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In the video, an airport security employee plans to accept money to allow his cousin’s friend, “Paul,” to smuggle materials in a suitcase. The employee thinks the suitcase is full of cell phones and video games. In reality, the suitcase could be filled with anything.
“People who are engaging in corruption have absolutely no principles,” said Louise Shelley, founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy in Virginia.
“There are all sorts of things being smuggled through airports,” like arms, counterfeit medicines that endanger public health, pesticides that are ruining farmland, and illicit wildlife materials like ivory, whose trade is undermining a country’s natural resources and tourism potential.
“What is happening is behind this trade are often very serious criminal organizations that are making a lot of money and are bribing officials. Even if it’s something as small as cell phones, often those cell phones that are being smuggled are counterfeit. And sometimes those cell phones happen to be electronically dangerous because they are made of inferior materials without any regulation,” Shelley said.
She added that while the security employee sees the smuggling as a small act and welcomes some cash for their trouble, the criminals behind the operation are likely making 100 or 1,000 times what they paid for the bribe when the material makes its way to the marketplace. The harm also lies in the fact that a security guard who is ethically compromised could let anything go through at some point. For countries — some more than others — the security risk is especially dire.
“There are some countries where the smuggling is perpetuating conflict for a very long period of time,” she said. Armed factions, terrorists and criminal organizations are “fueled by the smuggling of drugs [and] illegal movement of money. People could be packing money in suitcases and moving it and using it to buy weapons and other things that help expand conflict.” In other places, smuggling undermines the credibility of the government, especially when high-ranking officials are linked.
Shelley said it is very important for people to understand that smuggling is “not just small household goods that they may be using and can be sold at some beneficial price. There are things that are really undermining the sustainability of life and undermining the sustainability of the planet.”
Ask yourself: Are security officials accepting bribes and smuggling goods threatening your safety?
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