Ensuring Security and Integrity of the International Trading Environment

Whole-of-government approach and partnerships at multiple nodes in the supply chain are crucial in curbing transnational illicit trade.

While globalisation has expanded international trade, it has similarly broadened the range of organised crime.

Syndicates are becoming more sophisticated in exploiting the supply chain and manipulating the trade system. Rapid technological advances have further injected a cyberspace dimension that complicates transnational enforcement, making it easier for criminal masterminds to orchestrate operations across various locations remotely.


Singapore has adopted a concerted approach by all relevant government agencies to ensure that trade into, through and from Singapore is legitimate and safe. The integrated wholeof- government approach ensures a swifter and more effective response to complex enforcement issues.

One such area is tackling the smuggling of contraband cigarettes. Transnational syndicates dealing in contraband cigarettes have been known to be linked to unlicensed moneylending, drugs, and immigration offences. Singapore Customs thus works closely with other domestic enforcement agencies like the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Central Narcotics Bureau, and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to conduct joint operations and exchange intelligence.

Combating illicit trade in endangered species and hazardous substances is another area where the whole-of-government approach is essential. Working with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), Singapore Customs battles the illicit transboundary trade of species protected under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

For hazardous substances, Singapore Customs collaborates with the National Environment Agency (NEA) to deal with the illicit transboundary movement of environmentally damaging waste under the Montreal Protocol and Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.


Partnerships at multiple nodes in the supply chain are vital in combating transnational illicit trade. Countries where goods originate, transit, and are destined for all have a part to play.

In many instances, global supply chains have become more complex and convoluted, involving multiple transit and transhipment points. This presents a dynamic challenge – as soon as one country steps up its control mechanism, the illicit traders switch to another route.

To counter complex transnational illicit trade, customs administrations and authorities have to work together and share timely information to ensure swifter response.


Singapore Customs is a member of the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILO) network. Within this network, the agency supports joint-action projects such as "Project Crocodile", an ongoing project started in 2004 that combats cigarette smuggling in the region.

RILO is a regional centre that collects, analyses and supplements data, as well as disseminates information on trends, modus operandi, routes and significant cases of fraud. The RILO network currently comprises 11 Liaison Offices covering the WCO's six regions.

Singapore Customs also participates in international operations such as those conducted under the support of the WCO and Asia-Europe Meeting.

These operations include WCO Great Apes and Integrity Operation in 2011, and WCO Operation HOPE in 2012, which were aimed at combating illicit wildlife trafficking. Other operations include WCO's Operation Demeter II in 2012 and Operation Demeter III in 2013 against illicit waste trafficking.



  From October to November 2013, Singapore Customs and the AVA conducted a series of operations that led to the seizure of three containers that held 45 tonnes of red sandalwood.

The consignments were transiting Singapore from India and falsely declared as "hot lime pickles" and "casting wheels". The red sandalwood seized was worth an estimated $5 million, and was the largest seizure since 2011.

  Acting on a foreign tip-off, officers from Singapore Customs and the AVA worked together to intercept and detain a shipment of illegal ivory, estimated to be worth $2 million, in March 2014.

This is the third largest seizure of illegal ivory by Singapore authorities since 2002.

The shipment declared as coffee berries was transiting Singapore from Africa in a 20-foot container and destined for another Asian country.

A total of 106 pieces of illegal raw ivory tusks, weighing about one tonne, were recovered from 15 wooden crates.

  Singapore Customs and the NEA participated in Operation Demeter III in 2013, a joint global Customs initiative across the Europe and Asia Pacific region. The operation netted more than 7,000 tonnes of illegal waste, including hazardous waste, used vehicle parts and tyres, textiles, and e-waste.

Initiated by China Customs and organised by the WCO, the operation was carried out with the support of the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

During the five-week operation from October to November 2013, Customs officers representing 44 countries used risk assessment, profiling and targeting techniques, together with available intelligence, to identify and control high-risk consignments.

Singapore Customs tapped on CENcomm, the WCO's secure and encrypted communication tool, to exchange crucial intelligence and coordinate their operational activities during the course of this global enforcement initiative. Singapore Customs also passed on relevant information to next port of calls for suspicious shipments.

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