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WCO’s 44th session of Enforcement Committee endorses leveraging partnerships

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BRUSSELS : The 44th Session of the WCO Enforcement Committee (EC) convened from 18 to 22 March 2024 at the WCO Headquarters here in Belgium, drawing participation from approximately 350 delegates, out of whom half participated in-person. The Session was animated by 80 speakers from the Customs administrations, private sector, other intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The EC provided updates and developments related to nine programme areas, namely Environment; Drugs; Security; Intelligence and Risk Management; Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) and Cargo Targeting System (CTS); IPR, Health and Safety; Revenue Fraud; Customs Operational Practices for Enforcement and Seizures (COPES); and Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.

In line with the topic of the year, a special session of this Enforcement Committee was dedicated to Enforcement Through Partnerships. Notable discussions included the fusion of the Container Control Programme and Project AIRCOP, as well as Australian Border Force (ABF)-WCO Supply Chain Integrity Project.

Throughout five days, panel discussions delved into a variety of topics, such as the use of Open-source Intelligence (OSINT) in Customs enforcement, smart maritime enforcement, building a global coalition to address synthetic drugs threat, and forging partnerships to effectively investigate and prosecute Customs fraud.

The EC showcased ongoing and future activities across various programmes, including regional and global enforcement operations, coordinated by the WCO, such as a joint WCO-INTERPOL Operation THUNDER, and Operation DEMETER in the environmental domain, Operation STOP III in the IPR domain. Additionally, Member-led initiatives, such as Operation Sesha IV on countering illicit trans-boundary movement of timber, and Operation Jubilarean 2 on revenue fraud, were also discussed.

In the environmental domain, delegates discussed and endorsed the draft guidelines for developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for controls of waste shipments.

Under Drugs Programme, updates on the EU-WCO Colibri Project and WCO Synthetic Drugs Detection Project were presented. The delegates also provided guidance to the Secretariat on the WCO Standards for Dog Training Centres that will be developed next year.

Within the scope of the Security Programme, the Secretariat provided the delegates with the preliminary results of the Global Survey on Customs Capacity to Clear Controlled Chemicals, while Member Administrations shared their experience with participating in Projects Bolt and RANDA. An update to the list of controlled explosive precursors by the Programme Global Shield (PGS) was extensively discussed, and the delegates provided the Secretariat with the way forward on how to amend the list.

The delegates also discussed the used of current and new tools, including the WCO CEN database, whereby Members were encouraged to submit more data in order to enable creating more comprehensive analytical products and statistics, as well as two new projects related to the launch of the Global Image Concealment Database and a project to develop the Data Analysis Dashboard for Post-Control Audit (PCA). The curriculum on Digital Forensics and Online Investigations was also approved by the delegates during the Session.

The Enforcement Committee also discussed the work conducted by the Anti Money-Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing Programme, including an upcoming Hot Zone Prioritisation Forum in July 2024.

In his closing remarks, Mr Pranab Kumar Das, Director of the WCO Enforcement and Facilitation Directorate, underlined that “enforcement and compliance remains a very interesting area for Customs in that it provides solutions and appropriate responses for dismantling criminal networks.” “I am very proud of the extraordinary achievements of this Committee, which remains a compass for the entire Customs community in the fight against fraud. The Secretariat is committed to providing ongoing support to its Members in dealing with current and future threats, while further developing Customs expertise in this area”, he added.

In conclusion, the Enforcement Committee expressed gratitude to outgoing Chairperson, Mr David Dolan from the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Vice Chairperson, Ms Gabrielle Tramby from the Australian Border Force (ABF). The Committee elected Mr Hugo Richard Mayer from the Austrian Customs as the Chairperson and Ms Rebecca Jonassen from New Zealand Customs as a Vice-Chairperson of the 45th Enforcement Committee.

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