Barbados’ allure as a tourist destination could come under siege if the threat of the illicit goods trade isn’t taken seriously.
The caution has come from Director of Crime Stoppers International Michael Ellis who has contended that the issue of illicit trading is now a major concern for law enforcement agencies across the world.
He made the comments while speaking at a seminar entitled Measuring the Impact of Illicit Trade at the Hilton Barbados this morning.
Ellis said the island’s reputation and tourism sector could be negatively impacted if it was seen as a hub for these illegal activities.
He said once the trade was allowed to fester it would also attract other elements of a crime.
“Then there are shootings and murders and there are criminal gangs fighting because you have lost control of your supply chain and you’ve allowed this crisis to grow, and that’s my message to you. Sit back and do nothing and you will have a big problem.
“…If left unchecked this unlawful exploitation remains a risk, hampering not only your ingenuity but your opportunities for economic growth and jobs market. We cannot afford to view this as a ‘soft crime’ affecting only the narrow private interests of a few industries… and we certainly should not allow decision-makers and consumers to think of this as a ‘victimless crime’,” Ellis said.
“This crime touches so many industries – the food industry, automobile, pharmaceuticals, creative arts, software, tobacco industries, clothing, luxury goods, the list is endless…” added the former Assistant Director of Interpol who also maintained that the illicit trade of goods had the potential to wreck economies.
“It is a crime that damages societies, it threatens citizens’ safety, it feeds transnational organized crime and it provides finances for subversive groups driven by their own political demands. It is a crime that robs countries of their dignity and destiny, it undermines the rule of law, and is a growing blight that feeds ‘individuals’ working in the ‘shadows’ of normal business,” he said.
Ellis said a report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime indicated that international organised crime networks draw profits as high as $870 billion from illicit trade, which is equivalent to 1.5 per cent of global GDP.
He revealed that an increasing volume and a wider range of products were being transmitted in small parcels directly to consumers and businesses across the world causing excessive problems for law enforcement in dealing with the high volumes, but also in deciding when and where action can or should be taken against the organised crime gangs.
As it relates to the Caribbean, Ellis said the trade of illicit goods through the islands was also worrying.
“Like many other parts of the world, illicit trade affects all the islands across the Caribbean. It’s particularly damaging to all societies. It is a crime that has no order and does not respect the normal rule of law and a region like the Caribbean where there is the movement of goods, people, especially informal movements, it obviously creates opportunities for smuggling all types of illicit goods,” he said.
Ellis said among some of those illicit products found in the Caribbean were tobacco, alcohol, car parts, pharmaceutical products, clothing, and sportswear, along with consumer goods such as detergents, shampoos, and toothpaste.