Controlled Delivery: Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Wildlife Smuggling

Controlled Delivery: Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Wildlife Smuggling

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What is Controlled Delivery : Controlled delivery of wildlife contraband refers to a special investigative technique deployed by law enforcement agencies in which  officials  allow the illegal trade or transportation of wildlife contrabands  to continue under their supervision in order to identify the organized wildlife criminal syndicate, collect evidence against them and dismantle them ultimately.

Need for Controlled Delivery as an Investigative Tool : Wildlife trafficking is believed to be the fourth largest transnational organized crime after drugs trafficking, counterfeit products trafficking and human trafficking. Like any other transnational illicit activities, wildlife trafficking also consists of a supply chain or value chain. As per UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report, 2020, the supply chain of transnational wildlife trafficking consists of following players:

 To effectively combat the wildlife trafficking, it is necessary that the law enforcement dismantle the entire network. These wildlife criminal syndicates deploy ingenious methods to hoodwink the law enforcement agencies such as using the Front or Shell Companies & dummy Import/Export Firms, using circuitous routes to ship the wildlife contrabands from source country to destination country transiting them through third countries. They also use mules or couriers to smuggle wildlife contrabands/exotic wildlife species. Controlled Delivery mechanism can help wildlife law enforcement in identifying the various players in the supply chain and busting the entire network by way of collecting intelligence and evidences as the wildlife contrabands pass through the various levels of supply chain through international cooperation between the law enforcement officials of the countries which are part of the supply chain and securing conviction of the syndicate members by the Prosecutors during the trial of their wildlife crimes in the court of law.

Prerequisites for undertaking Controlled Delivery: Controlled Delivery should be undertaken within the legal framework of the jurisdiction only by the proper officers after obtaining the authorization from the competent authority. As it requires special skillsets, the wildlife law enforcement officials should be provided specialized training to develop the expertise for conducting controlled delivery of wildlife contrabands. Confidentiality and operation security have to be maintained as any leakage of information may jeopardize the entire operation. Safety of wildlife enforcement officials need to be given paramount importance. For this proper risk assessment should be done and officials should be provided with necessary safety equipment. Protocol for handling the emergency situations must also be put in place. Maintaining effective communication between all stakeholders/law enforcement officials within and outside the country regarding the movement of wildlife contrabands and proper documentation of entire controlled delivery process which includes photographs, videos, and keeping detailed records of the movements and handling of the contrabands by various individuals of the wildlife criminal syndicate are also required for a successful controlled delivery operation.

Legal Framework for Controlled Delivery of Wildlife Contrabands in India: Section 109A of the Customs Act, 1962 provides legal framework for undertaking controlled delivery of wildlife contrabands by the authorized customs officers not only to any destination in India but to a foreign country also in consultation with the competent authority of that country to which the  consignment of wildlife contrabands is destined.

Under Section 157(1) read with Section 109A of the Customs Act, 1962 , Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has issued the Controlled Delivery (Customs) Regulations, 2022 vide Notification No. 59/2022-Customs(N.T.) dated 12/07/2022. Under these regulations authorized customs officers can undertake controlled delivery in respect of nine types of contrabands including wildlife contrabands by following prescribed procedures.

 To conclude, Controlled Delivery is a powerful intelligence and investigative tool for the wildlife law enforcement officials for combating the menace of transnational organized wildlife crime and bringing the entire wildlife criminal syndicate to justice. Global organizations like CITES, INTERPOL, World Customs Organization and UNODC have also acknowledged the effectiveness of Controlled Delivery mecanism and recommended it for the law enforcement agencies.

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Go to the profile of Grace Alawa
9 months ago

Arvind, very insightful however, I hope controlled delivery doesn't turn around with wildlife law enforcement officials abating the trade or having anyone along the value chain take advantage of it? How can this be prevented sustainably?