Over the past 15 months, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has provided extensive training and capacity building to Paraguay’s customs office and other Paraguayan law enforcement partners. This training has been very successful, as Paraguayan authorities, working closely with the HSI Buenos Aires attaché, are making extensive seizures of counterfeit goods.
“Partnerships with international customs agencies and border security agents are essential to combating intellectual property theft,” said Raul O. Aguilar, HSI Buenos Aires attaché. Aguilar oversees HSI throughout the southern cone of South America. “HSI is proud to support our Paraguayan colleagues with our expertise in disrupting criminal organizations that import counterfeit products and goods. Fighting these organizations demands a response that is transnational and well-coordinated. I am truly proud of the collaboration we have built with our counterparts.”
Two major recent seizures include:
On Oct. 16, Paraguayan authorities, working collaboratively with HSI, seized counterfeit merchandise with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $34 million. On Oct. 11, Paraguayan authorities received information about counterfeit products being smuggled out of Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asunción. A criminal organization was attempting to smuggle these goods out of the country — possibly destined for the United States. Law enforcement discovered multiple high-quality counterfeit brand name watches of Swiss origin. Among the various brands were watches from Patek Philippe, Tissot, Tag Heuer, Bulgari and Hublot. In addition, approximately 12,500 counterfeit Samsung cellular phones were discovered. The products were ultimately seized by law enforcement.
On Sept. 26, Paraguayan Customs, working with HSI, identified and searched a shipment of containers sent to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, from Uruguay. The three containers and their contents included counterfeit Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo gaming systems. The shipment, with an MSRP of $741,041, was subsequently seized by Paraguayan authorities. This specific case has been presented to the Paraguayan Public Ministry for prosecution.
“HSI will continue to provide training exercises and build strong partnerships with our Paraguayan counterparts in order to assist in the targeting and interception of shipments containing smuggled and illicit cargo,” added Aguilar. “Such training has been instrumental in increasing the abilities of the various agencies within the Republic of Paraguay, and has contributed to an increase in seizures.”
These seizures are the result of HSI’s Illicit Pathways Attack Strategy (IPAS). Over the last two decades, transnational organized crime (TOC) has transformed in size, scope and impact — posing a significant threat to national and international security. TOC networks are proliferating, striking new and powerful alliances, and engaging in a range of illicit activities as never before. The result is a convergence of threats that have evolved to become more complex, volatile and destabilizing. HSI’s response was the creation of the IPAS to break TOC strongholds.
HSI takes very seriously the threat to national security that TOC represents. HSI designed IPAS to focus its resources in a manner that best targets, disrupts and dismantles TOC while maximizing efficiency. IPAS provides a methodology and mechanism for HSI to prioritize threats and vulnerabilities within its mission and to coordinate its own efforts internally and among federal partners. IPAS enhances HSI’s and host country partners’ abilities to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in TOC organizations that threaten the stability and national security of the host countries and pose continuing threats to the homeland security of the United States. Prioritization allows HSI to strategically focus enforcement and capacity building efforts along the continuum of crime within and beyond U.S. borders. IPAS provides a structure for engagement with host country partners — including Paraguay — to increase joint investigations, enhance exchange of information, and support foreign and domestic prosecutions. The IPAS strategy is extremely important in the tri-border area of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, where the propensity for TOC organizations is immense.