Cambodia’s Air Cargo Control Unit successfully targets falsely declared COVID-19 test kits

20 May 2020

The Air Cargo Control Unit in Phnom Penh airport, Cambodia, established in the framework of the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP), detected a shipment containing around 100 COVID-19 test kits. Upon its arrival from Hong Kong China, the shipment was falsely declared as ‘Test Paper Sample’.

Recently this became the eighth shipment of suspected fraudulent COVID-19 test kits that were detained by this Unit. The shipments came from different countries in the Asia-Pacific region. To date, the number of COVID-19 test kits detained / seized in Cambodia has reached 1,100 units.

COVID-19 test kits are part of the joint WCO-WHO Harmonised System Classification List for COVID-19 medical supplies. This list was published on 9 April 2020 and is a follow-up of the first list initially published by the WCO in mid-March. It is aimed at facilitating cross-border movement of critical medical supplies through the enhanced Customs clearance procedures at borders. At the same time, on 23 March, the WCO issued an Urgent Notice for all its Members and general public regarding the new trend of increasing numbers of counterfeit COVID-19 medical supplies flooding the market.

Fake test kits are dangerous as they could result in infected people believing they were healthy, causing them to inadvertently spread the virus and not seek medical attention in a timely manner. Even in cases when test kits are not counterfeit, the diversion of legitimate medical supplies from authorized supply chains to illicit supply chains means that these supplies will be maintained/stored and sold to the highest bidder by criminals with no accountability, rather than managed by authorities seeking to ensure that supplies would be directed at people who need them most.

The CCP was initiated by the WCO and UNODC in 2004 to address illicit trade activities in containerized shipments through the establishment of dedicated Port Control Units, responsible for profiling suspicious consignments. Following its well-established staged training concept, the CCP has expanded into the air cargo sector and also provides training on selected land border crossings. The CCP is currently operational in 51 countries and more than 100 dedicated risk profiling units are established in total. Further expansion of this joint WCO-UNODC initiative is in progress. In 2019, the work of the Port and Air Cargo Control Units established via the cooperation between WCO and UNODC resulted in a total of 77 tonnes of cocaine, approximately 1,5 tonne of heroin, 37 tonnes of precursor chemicals, 104 containers of IPR infringing goods, more than 705 million packs of cigarettes and numerous other illicit and / or smuggled goods.

The WCO continues to support its Members’ efforts to intercept illicit consignments related to COVID-19 pandemic in cooperation with the UNODC and other international partners.