Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Said the Nature of Smuggled or Illegally Traded Goods Has Not Changed in the Last 50-60 Years and It Remains Precious Metals, Narcotics, and Valuable Reserves From Forest or Marine Life.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday called for inter-governmental cooperation to share “actionable information” to crack down on the masterminds behind smuggling and illicit trade networks.
He said the focus of the enforcement agencies should be on catching the “brains” behind the illegal trade, which would in turn put a stop to such illegal activities that harm the economy as well as the citizens. Speaking at the Global Conference on Cooperation in Enforcement Matters, Sitharaman said the nature of smuggled or illegally traded goods has not changed in the last 50-60 years and this still includes precious metals, narcotics, and life extracted from forests or marine life. Contains valuable reserves.
Most of the goods traded illegally remain as such. There are no new areas that will surprise the customs officials. If this has been the trend for the past decade, then by now most of us should be fully aware of who is who and what are the forces behind what is what?
I lay great emphasis on WCO (World Customs Organization) as well as inter-governmental cooperation so that we are able to catch the masterminds behind this (smuggling) with the help of local authorities and governments, the minister said.
He said that if all the seized goods are destroyed and not released into the market, then the check on illegal trade will be strengthened. It is also our duty to restore confidence in the minds of citizens from time to time that such activities will be punished, curbed, and stopped.
So if only gold, cigarettes, narcotics, antiques, and wildlife materials are being smuggled, it is your experience that will show us the direction and way forward so that we are able to stop this evil as it is destroying all our economies. It causes harm,” Sitharaman said.
Stating that prevention and containment will help curb the menace of illicit trade and trafficking, he said enforcement agencies are in an advantageous position as they are equipped with technology. Technology must go hand in hand with the exchange of information. And when you share information, it should be actionable, the minister said.
He said the exchange of information should also include innovative ideas on the laws and procedures implemented to empower officials. It is important for all governments to know how to stop smuggling activities that threaten our wild flora and fauna, how to stop such activities where network groups think that small fries can be sacrificed, the police or the border duty officers can catch these small (fries) and the big fish, which is the brain behind it, will never be caught, Sitharaman said. The minister also suggested that all stolen and smuggled antiquities should be returned to their home countries.
Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) chief Sanjay Kumar Aggarwal said as global trade becomes more interconnected and economies grow rapidly, the import of prohibited items such as antiques, cigarettes, gold, and endangered wildlife species is increasing. Traffic is increasing. The possibility of illegal movement is also increasing. among others.
He said that the roots of the illegal drug trade remain strong. Global drug trafficking is estimated at US$650 billion, contributing 30 percent of the total illicit economy. It is having a devastating impact. That adds up to the crimes. Cases involving trafficking often have potential connections to money laundering and terrorist financing, which affect national security.
We understand that export-import fraud threatens global supply chains and is detrimental to economic and national security. Thus, we work collectively to defeat international syndicates requiring national and international law enforcement. There is a constant need for cooperation and coordination of agencies; They said.
Aggarwal said the theme of the conference, ‘It takes a network to fight the network’, is based on the importance of sharing intelligence and information to stop such illicit trade.
He said that with the emergence of a closely connected digital world and layers of anonymity, it is important to share “insights into emerging trends and advanced detection technologies, especially in the context of drug-related crimes”.
Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra said that while the need to tackle the menace of smuggling is important, we also need to put in place trade facilitation measures that reduce the cost of doing business and increase competitiveness.
Malhotra said the large scale of trafficking, use of advanced technology, and presence of highly sophisticated networks make them (trafficking) very difficult and challenging to detect. Therefore, modern technology is being used by law enforcement agencies to deal with this threat. It is important to adopt this.
During the event, Sitharaman also launched the fourth phase of ‘Operation Shesh’ by DRI in collaboration with WCO’s Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) in the Asia Pacific and the Middle East. The operation was first launched in 2015 to curb illegal trade in endangered timber.