The annual World Traders/Birkbeck Seminar was held at Birkbeck College on March 20th with the highest attendance to date of these seminars. The event was kindly arranged by Dr Paz Estrella Tolentino, Lecturer in International Business at Birkbeck, and chaired by Past Master John Burbidge-King. The key speakers were Dr Alexander Trautrims from Nottingham University and a senior officer from the National Crime Agency. The panel also included a Birkbeck graduate student and an industry representative.
The objective of the seminar was to examine the criminal aspects of international business and the need for legitimate companies to be aware of the darker flip side of doing business abroad, and the risks. The speakers and the Q&A centred on the lucrative opportunities for those who have chosen a criminal approach to enrich themselves from business-related ventures. A major concern from the NCA was the increasing evidence of the illicit involvement of “professional enablers” such as lawyers, accountants, financiers and others, working closely in the spaces between legitimate businesses, organised crime and some politically exposed persons. There was a need for companies of all sizes and sectors to “wake up and smell the coffee”!.
Topics were wide ranging:
Opportunities for illicit trade practices: tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, false insurance claims, misappropriation and manipulation of export- and project-finance funds..
Human and corporate impacts: enforced and child labour across all sectors (including companies turning a blind eye to it on a cost reduction basis), illicit substitutes in food, counterfeiting of medicines, conflict minerals, impact of bribery and corruption on civil society, the disruption of supply chains.
Criminality: material gains from the illegal trade, human trafficking, manufacture and distribution of drugs/narcotics, fraud and theft of goods and IP, the “illicit factory economy” for counterfeiting of all types of goods from olive oil to digital devices.