Commissioned by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and together with Black Market Watch, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime published a report on Illicit Trade Undermining Development.

“Trade an development go together. Since the inception of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995 cross-border trade has more than trebled, lifting more people out of poverty than at any other time in history. Yet there is a neglected underside to the recent expansion in international trade, namely an explosion in illicit trade.”

This report highlights the impact of organised crime on development, recognising that illicit trade ought to be recognised as one of the priorities in the combat against transnational organised crime because its different forms constitute the greatest sources of income for criminal groups. Nonetheless, major challenges remain in this combat: data, multiple actors sharing responsibility, long-term and indirect impact and the sheer scale of the problem create challenges for policy-makers and law enforcement alike – setting aside that there are over 180 definitions of “organised crime” which makes finding the perfect definition for “illicit trade” a challenge by itself.

Whilst this paper takes a look at the broader problem of illicit trade, it focuses especially on the “illicit trade in goods that displace normally legal products” as this remains one of the most underrated and least prioritised organised crime areas despite massive economic turnover and societal impact.