UNODC supports Lao Customs in the detection of illicit cross-border transportation of Currency

Vientiane, Lao PDR (9 September 2020)
- As part of on-going support to Lao PDR to combat the transportation of illicit cash, goods and other transnational organized crime, UNODC has recently provided Lao Customs with pocket guides to assist officers to prevent, detect and investigate the illicit cross border transportation of currency and bearer negotiable instruments. The laminated pocket guides are designed to be carried by front-line officers during duty hours to act as an aid-memoire.

UNODC’s Mekong Sub-Regional AML advisor Mr Chris Batt said today, “Customs officers can deploy a range of resources including baggage screening machines and detector dogs to assist in identifying potential cash couriers or bulk cash smugglers. However, while these kinds of resources are extremely useful, there will always remain a need to use other tactics to help identify criminals attempting to smuggle illicit cash or goods across international borders. This is where the pocket guide comes into its own, acting as an aid-memoire for operational officers” he added.

Each pocket guide contains a number of color-coded sections dealing with passenger assessment, tactical questioning, cash examination, cash forensics and case development. The case development section includes relevant aspects of the Lao Customs regulations, the Lao anti-money laundering law and details on how and when to contact the Lao Financial Intelligence Unit. Translated into the Lao language, sufficient copies have been produced for all front-line Customs Officers across Lao with a surplus available for new officers recruited in the future.

Mr Batt went on to explain that the movement of illicit proceeds across borders using some of the more recognized methods such as financial institutions, may now be considered as more risky for criminals due to improved financial sector compliance with anti-money laundering techniques. This improved compliance with international anti-money laundering standards included better customer due diligence processes and ‘know your customer’ policies within Banks and related businesses. Where improved compliance existed or was perceived, criminal networks might resort to moving criminal cash physically across borders using cash couriers. “This has certainly been the case in other countries in the region where prior to COVID and international borders closing, significant criminal proceeds had been seized at land border crossings and international airports’ Mr Batt added.

The pocket guides were originally designed and produced in English for UNODC’s Global Program against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Counter Financing of Terrorism (GPML) by its Customs and Cross Border Security Expert, Mr Bernie Crossey. Since the initial roll out, thousands of copies of the guidebooks have been translated into numerous languages and adapted to meet the local context. Further information can be obtained from the GPML office at UNODC Headquarters, Vienna, Austria.