Illicit trade including smuggling and counterfeiting makes up vast ‘global businesses’, representing a multibillion-dollar illegal industry that creates a significant drain on the world economy, studies have shown. According to estimates, illicit trade is the world’s largest growing industry and its size is estimated to range between $650 million to $3 trillion. This evil business represents 10% of global trade and has been termed as the crime of the 21st century by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Further, it negatively impacts legitimate economic activity and facilitates an underground economy and organised crime that deprives governments of revenues for vital public services, forces higher burdens on taxpayers, dislocates hundreds of thousands of legitimate jobs and exposes consumers to dangerous and ineffective products.
Apart from governments all over the world making strenuous efforts to curb this menace, analysts say the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is the only non-government or private organisation that is highlighting the hazards of counterfeiting and smuggling. It formed a forum, FICCI CASCADE (Committee Against Smuggling and Counterfeiting Activities Destroying the Economy), in January 2011. This forum is focusing on the need to curb the problem of growing illicit trade in counterfeits, pass-offs and smuggled goods.
CASCADE concentrates on highlighting the hazards of counterfeiting and smuggling because :
- Legitimate industry is adversely impacted
- Consumer’s health and safety is being jeopardised
- Illegitimate industry is flourishing
- Loss to the exchequer
- Burden of welfare and enforcement costs
- Black money is being generated
- Increased criminalisation
FICCI CASCADE works closely with industry, consumers, media, legal experts, consumer organisations and enforcement agencies and policymakers to create awareness on how smuggling and counterfeiting have become a serious menace to public health and safety and why everyone concerned must make a concerted effort to contain this problem. The present chairman of this forum, Anil Rajput, who is a member of the corporate management committee of ITC, says, “Proceeds from illicit trade are increasingly becoming the main source of terror funding. We need to understand this relationship and work towards effective mechanisms to counter its worldwide impact. It’s a race against time as all of us are the stakeholders. The policymakers are steadily taking steps but the need of the hour is to seek bold and out-of-the-box solutions”.
FICCI CASCADE has adopted a four-pronged approach. It is focusing on generating awareness and providing inputs for capacity building of law enforcement authorities. The forum is also indulging in a lot of research and proposing reforms in the enforcement agencies and penal laws. It is also sharing the best practices in the world with the authorities to curb this problem. “Illicit trade remains a formidable adversary for the nation," says Rajput. “The root cause of this is sometimes a policy framework that incentivises unscrupulous elements to take advantage and make inroads in the system. This encourages anti-social elements to dictate terms to the supply chain and create havoc for the public at large."