The illegal trade of goods is a staggeringly large business. It is estimated that every year illicit flows resulting from cross-border criminal operations accounts for between $1.6 and $2.2 trillion. Worldwide, up to 600 billion cigarettes are commercialized illegally, which translates to an estimated one in ten cigarettes sold illicitly.
These numbers emphasize the scale of the issue the Munich Security Conference (MSC) initiative to increase cross-border co-operation to tackle illicit flows is facing. They also illustrate the importance of such an initiative.
In 2016 PMI established PMI IMPACT, a first-of-its-kind global initiative that supports a wide range of organizations to develop class leading solutions to tackle illegal trade and the ecosystem of crimes that flourish around it.
Speaking at the MSC roundtable discussion in Cairo, PMI’s Vice President for Illicit Trade Prevention Alvise Giustiniani said: “Transnational organized crime is a significant and growing threat to national and international security, and it is feeding off illicit trade. Through smuggling, counterfeit and tax evasion, governments are losing billions in lost tax revenues, legitimate businesses are being undermined, and consumers are being exposed to poorly made and unregulated products.”
Image (courtesy of MSC/Kuhlmann): PMI’s Vice President for Illicit Trade Prevention, Alvise Giustiniani at the MSC roundtable discussion in Cairo
The profits from the illegal cigarette trade attracts criminal organizations, fuelling and financing other illegal activities. On this point, Giustiniani said: “deterring the illicit financial flows that criminals’ profit from is of the essence: multi-billion [dollar] trade-based money laundering schemes are pushing the world away from achieving a sustainable future.”
Key to PMI’s commitment to delivering a future without cigarettes is eliminating the illicit trade, safeguarding the vision for a smoke-free future. And Giustiniani continued: “Illicit trade is robbing the world of those valuable resources that can contribute to a sustainable development. And this has a direct impact on everyone’s future, as it threatens our security and puts communities all over the world at risk.”
The company believes that deterring illicit financial flows and financing for development should be at the core of our long-term plans to address the global issue of illicit trade.
Giustiniani added: “For PMI, the importance of eradicating illegal trade goes beyond a government’s loss of revenues and company profits. We have a social responsibility to take action, just as we did with our [smoke-free products], which is paving the way towards a smoke-free future.”
“We are working to create both a world without cigarettes and a world without illegal trade. But we simply cannot do it alone. From the public to the private sector, everybody has a role to play.”