Jewel Heists and Corrupt Insiders

Feb. 20, 2013
The eight gunman who pulled off the Belgian jewel heist had inside help.

The latest headline grabbing jewel heist -- this time in Belgium for at least $50 million in diamonds -- reveals once again that corrupt insiders are ubiquitous in the global supply chain.

The eight gunmen would not have been able to pull off such a precise act without a lot of help from the inside.

This should remind us that there is a pervasive underground supply chain, which 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, all aided by corrupt insiders.

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.

About the Author

Andrew R. Thomas Blog | Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business

Andrew R. Thomas, Ph.D., is associate professor of marketing and international business at the University of Akron; and, a member of the core faculty at the International School of Management in Paris, France.

He is a bestselling business author/editor, whose 23 books include, most recently, American Shale Energy and the Global Economy: Business and Geopolitical Implications of the Fracking Revolution, The Customer Trap: How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Business, Global Supply Chain Security, The Final Journey of the Saturn V, and Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service and Safety.

His book The Distribution Trap was awarded the Berry-American Marketing Association Prize for the Best Marketing Book of 2010. Another work, Direct Marketing in Action, was a finalist for the same award in 2008.

Andrew is founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security and a regularly featured analyst for media outlets around the world.

He has traveled to and conducted business in 120 countries on all seven continents.

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