The Big Threat

Organised crime creeps into the region

A NEW crime wave looms over the region – this time on the back of motorbikes. As Australia and New Zealand crack down on the illicit trading activities of Outlawed Motorcycle Gangs, these criminal groups have sought new targets and found them in the world’s soft underbelly.

With porous maritime borders which stretch for miles and few assets to patrol the sea, the Pacific is wide open for illegal business. Law enforcement agencies have battle for years will illegal transnational activities at sea, says Oceania Customs Organisation Chief Executive Officer, Seve Paeniu.

“We have maritime issues not only with illegal fishing but transfer on the high sea (of fuel and other supplies), all those illicit activities through the waters (open seas),” Paeniu said. In the early 1990s police uncovered the transfer of contraband cigarettes to Chinese fishing ships on the high seas for transportation to Fiji for sale.

Unable to hit the offending vessels at sea, police used tax evasion laws to crackdown on shops and market stalls selling the cigarettes. With its porous borders, need for foreign investment and weak law enforcement agencies, the Pacific fits the profile for transnational criminals dealing with drugs, arms smuggling, human trafficking and money laundering.

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