A-CAPP Center Backgrounder
Illicit Trade of Counterfeit Products, Firearms, Tobacco: Analyzing the Current Global Illicit Networks
Kari Kammel, 2022
Overview of the Criminalization of Trademark Counterfeiting Globally
This A-CAPP Center backgrounder is an overview of a larger A-CAPP Center study conducted by researchers at the A-CAPP Center and the Transcrime Group in Italy. This study included Chapter 1 dedicated to the Illicit Trade in Counterfeit Products; Chapter 2: Illicit Firearms Trade, and Chapter 3: The Illicit Tobacco Market.
The report describes and analyzes the global illicit market for 1) counterfeit products, 2) firearms trade, and 3) tobacco. These independently complex illicit markets fuel various criminal activities ranging from funding other types of illicit trade to organized crime activities. Through this exploration, we can see clear overlap in modus operandi, actors and even routes. Additionally, best practices from dealing with each form of these trades can be shared from the study of each of these phenomena.
Comparing and Contrasting Illicit Markets
In this study, there are commonalities with the illicit markets, as well as sharp contrasts that the authors explore in depth. For example as described in Chapter 2, the illicit firearms market differs from counterfeit products, tobacco or other illicit markets because firearms are not consumable goods and last indefinitely, being reused and resold multiple times. (Arsovska, 2014; Marsh, 2016; UNODC, 2020c). The authors also explore how to estimate the size and scope of these illicit markets as collecting data with illicit activities always remains a challenge; examining trade routes and countries involved as origin, transit or destinations countries; drivers and contextual factors that influence each of these markets; different activities, crime scripts and modi operandi used in all the phases of these illicit trades; actors and descriptions of consumers who are both innocent and complicit; as well as countermeasures and legal frameworks in place.
The report examines at the following topics including definitions and identification for each of the three types of illicit trade.
Estimating the Market size and Challenges With Existing Estimates
Estimating the market size for each of the illicit markets remains a challenge due to discrepancies in the data, collection methods and terminology, the illicit and hidden nature of all these activities, and in some cases lack of law enforcement wanting to report on their efforts. All three chapters look at some of the data produced by groups such as the OECD or government agencies.
Routes and Networks of Illicit Trade
The authors describe and analyze various patterns of routes and networks, as well as countries of origin, transit and destination, or a country playing multiple roles. They also discuss organized crime and other illicit groups use of various routes, contacts and networks. All three chapters also discuss the importance of Free Trade Zones (FTZs) and their impact and role in illicit trade, particularly as a point of transit.
Drivers and Contextual Factors that Influence the Illicit Markets
Each of the chapters describes in detail the factors and drivers the fuel their respective illicit markets such as profit-making, consumer demand, and culture. In addition to supply and demand and the role of the consumer, all three chapters explore the impact of access to the internet and e-commerce, as well as their increasing use in both legitimate and illicit trade.
Illicit Trade Activities, Modi Operandi, and Crime Scripts
The authors also explore crime scripts of these types of illicit trade and types of activities that are occurring. There is also overlapping attention paid to the shift in shipment to small parcels by criminal elements and the various activities they do to avoid detection and reduce their risk at having their product confiscated.
Actors Engaged in Illicit Trade
Different actors are involved across all three of these areas of illicit trade. When looking at these three groups, although there are unique features of actors for each, there is also overlap when looking at the scope of the illicit supply chain from producers and manufacturers all the way through the chain to sellers. For example, in all three there are very specific actors involved in illegal and illicit activity around the sale and movement of these goods; but there are also legitimate actors that both unknowingly and knowingly can take a part in the movement of these goods in the illicit supply chain, as well as the licit supply chain.
Existing Regulatory Frameworks and Countermeasures
Finally, the report examines each of the forms of illicit trade (counterfeits, weapons and tobacco) in their existing regulatory frameworks and available countermeasures, such as enforcement, that have been used worldwide to respond to these. In each of the chapters, the authors lay out national and international regulatory systems that provide the guiding framework from which any enforcement against these activities could occur.
These forms of illicit trade can and do have serious impact globally and will continue to with emerging trends and challenge. It is important for governments and other stakeholders to continue pursuing remedies to keep populations safer. In each approach and each set of solutions or remedies, close consideration should be given to each market/jurisdiction and the region—whether it be their economy, the political situation, legal framework or history of illicit trade.
The countermeasures should also be holistic and consist of multiple methods for approaching solutions due to the complexity of these types of trade.
While all these countermeasures are discussed for these crimes, the struggle to successfully enforce and prevent these trades exists as the perception of both low risk of getting caught and low fines make the illicit market attractive for criminals. Additionally, the vast disparity of legislation either on the national, regional or international level for all three of these types of illicit trade, including connected criminal offenses make it easy for criminals to move, organize, relocate or avoid places that may have more stringent regulations, if any.
We hope that this report sheds some light on the complexities of global illicit trade in counterfeit goods, firearms and tobacco product; where there is overlap in a variety of factors between the three and where the problem and the solution must remain sui generis to that particular, unique type of illicit movement of product. For further details, please read the entire report.
 Illicit Trade in Counterfeit Products, Jay Kennedy, former Assistant Director of Research at the A-CAPP Center and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at MSU. http://www.a-capp.msu.edu firstname.lastname@example.org
 Illicit Firearms Trade, Marina Mancuso, Marco Dugato, Flaminia De Biase; The Illicit Tobacco Market, Marco Dugato & Flaminia De Biase of Transcrime. https://www.transcrime.it/en email@example.com