HomeNewsBriefAirport Controls Unlikely to Stem Flow of Illegal Gold From Peru
BRIEF

Airport Controls Unlikely to Stem Flow of Illegal Gold From Peru

GOLD / 11 FEB 2014 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

Special security teams tasked with catching contraband gold smuggling will be placed in five airports in Peru, though the efficiency of gold laundering inside the country means the initiative will likely have limited impact on the billion dollar trade.

From February 21, teams formed of police and officials from Peru's Public Ministry will start operations in Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, Juliaca and Madre de Dios airports, reported El Comercio. The teams' mission will be detecting the transport of illegally sourced gold and other minerals out of the country.

Senior mining official Daniel Urresti said the teams would "hit the illegal mining trade hard because they will make the transport chain more complicated. The objective is to raise the transport costs so that mining ceases to be a profitable business."

The government also plans to create a register of buyers of cyanide and mercury, two chemicals used in the gold mining process.

InSight Crime Analysis

Peru's illegal gold mining industry is huge, generating as much as $3 billion a year -- constituting about a fifth of all Peruvian gold exports. Urresti estimates that 80 percent of illegally mined gold leaves via the country's airports. This estimate is probably about right, making these teams a step in the right direction, according to Quinn Kepes, a US researcher who last year completed extensive fieldwork (pdf) investigating Peru's illegal gold trade.

However a large proportion of that gold is laundered -- given fake receipts guaranteeing it was sourced from legal mining concessions -- before it reaches the airport, meaning formal companies export large quantities of illegally sourced gold through official channels. For instance, Universal Metal Trading, known to be one of Peru's major exporters of illegal gold, transported more than 19 tons of gold to Switzerland in 2011 via the airline KLM, according to government figures.

"In many cases, by the time the gold is making its way out of the country, it is already being passed off as 'legal,'" said Kepes.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

Inspections by the teams will only catch gold that has not been provided with fake receipts, and will certainly not be able to affect the profitability of the illegal supply chain as hoped by Urresti. To do that would require catching the "acopiadores" (gold brokers who make the fake receipts), and to do so would require cracking down on corruption among regional officials and security forces, which is an immense task.

In any case, as pointed out by Kepes, "Just like drugs, the smugglers will adapt, so what's really needed is to get to the source -- where the [illegal gold] is produced and extracted."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

PERU / 3 MAR 2014

The Shining Path guerrillas in Peru have broken months of calm with a series of attacks against military targets, in…

CONTRABAND / 8 NOV 2019

The Los Roques Archipelago -- a group of islands off Venezuela's northern coast known for their white sand beaches and…

CONTRABAND / 9 OCT 2020

Police in Peru have recently seized large quantities of contraband cigarettes in one of the capital’s most populous districts, in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…