Compliance and Enforcement

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Security Programme

Main streams of work

Under the Strategic Trade Controls Enforcement (STCE) Programme, a curriculum and modules for training purposes have been developed to assist in the evaluation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and work practices dealing with strategic goods. The STCE training curriculum is being adopted by many Customs administrations across the globe, and to ensure its continued adoption, since July 2017 the WCO has organized the following training events:

  • nine STCE national workshops, gathering 237 attendees from nine different countries as well as representatives from the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) Network.
  • three train-the-trainer workshops, gathering a total of 52 experts, aimed at officials interested in being accredited as STCE Expert Trainers.

To date, 12 countries have informed the WCO that their accredited trainers are delivering STCE events in their countries, whilst a further five countries have licensed the STCE training material from the WCO for use in their national training academies or programmes. In addition, in order to measure the impact of the STCE Programme, the WCO organized Operation COSMO 2 in April 2018 with the participation of 104 countries and many international organizations.

Regarding small arms and light weapons (SALW), the WCO has put together a training curriculum and started developing a pool of trainers in July 2018. The WCO has been working with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL, using the Small Arms Survey to develop training material and participate in joint training in relation to the detection of SALW by Customs.

Under Programme Global Shield (PGS), an initiative aimed at building capacity to counter the illicit trafficking and diversion of explosive precursor chemicals and other components of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), an operation was conducted with 34 countries from the WCO MENA region participating. The operation resulted in the seizure of several tons of IED precursor chemicals and other components. A train-the-trainer workshop was also held in March 2018 for experts from the WCO Asia/Pacific region.

In the area of terrorist financing, during the first quarter of 2018, the WCO conducted workshops in Southern and East Africa and in South East Asia that focused on anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing and illicit finance.

Regionally focused security projects

The WCO has two regionally focused security projects financially supported by the Government of Japan: the Asia/Pacific Security Project (APSP) that commenced in March 2017, and the West and Central Africa Security Project (WCA-SP) that began in April 2018. Both projects aim to build the capacity of Customs in the area of border security. An article providing an overview of the activities undertaken in this area in the WCO Asia/Pacific region was published in the June edition of the WCO News magazine.

Revenue Programme

Post-clearance audit (PCA)

The WCO PCA Guidelines have been updated and will continue to form the conceptual basis for any PCA-related assistance for the next several years. National workshops were held in Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, Malaysia and Sudan to help these countries develop their PCA capacities. Diagnostic missions were also delivered in Cameroon, Jordan, Qatar and Palestine.

Additionally, a joint PCA and risk management diagnostic mission was conducted for Armenia, the first of this kind. Based on the successful results from this mission, similar joint activities are being considered in the future. The WCO also participated in a PCA training event organized by the Netherlands Customs for representatives from China Customs.

In order to continue expanding the existing pool of experts capable of delivering capacity building activities, an accreditation workshop for PCA Technical and Operational Advisors from countries in the WCO MENA region was organized. Three experts have been pre-accredited and will now have to participate in a field mission to become fully accredited.


Operation Leatherback focused on fraud in the petroleum industry, with the goal of identifying the nature and extent of revenue evasion relating to the petroleum trade. The operation resulted in the seizure of 1,198,797 litres of petroleum products and identified cases of mis-described petroleum importations that resulted in the recovery of 935,118 US dollars.

Operation Fox focused on the illicit tobacco trade and, more especially, on the shipment of containers containing cigarettes as they transited through Free Trade Zones (FTZs). More than 100 suspicious containers were monitored during the exercise, resulting in the seizure of 163 million cigarettes and the identification of FTZs that were being exploited by criminals.

Project Shot

In response to the growing danger posed by the illicit trade in alcohol, a global monitoring project for analysing the global trends in alcohol fraud has been established. Initially, the project was foreseen for the first half of 2017 but was later extended to cover the whole of 2017, and will continue to run in 2018.

Entry into force of the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco

During the Council Sessions, the WCO welcomed the imminent entry into force of the WHO Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco. The Protocol will enter into force on 25 September 2018 and the WCO stands ready to support the work of Customs in the implementation of this key international instrument.


Drugs and Precursors Programme

Project AIRCOP

Twenty-two Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) are currently operational under Project AIRCOP, a project managed in conjunction with the UNODC and INTERPOL, which aims at strengthening the capacities of international airports to detect and intercept drugs and other illicit goods as well as to detect high-risk passengers, including foreign terrorist fighters. JAIFTs are located in airports across African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern countries. In the framework of the Project, Operation COCAIR VI was organized to bring together the JAITFS and other airport units to test their risk analysis capacity, and to promote the exchange of information using CENcomm, the WCO’s secure communication tool.

UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP)

The CCP is a joint initiative between the UNODC and the WCO. Port Control Units (PCUs) established under the CCP are, at present, fully operational at more than 70 ports (including dry ports) in 50 countries, with 4 new countries having joined the CCP over the past few months. An integral and essential element of the CCP is to facilitate networking among the PCUs at a national, regional and international level.

The WCO ContainerCOMM system provides the necessary infrastructure for the swift and secure exchange of information and intelligence electronically. Currently, the system can be accessed by more than 100 administrations with more than 1,000 individual users, and is moving towards becoming a secure global port-to-port communication platform. WCO Members wishing to join ContainerCOMM are invited to contact the WCO Secretariat.

Given the success of the CCP, a separate joint programme on air cargo control has been established, with specialized units to target suspicious shipments in this transport segment already operating in 11 countries. Six new countries have joined the segment in the past months. A specific “AirCargoComm” communication platform for the exchange of information and intelligence has been established, and is open to all WCO Members. The CCP air cargo segment also benefits from cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

PCU and Air Cargo Control Units (ACCU) are regularly trained to further develop their skills in risk profiling and their knowledge on specific issues relating to global illicit trade. Regular assessments are also made to measure the progress made by these units. Within the scope of the CCP, since 1 July 2017, the WCO has implemented or planned about 170 training activities on different types of techniques to enhance law enforcement agencies’ capacities in the maritime and air cargo domains.

IPR, Health and Safety Programme

Capacity building activities in this area have been conducted in 56 countries, taking the form of regional or national seminars and diagnostic missions. WCO experts also provided support to national or international organizations, like the American Patent Office (USPTO) and the Organization for Animal Health (OiE), in their work against counterfeiting, by participating in their workshops or conferences. Two regional operations were coordinated by the WCO:

  • Operation ACIM 2 (Action against Counterfeit and Illicit Medicines), which took place over a nine-day period in 18 African countries during June 2017, led to the interception of around 259 million substandard or fake products, the vast majority of which related to pharmaceuticals;
  • Operation GOALKEEPER, initiated by the Russian Federal Customs Service and targeting the counterfeiting of Officially Licensed Products for the FIFA World Cup, saw 54 countries participate in the initiative.

In addition, the WCO actively supported the annual global operation against illicit medicines, known as Pangea, which is led by INTERPOL.

Environment Programme

INAMA Project

Launched in October 2014, the INAMA Project, undertaken in conjunction with the WCO Secretariat’s Capacity Building Directorate, aims to strengthen the enforcement capacity of targeted Customs administrations in Sub-Saharan Africa, while focusing on the illegal trade in wildlife, particularly endangered species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In 2017, two illegal wildlife trade enforcement operations were held in Africa, one for Anglophone countries and one for Francophone countries. The operations were code-named SAVE/SAUVER REP, REP being the initials of the three species targeted: Rhino, Elephant and Pangolin. As a result, various illegally traded wildlife products, including worked and raw ivory, pangolin scales and live tortoises were seized.

Furthermore, three train-the-trainer workshops were conducted, two in Africa and one in Asia. The objectives were to build the technical skills and knowledge of officials in relation to the CITES, to develop their trainer skills, and to evaluate their administrations’ current national training framework, in particular when dealing with the illegal trade in wildlife. Participants identified as potential trainers will continue with the second phase of the accreditation process, and will join the pool of WCO CITES Expert Trainers. These workshops will be followed up by regional enforcement training events, which will be attended by both Customs and police officers and funded by the US Department of State.

Assistance was also provided at a national level to seven Customs administrations in Sub-Saharan Africa identified as priority countries according to the INAMA Project’s methodology. Throughout 2017, scoping missions were conducted in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda to assess their enforcement capacity when it comes to species covered by the CITES, based on the WCO Institutional Assessment Tool on CITES Enforcement.

As a result, diagnostic reports with detailed recommendations were developed, along with Work Plans to implement the findings of the diagnostics. The beneficiary administrations also hosted “Subject Matter Experts missions” during which support was provided at various levels. Support activities will continue to be deployed until the end of 2018. These activities are funded by Sweden.

Airport wildlife trafficking assessments

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the WCO jointly developed a tool to help airports assess the security measures in place to counter the transport of illicit wildlife products, with support from the Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species Partnership, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The WCO participated in four assessment missions conducted in Qatar, Kenya, Malaysia and South Africa.

Risk Management and Intelligence Programme

Considering the increasing need to define a common approach that enables Customs administrations across the globe to speak the same language about the methodology they utilize to both identify and treat potential risks, WCO developed the Customs Risk Management Compendium. New content has been added to the Compendium lately: rail cargo risk indicators and manuals related to the pre-arrival, arrival and post-arrival phases, and Post Seizure Analysis Guidelines. With regards to capacity building activities, the WCO has supported 20 of its Members to enhance the application of risk management in their respective administrations and has organized train the trainer workshops.

Cultural Heritage Programme

In partnership with various stakeholders, the WCO developed a unique Training Handbook for frontline Customs officers dedicated to countering the illicit trafficking in cultural objects. It includes general analysis of this form of illegal trade, sources of information and access to different databases, risk management and a number of operational techniques as well as case studies. Additional modules covering region-specific threats or areas of work, investigations and inter-agency models are also being developed. The Training Handbook will soon be available in French, and translation into additional languages is also envisaged.

The WCO started conducting training in September 2017, starting with 13 Customs administrations of the WCO MENA region. Training was also delivered in Jordan to members of the Container Control Programme’s Port Control Units. In addition, the WCO participated in several inter-agency workshops for Western Balkan and Central Asian countries organized by UNESCO and the OSCE.

Besides developing training modules, the WCO, in conjunction with INTERPOL and with the support of Europol, organized the first global joint Customs/Police enforcement operation codenamed “ATHENA,” with more than 80 countries participating. Over 41,000 objects including coins, furniture, paintings, musical instruments, archaeological pieces and sculptures were seized during this operation.

Moreover, the WCO Programme Manager partnered with the WCO Research Unit to conduct a gap analysis workshop for countries in West and Central Africa to discuss national practices and policies regarding security, terrorism, and cultural heritage protection. Based on this analysis, customized training in this area of enforcement will be developed.

WCO tools

The CEN suite

The CEN suite includes three stand-alone applications, namely the Customs Enforcement Network (CEN), the National CEN (nCEN) and the CEN communication platform (CENcomm), which are compatible and complementary in nature – each supporting Customs with the digitalization of operational processes in the enforcement field.

During the 2017/2018 period, the nCEN was deployed in the Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Palestine. Besides these four new deployments, the following 25 countries use the nCEN to support their analytical and risk management processes: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Fiji, Georgia, Guinea, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Philippines, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine, Vanuatu and Zimbabwe.

CENcomm remains a popular tool. During the 2017/2018 period, the communication platform was used during 80 operations as well as in the framework of several projects. A modernized version of the CENcomm application has been developed and will become available in the coming months to support operational activities.

WCO Cargo Targeting System (CTS)

The WCO CTS enables user countries to capture advance electronic cargo manifest information, and to perform risk assessment, profiling and targeting. To date, the CTS’ maritime cargo capability has been deployed in 11 countries: Bahamas, Chile, Georgia, Jamaica, Kenya, Maldives, Panama, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Ukraine. In addition, the CTS’ air cargo capability has been finalized and deployed in these same countries.

Customs Operational Practices for Enforcement and Seizures (COPES) Programme

COPES has become a full-fledged programme since 1 January 2017 and is intended to be deployed in the six WCO regions. It covers issues of border security, collection of evidence, seizures, investigations, and prosecutions. Although not all customs administrations have judicial investigation powers, they are intended to be beneficiaries of the programme as an integral part of the Customs criminal chain.

The COPES compendium, developed some years ago, is a component of a much broader project that itself has different objectives: raising enforcement policymakers’ awareness of security issues and judicial procedures; developing a pool of COPES trainers; and raising the professional standards of border officials in collecting evidence, designing operations, supporting field officers during operations, improving inter-agency cooperation and carrying out assessments.

Over the 2017/2018 period, new training courses have been created: a specific one for the training of trainers, one dedicated to enforcement activities for field agents, another for executives, and one dedicated to investigations. Two regional seminars, six trainers’ training courses and five national workshops, one of which was aimed specifically at preparing an operation, were organized. Brazil benefited from training tailored to the country’s needs. The enforcement operation that was organized resulted in many cases, some of which have been judicialized.

The programme works in synergy with other WCO programmes. Under the CCP for example, COPES training was provided to officers assigned to Port Control Units in Malaysia. Under the MADAO Project, COPES experts supported Guinea Customs on operation planning and implementation. Under the INAMA Project, training was provided to participants attending train-the-trainer workshops in Burkina Faso, Malaysia and Zambia.

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