO Members and Customs’ stakeholders to continue raising awareness about the perils of buying and trading counterfeit goods. For more information visit the WCO Website. Source: WCO