Illicit trade has been a massive threat to modern economies and public health and safety, while enriching criminals and organised crime.
Some sectors appear to be of particular high-risk. For example, counterfeit medicines not only cause economic damage for the sector but are also a significant threat to public health because they are often not properly formulated and may contain dangerous ingredients. Illicit, counterfeit and substandard goods in these sectors are often of inferior quality and pose significant health risks (e.g. fake pharmaceuticals, illicit alcohol or food products) and safety risks (e.g. counterfeit automotive spare parts, fake batteries).
The OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade Evidence:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been flaming existing problems, as criminals have actively exploited new opportunities for illicit trade, due to broken supply chains, strong demand for medicines and protective, and limited capacities of law enforcement officials. The OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TF-CIT) has been actively monitoring the risks, providing stakeholders with an up to date picture of the situation.
TF-CIT dialogues on illicit trade at the time of the pandemic:
Policy response – the Whole of Governments Programme
The Whole of Governments Programme is a joint effort of the Task Force and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to highlight the need for extensive collaboration and coordinated efforts, across countries and government entities, to address the threat of illicit products effectively.
Within national administrations responsibility to combat trade in illicit goods that pose health and safety risks to consumers usually spans across many agencies. In addition, a global nature of this threat demands for improved international co-operation.
There are some good examples how to combat illicit trade in dangerous products, using a co-ordinated approach. It includes the successful Operation Lascar, the US FDA’s first bilateral enforcement operation with the United Kingdom to disrupt the flow of illegal drugs. This operation is an example of an effective international, whole-of-governments, approach to a globally shared criminal threat. Our Programme builds on the success of Operation Lascar. It discusses how to optimise the multi-sectorial approach and bring together a broad network of stakeholders from multiple countries, and relevant international organisations to advance the goal of global public health and safety.
The programme is carried out in virtual meetings, to discuss the Operation Lascar and to gauge the main governance gaps and to determine the relevant best practices.
The 15-16 September 2022, the OECD will organise an in-person event to discuss what are the key lessons learned that we could use to effectively combat illicit trade in goods that pose health and safety risks. The event will take place at the OECD Conference Centre in Paris and will be open to private and public participants.