Illicit trade is a growing problem worldwide and is quickly replacing activities such as drug trafficking as the major source of funding for criminal enterprises. It is projected to grow to USD 2.8 trillion dollars by 2022. This crime and its links to human trafficking, firearms, drugs, terrorism and environmental crimes has already been established. Interpol has also noted that “the trade in fake and pirated goods is a transnational crime, run by extensive and complex criminal enterprises”. In addition to counterfeit items, the trading of legitimate goods through illicit channels with the non-payment of the required taxes is also a major component of illicit trade.

Cigarettes are the world’s most illicitly traded product and can potentially provide the highest revenue. Two popular ways of achieving this are by:

  1. Producing and selling counterfeit cigarettes and
  2. Sourcing cigarettes legitimately produced in one country, and smuggling these into a second country for resale.

Trinidad and Tobago and the region are not immune to this problem. Like anywhere else we are attracted to branded items. As a result, we are all exposed to fake brands and contraband. We therefore need to be vigilant in ensuring our purchasing preferences do not allow us to unintentionally support international criminal networks.

Crime Stoppers Trinidad and Tobago (CSTT) as part of a regional project that includes Jamaica has now joined the fight against illicit trade.

The risks to our region from uncurbed illicit trade activities are numerous. Firstly there is the negative impact on public health. Just recently the Ministry of Health has again been warning us about illicit pharmaceuticals. This area is in fact one space where the public is put at great risks. This results when the products are manufactured in factories where the conditions are unhygienic and the constituent ingredients are unsuitable. These products then enter the marketplace at unusually attractive prices. The added health risks with reduced or no efficacy then compounds the problem. Other areas where similar observances have been made include personal care products such as cosmetics, food and drinks, car parts and the list continues.

Over the next few weeks as we approach the Christmas season, CSTT will therefore like to raise public awareness about the issues concerning illicit trade and encourage consumers to make wiser buying choices. By helping curb illicit trade you as a member of the public can help reduce the inflow of guns and drugs into our country and assist with dismantling criminal networks.

Ultimately, we will like to encourage persons with information on illicit trade to report these activities. Our hotlines at 800-TIPS are available 24 hours daily. Do you know of a shipment of pharmaceuticals that appears suspicious? These may be illicitly traded items. What about tobacco? Do you know of cigarettes that are being sold very cheaply or of containers that are entering our country without payment of the required taxes? Are you suspicious that the branded goods being traded may be fake brands? All these items can be reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers so law enforcement can then act.