Major Topics

The information provided on this site offers perspective on our professional activities. Selected articles may appear elsewhere in corporate publications.

The weapons trade can be perfectly legal, although the framework around the business varies widely by country. We focus on illicit aspects of the business. In a report, the Federation of American Scientists called small arms and light weapons “a smuggler’s dream and a law enforcement nightmare.”

Casinos may offer a classic approach to laundering money, but far more common are trade-based techniques in which businessmen under- or over-invoice for products and services. Still other methods center of gemstones and collectibles. Criminals aim to destroy any audit trail that leads to cash-generation sources.

The market for fake consumer items is bigger than ever, due to internet shopping and inexpensive world travel. Customs agents most commonly seize branded clothing knock-offs, but this trade extends to auto parts, electronics, and pharmaceuticals. Lawless syndicates arrange manufacturing and manage distribution.

There has long been a stream of ill-gotten antiquities from the Middle East. Much has been written on Egyptian grave robbers; there is modern-day flow from Syria and Iraq. But Asia and Latin America too are being plundered. The cost weighs heavy on humanity, as middlemen gain from selling artifacts to wealthy collectors.

The scope of criminal drug activity can be partially quantified by the international reach of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency has over 80 offices in more than 60 countries. Its focus is on those illegal proceeds that flow back to supply sources, disrupting capital flows that fund illicit businesses.

Definitions of electronic crime vary widely. Topics range from business sabotage to personal sexting. Our focus here is awareness of selected trends in online criminal activity, such as marketing counterfeit goods, reselling stolen credit cards, and theft of financial assets. We look at challenges faced by law-enforcement personnel.

Gathering intelligence to undermine competitors has grown in complexity. The current wave involves siphoning off trade secrets from companies through computer-network hacking. However, executives have long used false pretenses—such as placing allied parties in jobs with competing businesses—to steal proprietary information.

Piracy is an eternal trade. In the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia, vessels are detained at gunpoint, sometimes fatally. Technology applications help to mitigate the number of attacks. Commercial ships, even the largest ones, may carry at most 20-to-30 crew members, making them easy-to-overcome prey for pirate groups.

This subject has been front-and-center since the 9/11 attacks. The ascent of the Islamic State has further amplified concerns among policymakers worldwide, although thwarting terrorism is not strictly an international issue. Pursuing illicit funding sources is a critical component of fighting the growth of terrorism.

Criminal activity by skilled professionals is a broad category. We center on embezzlement, fraud, bribery, and insider trading. A common denominator is that these types of crimes—ones with distant victims—are often committed by sophisticated executives, under a veneer of respectability.

The problem is greater than elephants being poached for their ivory tusks. Criminal networks are decimating many species, including rhinoceroses and sharks. Better data management and greater public awareness are making inroads. Yet black-market actors remain aggressive in their illicit cash-raising activities.


Banner image is ancient Sumerian stone carving. Credit: Swisshippo at Can Stock Photo.