Large amounts of money are being siphoned from the multi-billion dollar cigarette smuggling trade and going right into the pockets of terrorist networks and international organized crime.
A United Nations Security Council investigative body, the Group of Experts, has reported that millions of dollars in illicit tobacco revenues are reaching al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, and is financing Congolese rebels for the recruitment of child soldiers, mass rape and murders.
The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has determined that 600 billion counterfeited and smuggled cigarettes cross national borders annually. This represents $50 billion in lost proceeds affecting nations throughout the world. The most recent edition of the authoritative Tobacco Atlas, released by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation also concluded: Cigarettes are the world's most widely smuggled legal consumer product.
Despite disturbing trends in many other nations, the Ukraine, with a population of 45 million, and with porous borders, has an extremely low rate of 1.7% of its total market in contraband tobacco. The Ukraine utilizes the EDAPS Tax Stamp System to control the illicit sales of products and EDAPS is now offering comparable systems to other nations.
"Our hologram technology and enforcement methodology with our Track Trace System, enables government agencies to not only substantially increase their revenues from the sale of excisable products but to dramatically block illegal uses that often fund transnational criminal and terrorist activities," said Alexander Vassiliev, Chairman of EDAPS.
Since 9-11, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reported that smugglers with ties to terrorist groups were acquiring millions of dollars from illegal cigarette sales and funneling the cash to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At the same time, the booming black markets are fueling not only terrorist groups but dozens of organized crime gangs, who find the big profits and low risk hard to resist, according to the latest study by the Center for Public Integrity.
The first large-scale cigarette trafficking case tied to terrorism was prosecuted in North Carolina in 2002. A federal jury in Charlotte convicted Mohamad Hammoud, 28, of violating a ban on providing material support to terrorist groups by funneling profits from a multimillion-dollar cigarette-smuggling operation to them. Prosecutors were able to prove that huge profits from the venture were sent to high-ranking terrorist leaders.
A Congressional study prepared by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security -- How Cigarette Smuggling is Funding our Enemies Abroad -- concluded, Recent law enforcement investigations have directly linked those involved in illicit tobacco trade to infamous terrorist organizations.
A report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists -- Tobacco Underground -- charts the paths of smugglers working for the Taliban and others. The report explains how the multibillion-dollar business fuels organized crime, robs governments of tax money and spurs addiction.
As the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice concluded at their meeting in Brazil last month, Organized crime and terrorism pose greater threats to international peace and security than ever before.