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Criminal infiltrations into the supply chain

Technology and Security: Countering Criminal Infiltrations in the Legitimate Supply Chain


Organized crime continuously evolves to adapt to different circumstances and opportunities, in view of expanding its activities, increasing its profits, and ultimately strengthening its grasp on the economic, social and political sectors of countries. For criminals, the advent of market integration presented the possibility to develop global trafficking strategies and patterns, while exploiting possible loopholes, weak points and increased complexities of globally integrated supply chains that move products around the globe. In this context, the infiltration of organized crime into the legitimate supply chain is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted response, including consideration of the role that technology can play to help combat related criminal activities. This means first identifying the threats posed by organized crime to the supply chain of different products, while understanding that certain categories of products may present unique issues in terms of supply chain complexity, product authentication and vulnerability to criminal operations. This means also working with technology experts to identify how different technology solutions can respond to the identified threats.

Under the framework of the Security through Research, Technology and Innovation (SIRIO) initiative, UNICRI identifies emerging and future security risks, maps technology innovations to match security needs, raises awareness and informs policy-makers about emerging risks and innovative solutions, while enhancing cooperation between national and international authorities, industry and research institutions.

This report provides an overview of some of the main threats posed by criminal organizations attempting to infiltrate the supply chain security. It also presents possible responses that technology solutions can provide to support legitimate stakeholders seeking to protect their products and provides law enforcers with additional tools to investigate and counter organized criminal activities. This report does not intend to present technology as the sole solution to mitigate the identified risks; rather, it presents technology as an instrument to increase human capabilities and skills.

The technology solutions presented are examples to showcase different approaches that can be applied to mitigate identified threats. They integrate a wide range of innovative proposals that adopt advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data analytics, cutting-edge authentication mechanisms, nuclear analytical techniques, protected traceability systems, and multilayered approaches where various elements are linked to increase the range of protection. Technology is being used as a tool to support the creation of new strategies, generate knowledge, and adapt responses to increase their efficiency and accuracy.

In line with its mandate in the field of criminal justice and crime prevention, UNICRI is committed to evaluating emerging criminal threats and the evolving technology solutions to combat them. We hope that this report will stimulate and encourage new discussions and developments in the area of supply chain security, leading to improved cooperation among stakeholders, while also setting the baseline for further analysis of these issues.

Antonia Marie De Meo

Director of UNICRI