WCO and Egmont Group host the Hot-Zone Prioritization Forum

25 October 2022

From 17 to 20 October 2022, the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) hosted the Hot-zone Prioritization Forum, under the WCO Project OCTAGON, at the WCO Headquarters in Brussels.

This inaugural Forum is an initiative to identify sub-regional hot-zones at higher risk of exploitation by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and terrorist groups, as well as their money laundering activities. The scope of this forum is to provide a platform for the discussion, analysis and evaluation of the highest priority sub-regional hot-zones across Latin America, the Asia-Pacific region and Africa. 

The prioritization list generated by this forum will allow FIUs and Customs administrations to better focus their efforts on specific geographical sub-regions and implement targeted methodologies to address organized crime activity, money laundering and terrorism financing risks more efficiently and effectively. The prioritization list will be established for three years, with an annual Forum convocation conducted to ensure that major events and newly identified organized crime, money laundering and terrorist financing trends are considered.

Project OCTAGON is a new initiative within the AML-CTF program that is focused on countering TCOs and money laundering activities. The Hot-Zone Prioritization Forum is the first of three focal elements of the project. The second element is the provision of in-depth mentoring and training for Customs administrations. The third one is the enrollment of six frontline customs officers from high-risk areas into the Gemological Institute of America’s Gem Certification Program. The intention is to establish a group of Customs gemological experts to operate in countries at risk of gem smuggling.