WCO hosts first symposium on Protecting Customs Institutions from Organized Crime

29 November 2023

On 27 and 28 November 2023, the World Customs Organization (WCO) hosted a Symposium on “Protecting Customs Institutions from Organized Crime”. Over 350 delegates from nearly 100 Member countries registered for the event that took place at the WCO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and online.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, the Secretary General of the WCO, emphasized the importance of the event, saying “This Symposium aims to contribute to the future of Customs with a focus on knowledge, professionalism and integrity”. He added ”Enhanced border management systems have revealed that organized crime targets border personnel to corrupt, intimidate, and infiltrate supply chains, seeking illegal profit”. He also noted that “The interplay between corruption and coercion by organized crime demands further research and the development of best practices to safeguard Customs officials against organized crime”.

On the first day, participants heard from Members’ experiences facing the issue of organized crime and the impact on their organizations, as well as response measures taken. Delegates also had the opportunity to receive insights from academic researchers at the U4-Transparency International Anti-Corruption Helpdesk, that shed light on specific ways organized crime can influence corruption in Customs, from outright physical threat to more subtle forms of harassment, and confirmed that Customs administrations are best placed to take internally oriented measures to prevent it.

On the second day, other sectors and institutions shared their experience on similar issues and the concrete measures they have implemented to resist infiltration by organized crime. Panelists included representatives from the WCO Private Sector Consultative Group, INTERPOL, Europol, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

This Symposium was made possible through the WCO Anti-Corruption and Integrity Promotion (A-CIP) Programme. The A-CIP Programme currently provides technical assistance and capacity building to more than 20 countries across five WCO regions, with funding from Norway and Canada. For more information please contact capacity.building@wcoomd.org.