Organised crime including illicit trade is a substantial threat to national security and public safety. It is hard to estimate the true scale of the illicit trade in the UK, however greater openness by the police and relevant organisations and access to criminal intelligence can increase a chance of better understanding of illicit trade. The real involvement of serious and organised criminals in illicit trade is far greater than UK officials might admit. The limited intelligence picture concerning serious and organised crime in the UK is one of the factors underestimating the true scale, nature and impact of this phenomenon.
According to Royal United Services Institute research shows the structure of organised crime had evolved from traditional hierarchy of organised groups to fluid, diverse networks operating across multiple authorities. The criminals have become sophisticated to ensure their activities remain detection. The internet has become the main facilitators of those illegal activities.
Moreover, as the illicit goods and services became more socially acceptable among the British public the UK market became more appealing to organised criminals. Tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals industries are amongst the most attractive to organised criminals due to the high profit margins associated with illicit trade. British public is often not aware that these profits are used to fund other criminal and terrorist activities.
HMRC and relevant UK agencies recognised that the greater focus should also be placed on improving information-sharing and links between the Border Force, Trading Standards, the NCA/ROCUs and the private sector.
While there are numerous public- and private-sector organisations are gathering data in about illicit trade. Unfortunately, different priorities are one of the factors hindering information-sharing between the public, private sector and other agencies. In result, to gain insight into illicit trade, law-enforcement agencies are relying on single sources of data – seizure information.
The challenge with that approach is that seizures are often treated as isolated incidents with main priority to confiscate the illicit goods, hence can’t provide a full intelligence on key issues such as distribution networks.
With an appropriate system in place, the intelligence can be shared quickly and easily within and between the sectors and law enforcement, so that together the organisations can tackle illicit trade directly and more effectively.
We would like to start a debate and explore the factors hindering information sharing between organisations and departments to help overcome them.
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