To most laypeople, the supply chain is ubiquitous: everywhere but rarely observed.
There is one group, however, outside of supply chain professionals who are often as familiar with how things move: criminals.
The underground supply chain involves the use of legitimate global logistic networks to support criminal activity.
Stolen items of every description, as well as counterfeits, illegal narcotics, weapons, and, tragically, human traffic, pass seamlessly through the supply chain with the same efficiency as lawful goods.
Estimates by the U.N. hold that the illegal transport of goods represents upward of 1% of all global GDP.
Dishearteningly, many hands touch cargo as it moves, but few eyes pay close attention.
For those firms who move the cargo, there is little incentive to self-monitor the true nature of their shipments. It would be a massive undertaking that would yield few, if any, tangible benefits.
Further, in recent years, governments led by the U.S. have overwhelmingly focused on counterterrorism. Criminal activity within the supply chain has been pushed to the back of the bus.
With neither industry nor government viewing it as a priority, the relentless underground supply chain seems to be a fact of life for the foreseeable future.