Internationalizing the Fight Against Hubs of Illicit Trade & Criminalized Markets

Internationalizing the Fight against Hubs of Illicit Trade (HIT) and Criminalized Markets

In February 2021, the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) and its Anti-Illicit Trade Institute (AITI) embarked on a two-year research project to examine “Hubs of Illicit Trade” around the world. Academic literature and studies have shown hubs of illicit trade and illicit economies facilitate the production, illegal trade, and trafficking of counterfeit and contraband goods. In particular, recent studies have also shown that a significant proportion of the trafficking in illicit goods and contraband can be traced to a small number of supply routes and hubs which are safe havens that specialize in illegal manufacturing, diversion, and/or cross-border smuggling while also serving as centers for money laundering, especially trade-based money laundering (TBML), and other crimes.

This White Paper is a collective work prepared by researchers of the Hubs of Illicit Trade project noted below, under the guidance of Dr. Louise I. Shelley, Director of Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University; David M. Luna, Co-Director of the Anti-Illicit Trade Institute (AITI) at George Mason University; and Judy Deane, Deputy Director of TraCCC. The White Paper synthesizes major findings and insights from the final report and the four regional reports on hubs of illicit trade prepared by international research teams:

This white paper entitled “Internationalizing the Fight against Hubs of Illicit Trade (HITs) and Criminalized Markets” serves as a policy brief to provide a series of recommendations, based on the detailed evidence-based research undertaken throughout the “Hubs of Illicit Trade” project. The research evaluated the threats associated with these hubs, their impacts and common themes, which are covered in detail in the final report4 based on a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the regional hubs of illicit trade in Panama, Belize, and Guatemala in Central America, the Tri-Border Area encompassing Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay in South America, Dubai in the UAE, and Ukraine in Eastern Europe.

Krylova, Y. (2023). Smugglers’ Paradises in the Global Economy: Growing Threats of Illicit Trade Hubs to
Security and Sustainable Development. TraCCC.
Singh, R., & Lasmar, J. (2023). The Tri-Border Area: A Hub of Illicit Trade with a Global Impact. TraCCC.
Krylova, Y., & Rico, D. (2023). Regional Hubs for Illicit Trade in Central America: Panama, Belize, and
Guatemala. TraCCC.
Krylova, Y. (2023). Dubai: A Global Hub for Illicit Trade and Sanctions Evasion. TraCCC.
Shostko, O. et al. (2023). Ukraine’s Illicit Trade Report. TraCCC.