You are here

On Tap: Organised Crime and the Illicit Trade in Tobacco, Alcohol and Pharmaceuticals in the UK

Charlie Edwards and Calum Jeffray
Whitehall Reports, 11 February 2015
Illicit Trade, Organised Crime, Terrorism and Conflict, UK, Domestic Security, Organised Crime
Through its links with organised crime, illicit trade poses a substantial threat to national security and public safety

The scale and nature of organised crime represent a significant risk to national security and public safety. Organised crime is more pervasive in British society than is generally acknowledged, and includes often overlooked activities such as illicit trade.

The illicit trade in tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals is often more attractive to organised criminals than, for example, drug trafficking, given that it is a low-risk and high-value activity. The high profit margins associated with illicit trade are used to fund other criminal activities – a fact not widely understood by the British public.

The true scale of the illicit trade in the UK is hard to determine, but not impossible to measure. On Tap is the culmination of a twelve-month study on illicit trade conducted in three regions of the UK – the northwest, east and southwest of England. It provides the first in-depth investigation of the intersection of organised crime and illicit trade in tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals, and suggests a number of steps the government and other actors should take to combat the problem.

About the Authors

Charlie Edwards was Director of the National Security and Resilience Studies Group at RUSI. 

Calum Jeffray  was a Research Analyst within the National Security and Resilience Studies Group. 

Support Rusi Research

Subscribe to our Newsletter