THE region will be a haven for criminals, drug and human traffickers and money laundering if Customs organisations did not work together.
And if those organisations lagged behind in their responsibilities and roles, the Pacific region would be a dumping ground for contraband goods.
This was the message by Fiji’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation permanent secretary Amena Yauvoli at the opening of the 16th Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) conference in Suva Monday.
“The price of these criminal activities on our people, our societies, our governments, and our economies would be unimaginable,” Mr Yauvoli said.
He said this was a challenge for Customs in the region.
“I urge all members of the OCO to continue to work together through partnerships in communicating and sharing information,” he said.
Mr Yauvoli said Customs administrations were facing new challenges and were responsible for ensuring the smooth flow of trade while applying the necessary controls, guaranteeing and protecting the health of the people and communities in the region.
“Customs are at the frontline in the fight against fraud, terrorism and organised crime. To achieve a correct balance between these demands, control methods must be modernised and the co-operation between the different services reinforced,” he said.
Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority CEO Jitoko Tikolevu said the cost was millions of dollars.
“The cost is huge. We are talking about a small case of drugs and a kilogram is already a million dollars,” Tikolevu said.
Fiji last hosted the conference eight years ago