The fight against illicit trade

With a growing number of Australians opting for online shopping to get their retail fix, it’s important that people make sure they actually get what they pay for, and don’t deliberately or inadvertently support the world’s illicit trade market.

When we talk about illicit trade, it refers to the production, import, export, purchase, sale or possession of goods that fail to comply with the legislation of a country. It’s a growing problem worldwide – made worse because it is a known major funding source for organised crime and terrorist organisations.

Many syndicates have intensified their use of e-commerce and social media platforms along with e-hailing and courier services to meet the heightened demand.

In fact, counterfeit medicines account for over 1 million deaths annually, governments all over the world lose billions of dollars in tax revenues, as well as lost revenue for legitimate businesses.

It’s believed that about 600 billion illegal cigarettes are sold around the world in a year. In addition, cosmetics, toys, and electronics can be widely found on the black market. Counterfeit car and mechanical parts can cause accidents, while poorly made and unregulated building materials are known to have been used in the construction of power plants, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Illicit food products and drinks can contain toxic ingredients, as can cosmetics and body care products, while electrical goods can cause fires or explosions.

Although it is difficult to measure, almost every sector of society and product category is impacted by illicit trade.

A 2017 study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce, found the global trade in counterfeit and pirated goods is estimated to generate between US$923 billion to US$1.13 trillion annually. This includes cross-border trade, domestic trade and digital piracy.

A recent report by the Retail Trade and Brand Advocacy (RTBA) showed that the illicit trade in cigarettes continues to cause substantial revenue loss for governments and legitimate businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.

The RTBA report found that in terms of revenue alone, total tax loss estimated across 19 monitored markets in the region was over US$5.8 billion in 2017, with nearly 50 per cent of this occurring in just two markets – Australia and Malaysia.

With technological advancements and the international nature of trade in the world today, these values are expected to continue to rise. But technology can also be harnessed in the fight against illicit trade and you can make a difference by reporting anything suspicious to Crime Stoppers.

Report suspicious and criminal activity to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report at

You won’t be asked to say who you are – our focus is on what you know.