EghtesadOnline: The Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration is ranked first in combating illicit drugs and second in fighting smuggling in World Customs Organization's latest report.
The report published by WCO's Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices maps the countries' customs performance in battling the trafficking, transit and confiscation of different kinds of illicit drugs, psychedelics, illegal drug raw material and new psychoactive substances, as well as combating the smuggling of fuel, endangered species, pharmaceuticals and fake products from January up to the end of September 2017, the Islamic Republic of Iran's Customs Administration reported.
According to RILO experts, Iran's top ranks are because of the successful implementation of electronic customs systems.
Admitting the huge losses inflicted on the Iranian economy by the scourge of smuggling, the government of President Hassan Rouhani has put up a fierce fight against the inflow of contraband, Financial Tribune reported.
"Some $12-13 billion worth of goods are estimated to have been smuggled into the country over the past Iranian year (March 2016-17), down from $15.5 billion in the previous year, registering a 15-20% decrease," Qasem Khorshidi, the spokesman of Headquarters to Combat Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Exchange, said.
Back in February, Khorshidi said high-tech road cameras are being installed in Iran’s main transit routes for recording the weight of commercial vehicles to fight smuggling.
“The cameras are being installed every 20 kilometers. By using the information derived from sensors planted below the road surface (weight-in-motion devices), we can tell whether the vehicles have loaded or unloaded commodities along the way,” he said.
In April, Masoud Karbasian, the former head of IRICA (now economy minister), said that to enable the speedy scanning of cargo containers, the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration would add 19 trucks outfitted with X-ray equipment to the existing 12 X-ray trucks available at the country’s customs terminals by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2018).
He noted that as per the contract signed with the Defense Ministry and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, a number of these equipment would be manufactured domestically and the rest would be imported.
“The confiscation of contraband saw a 50% rise in the last Iranian year (March 2016-17) compared with a year ago,” he said.
Iran’s police force recently launched a special protection unit for customs terminals across the country.
“Given the geographical location of Iran and the fact that it neighbors 15 countries and has 150 customs offices across the country, there was a need to upgrade customs security,” Karbasian was quoted as saying by IRICA’s website in a ceremony, which was also attended by Mohammad Sharafi, the head of Prevention Police with Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces.
Customs Control at FTZs
The High Council of Free Zones has given the nod to IRICA to exercise customs control and collect duties at the ports of entry of free trade zones.
Customs and border protection equipment were earlier installed only at the ports of FTZs.
Apparel, foodstuff, mobile phones, gold ingots and household appliances top the list of commodities smuggled into Iran. Fuel is the main item smuggled out of Iran due to its cheap price compared to that in neighboring countries like Turkey and Pakistan.
According to the Headquarters to Combat Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Exchange, per capita consumption of contraband in Iran stood at $197 last year.
Contraband comprises 83% of the mobile phone market, 47% of toy market, 27% of the apparel market and 21% of the household appliances market.
According to Abdolmajid Negaresh-Nejad, another official with the headquarters, every $1 billion worth of contraband smuggled into the country destroys 100,000 jobs.
Iran, which has a 900-kilometer common border with Afghanistan, has been used as the main conduit for smuggling Afghan drugs to narcotics kingpins in Europe.
Drug trafficking is the most common crime in Iran. Nearly 40% of prisoners have been convicted and are serving terms on drug-related charges. Despite high economic and human costs, Iran has been actively fighting drug trafficking over the past three decades.
"Drug seizures by Law Enforcement Forces increased by 15% in the last fiscal year (ended March 20, 2017), compared with the previous year (2015-2016) when the seizures registered a 11% increase over the preceding year," Colonel Mohammad Masoud Zahedian, the anti-narcotics police chief, said in May.
“Last year, 631 tons of drugs were seized by the police, signaling a 15% jump in overall seizures vis-à-vis the corresponding period of last year.”