The Criminal Supply Chain


This is part two in a series on business practices of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking organizations.

A critical component of the criminal business model is the supply chain and the swift and certain movement of goods from one point to another.  Analysts tasked with understanding crime perpetrated by illicit business networks like drug trafficking, bulk cash and weapons smuggling should use the Supply Chain Analysis (SCA) framework to gain insight into the operations.

The SCA framework asks analysts to set aside the illegality aspect of the transnational criminal organization in order to focus on business sustainability issues.  For example, how can the bulk cash smuggler shift transport routes to evade detection by competitors and law enforcement? Or how might a manufacturer amend a production schedule due to unforeseen circumstances?

Analysts should apply the following framework to these types of scenarios in order to better understand the individual components of the business supply chain and the supply chain in its entirety.  Once an analyst is fully immersed in the business side of the operations they will be better equipped to provide high level anticipatory and estimative analytic products rather than those that are simply descriptive.

The Supply Chain Framework:

Source: Identify the factual circumstances involved in the extraction and handling of the product or natural resource.

  • Is the point of extraction of production located in a high risk area?
  • If so, who retains control of the area in which production and/or extraction occurs?
  • Are contractors involved?

Logistics: Identify the factual circumstances involved in the transport, handling, trading, processing, refining and manufacturing of the natural resource or product.

  • How is the product or resource transported from point of origin to the next stage in the supply chain?
  • Are the products or resources packaged and shipped?
  • If so, by whom?

Operations: Identify the individuals, contractors and entities with a vested interest in the production of the product/natural resources.

  • Are the production and manufacturing practices transparent?

Distribution Logistics: Identify the individuals, contractors and entities with a vested interest in the successful distribution of the product.

  • How are the finished products transported from the manufacturer to consumers?
  • Who is responsible for transport?
  • Where are the critical distribution hubs?

Part three will provide an overview of the role of criminal facilitators and financial intermediaries within the illicit supply chain. Research indicates that both facilitators and financial intermediaries are instrumental to the operation and sustainability of the transnational criminal organization.


The Economics of Drug Trafficking by the Organization of American States

OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected or High-Risk Areas

Simulating the Afghanistan-Pakistan Opium Supply Chain


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