Brazil improves fight against smuggling and drugs in ports


Author: Raymond Colitt

Source: O Globo Online, 03/09/2008

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Despite the presence of pirated products and drugs on the streets of Brazil, the country is improving enforcement against smuggling and drug trafficking at its ports. From counterfeit Paraguayan whiskey to Colombian cocaine, almost everything crosses the 13 kilometers of Brazil's borders, by land, by boat or plane.


Etco, an entity that promotes business ethics, estimates that the government fails to raise billions of reais each year due to smuggling. But only recently has the country started to fight container smuggling, a vehicle for most international trade and a focus for authorities involved in combating terrorism and drug trafficking worldwide.


"I have never seen the IRS as determined as it is now to fight smuggling," said Synésio Batista da Costa, director of Abrinq, an entity that brings together toy manufacturers. Better equipment, more in-depth investigations and a partnership with Abrinq reduced smuggling's share in the toy market from 25 to 8 percent, according to Costa.


The country's customs system has long been considered corrupt and slow. Many foreigners and importers complain about the loss or delay in shipments, as well as the collection of unexplained taxes and surcharges. But that started to change thanks to pressure from business entities and the professionalization of customs, according to experts.


"Corruption is an important issue, but important progress has been made," said Giovanni Quaglia, regional director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Customs recently received two helicopters and 11 speedboats for border surveillance and inspection of anchored ships. Now, the employees receive the documentation of the ships 48 hours in advance, and no longer upon disembarkation, which allows the verification of any false notes and guides. Even so, authorities may be discovering only the tip of the iceberg.


The Revenue inspects only 2 to 4 percent of the containers, which is within the world average. But irregularities are only found in 10 to 15 percent of containers, while the target for 2011 is 60 percent. In August, the IRS launched a tender for the purchase of 37 new container scanners, which help to detect false walls and hidden goods. Mobile scanners for road use will also be purchased. Today, there are only two outdated scanners at the port of Santos, the largest in Latin America, with an annual movement of 80 million tons of cargo.


Under an agreement to be signed soon between Brazil and the UN, customs officers will be trained to select the most suspicious containers, said Ketil Ottersen, senior security coordinator at the Office for Combating Drugs and Crime, during a visit this week to the parents. He said it was impossible to estimate the amount of drugs withdrawn from Brazil in containers, but apprehensions made in Africa and Europe suggest that the country is an important route in trafficking.

“Brazil is a major drug transit country. It is an international struggle, and it is important that Brazil participates ”, he said.