Data holds the key to fight Organized Crime
Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the horrible terrorist attacks in Brussels, Europol and the British Chamber of Commerce co-hosted the “Fighting Organised Crime and Terrorism Conference,” for which both organizations had invited experts from across the Globe to discuss approaches to combat organized crime and terrorism.
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It was my distinct privilege to participate in the conference and as a panelist on the panel examining "The Impact of organized crime and terrorism in business, society and its citizens." The conference provided a plethora of information and in-depth discussions on the origins, growth, funding sources, practices and strategies of organized crime and terrorism. The conference also examined what strategies tactics, tools and technologies law enforcement and private industries deploy to combat this ever-growing threat.
Trends in Organised Crime
In advance of the conference, Europol had just released its 2017 "Serious and Organised Crime and Threat Assessment – SOCTA" report, which is accessible at www.europol.europa.eu. 1
In its report, Europol identified four new global trends of organized crime, which will impact how organized crime can be combatted. As a result, this will also impact the technologies and therefore tax stamps utilized to combat the illicit trade.
1. Crime Incorporated In his presentation of the report, Rob Wainwright, Director Europol, pointed out that Criminal Organizations that traffic in illicit goods and who commit acts of terror are exceedingly organized like businesses. They have clear executive leadership, functional groups and various departments or lines of business. They run their operations like a business and are able to shift their operations to new demand or exploit new weak spots. They add new business lines, new operations and new markets. They exit markets that become too hard to compete or succeed in and most importantly, they can execute such illicit operations at industrial scale, highlighting that enforcing against illicit trade once established is getting harder.
2. Truly Global In addition, Criminal Organizations have gone increasingly global. With the rise of and access to the Internet, organized crime groups can achieve global reach in record time. This enables organized crime groups to exploit new illicit trade markets in new countries rapidly, if demand increases. Like the Internet itself, Organized Crime has become decentralized.
3. Crime as a Service This also gave rise to the third trend in organized crime - crime as a service. Criminal organizations now have access to all aspects of illicit trade as a service. Similar to how a legitimate business will have access to many service providers, organized crime groups now have access to highly specialized, global, and nimble "service providers." For example, one "service provider" might specialize in the printing of fake tax stamps or the imitation of certain security features. Other "service providers" specialize in and will provide stolen identities, raw materials, distribution services, freight forwarding or illegal border crossings. This crime as a service makes the disruption of criminal enterprises extremely difficult. If an enforcement action takes out one "service provider," ten others will be available to fulfill that same need instantly. This also increases the likelihood of security features being breached or imitated. The sheer plethora of specialized providers allows Organized Crime to assemble the ideal combination of service providers to develop perfect imitations or hard to combat contraband.
4. Data Analysis is the key Director Wainwright concluded that better data analysis is the key to successfully combat these global, distributed, decentralized, highly adaptive and fragmented organized crime groups. He stressed however, that there is not necessarily a need for additional information or data, but rather a need for much better aggregation, integration and analysis of existing data. This includes the integration of multiple dispersed existing data sources to identify these disbursed systems. Throughout the conference various law enforcement and industry experts reiterated this theme for the need to combine, join and analyze existing data from various data sources.
Implications for the industry Various implications comes as a result for the authentication, security printing and tax stamp industry. Due to the disbursed nature of organized crime, individual security features are more likely to be imitated or breached, and such imitations are then rapidly exploited and distributed in attractive markets. Crime as a service provides an almost unlimited supply of cheap contraband products and cheap imitation security features, which can continuously be rearranged to avoid cursory inspections. Systems relying on singular features or just a tax stamp are more likely to be rapidly circumvented by organized crime network who are more nimble and adaptive than any government agency.
Tax Stamp providers have the opportunity to fully embrace this threat and develop security models that utilize a tax stamps as just one feature of a strong interconnected system of features and data. This includes relinquishing and integrating tax stamp and revenue data with other public, government and industry sources to develop more rapid situational awareness. Tax Stamp providers have the opportunity to become data integrators that assist law enforcement in the aggregation and analysis of existing and new data sources to provide comprehensive threat analysis and enforcement recommendations to revenue authorities and law enforcement agencies.
However, this will require a new level of cooperation between tax stamp providers, technology providers, governments, industry and law enforcement to combat this new nimble organized crime threat.
Sven Bergmann is a Managing Partner at Venture Global Consulting and advises brand owners, technology providers and governments on anti-counterfeit strategies, programmes and technologies.
Send your comments to SBergmann@VentureGlobalCo.com.