In a situation where global demand for masks, gels and sanitisers is soaring, criminal groups are making substantial profits from smuggling such items, some of which are of a substandard or counterfeit quality.
The ENACT report states that ‘counterfeit, substandard and illegally diverted pharmaceuticals are possibly among the world’s most pressing illegal trade problems’. With many countries and populations in lock-down and customers being unable to go to shops, more goods are sold on-line. This increases people’s exposure to illicitly sourced counterfeit and illicitly traded goods. Many cybercrime scams are being reported in a number of countries, such as telephone calls that request citizens to return money which was sent to their mobile account ‘by accident’ (in reality, no such credit was received).
The report lays bare another worrying trend: as governments increasingly call upon law enforcement agencies to enforce curfews and lockdowns, fewer human resources are available for other essential policing work, including investigations into serious crime.
European Union to Kenya Ambassador Simon Mordue expressed hope that law enforcement agencies in the Horn of Africa will find a balance between COVID-19 related policing needs and the necessity to continue to fight organized crime and terrorism. There is already evidence e.g. that wildlife trafficking in the region is on the rise. ‘We understand the current situation and the need to strictly enforce curfews and other measures, the Head of Delegation said. As the EU, we are investing significantly in working with and strengthening the capacities of intelligence and law enforcement in the partner countries in the Horn of Africa, including through our financing of activities by Interpol. We hope that these partnerships can result in more investigations and more prosecutions of organized crime syndicates. It is imperative to prevent unscrupulous groups ad gangs profiting from the COVID 19 crisis,’ he noted.
The EU-financed ENACT project - "Enhancing African capacity to respond more effectively to transnational organised crime" - aims to help build up the knowledge, skills and awareness to enhance Africa’s response to transnational organised crime.
ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS, based in South Africa) and Interpol, in affiliation with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime. More information about ENACT can be found at at www.enactafricaorg.
The policy paper ‘Crime & Contagion: the impact of a Pandemic on Organised Crime’ can be downloaded from: https://globalinitiative.net/crime-contagion-impact-covid-crime/