Industry leaders meet in Miami to tackle $2.2T illegal trade, human trafficking problem

By Jesse Schekner

Originally posted on

USA-IT joined Florida TaxWatch and the World Trade Center Miami for a roundtable discussion on new approaches to combat illegal trade.

Hernan Albamonte, head of illicit trade prevention U.S., Philip Morris International spoke on the illicit trade of tobacco products and its connection to other forms of illegal trade:

“Why is it so popular, the illicit trade of tobacco products? Because it’s a low-risk, high-reward business opportunity for criminals. You can buy a 40-foot container of cigarettes that will cost you around $100,000 in China. You bring it to the U.S. and put it in New York and Florida, in some high-tax jurisdiction, and you will probably get $2.3 million. And the risk of going to jail because of illicitly trading tobacco is minimal.”

“It’s not about the illicit trade of certain products,” Albamonte said. “It’s the entire ecosystem of illicit activities, which includes corruption, money laundering, cybercrime, environmental crimes, human trafficking and exploitation as well. It’s a combination of many factors, and I would like not to create a perception that these are isolated cases or isolated crimes; they are all together, converge and are managed by the same organizations.”

He added: “If you would know that by buying a counterfeit sneaker you would be financing people who are bringing drugs into your community, I’m sure most people would say, ‘You know what? You’re not selling that here.’”

Ned Bowman, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association commented on the illegal siphoning and selling of gasoline:

“It’s a constant. Criminals find another way to get around. We were able to convince law enforcement that this is a bomb going down the highway … It’s inside the car, and that van is going down the road, tilted up because it has so much fuel.”

Keith Space, vice chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Miami chapter spoke to increased illicit activities surrounding large events:

“As an industry, we can really help complement any of the programs that take place at the state level, but that whack-a-mole strategy of it constantly moving — just because we close one door doesn’t mean it goes away,” he said. “We want those big events, those big concerts and sporting events, (but) if we want to enjoy the benefits of those things, then we have to be vigilant about managing those illicit activities that come as a result.”

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