Publication – Product Fraud and Product Counterfeiting as a Source of Terrorist Financing

Written by: John Spink

Primary Source: Food Fraud Initiative

funding terrorism If we stop Food Fraud will we stop the funding of terrorism? No. But we’ll make a dent. Also, maybe more importantly, product fraud investigations often reveal intelligence on where and how terrorist networks are evolving. Our new article provides more insight.

Our new article, Product Fraud and Product Counterfeiting as a Source of Terrorist Financing, was published this month in Security Journal (see the attachment below for the 5-1/2 year process to get published).  This is an academic journal published by ASIS (formerly called the American Society for Industrial Security). To define the influence of this Journal, it has a Scopus rating of 0.293, an ISI Impact Factor of 0.455, and is considered a “Tier 1” journal – the gold standard — by many Criminology university departments. This is our second article in Security Journal and our fifth in a Criminology academic journal.

The abstract is publically available:

“ABSTRACT: This short contribution is a complementary addition that addresses unexplored aspects of our recent Security Journal article When Crime Events Defy Classification: The Case of Product Counterfeiting as White-Collar Crime. One of those unexplored aspects is regarding the proceeds of product fraud or counterfeiting as important to the conceptual studies on combating terrorism – this is currently a focus in Food Fraud regulations and laws. The current research is often based on the assumption of pure terrorists who are pure product counterfeiters. The important theoretical dimension of criminology is that product counterfeiting is one of the many sources of the funding of terrorism and the choice is based on the opportunity. There is evidence that if the opportunity related to product counterfeiting does not exist – or is reduced – the terrorist will select a different method to fund their operations. For example, product counterfeiting of CDs and DVDs was only one of many sources of funding of the 1993 World Trade Center attack. This article builds upon our previous work and reviews several key and influential reports for their assessment on the research question. Keywords: counterfeit; food fraud; fraud; terrorism; organized crime; crime financing”

While the article highlights disconnects between terrorist intent and product counterfeiting, we wanted to make sure to emphasize the importance of direct and specific counter-terrorism investigation and research: “This article does not trivialize the impact and value of intelligence-gathering efforts to investigate and prosecute product counterfeiting that has ties to terrorist activities.”

In our previous writings and presentations we have continued to emphasize the importance of separate focus areas on Food Safety, Food Defense/ Counter-Terrorism, and Food Fraud. While the countermeasures fall on a continuum – there usually are no distinct boundaries between the areas – addressing each one is very important, as each requires very different countermeasures.

The article also addressed the challenge of receiving priority and funding for preventing what is often only an economic crime, compared to more catastrophic human health terrorist attacks: “There is great political will to aggressively support counter-terrorism enforcement and prevention, compared with the lack of support to combat white-collar crimes [including product fraud, product counterfeiting and food fraud] that are often classified as victimless attacks.” Part of the challenge is emphasized in a quote from Biersteker (2008) that “There is no evidence that terrorists have tried to use counterfeit products for a terrorist attack.”

This resource prioritization challenge was further emphasized in a reference from the RAND Corporation (2009) report on “Film Piracy, Organized Crime and Terrorism” where we stated “… the call to action for shifting enforcement and regulatory resources to counterfeit product considers the many challenges (for example, ‘Even if the will of government to devote high-priority attention to counterfeiting is there, the capacity may not be’.) and is muted (for example, a section title is ‘Challenges to Increasing the Priority of Piracy’).”

This may seem like only a technical review but it is important in framing the countermeasures and to provide a theoretically sound foundation. Academic articles are very challenging to write and to get published. Nevertheless, there is great value because of – not in spite of – that rigorous process. The methods, results, and findings are all thoroughly reviewed by editors and reviewers. This vetting process is important for publishing articles that are important, theoretically sound, and that will contribute to advancing science.

Even the review process can be very enlightening. For example, we previously always included “ideological” (terrorists) as one of the “types of counterfeiters.” It is interesting to note that during the review process of a previous article, Defining the Types of Counterfeiters, Counterfeiting and Offender Organizations, the reviewers recommended removing “ideological” from the types of counterfeiters. The reviewers stated that regardless of how the money would be spent that the goal of counterfeiting was not ideological. Even a terrorist organization conducts counterfeiting with the goal of making money.  Their “offender organization” might be “terrorist” but the motivation for the fraud act was economic gain. We agreed and adjusted our manuscript. Insight like this is a great example of the value of the peer-review, refereed, academic publication process.

This article contributes to prioritizing product fraud and product counterfeiting countermeasures and more clarity on the role of – and the impact on – counter-terrorism. The insight for Food Fraud prevention is that our ongoing countermeasures will be the most efficient and effective counter-terrorism activities. If we reduce the fraud opportunity we will increase transparency of the supply chain and all opportunities for nefarious activities.  Reducing the fraud opportunity will reduce Food Defense risks, including acts of terrorism. JWS.


Follow-up Commentary: The Challenge of Breaking New Ground – actually getting published

The journey to publication for this article was 5-1/2 years. This is our fifth criminology journal article and my 32nd peer-reviewed publication in the last 8 years. Over that time our writing process and editorial focus has sharpened. We also have more of a track record of publishing, so that helps support our conclusions. Actually, in general, there are now more academic articles published in the area of product fraud, food fraud and food adulteration. Our newer articles are moving along faster but this one had a long journey to publication:

  • First Draft — July 2009 – the base article which was a review of deKiffer’s chapter in Biersteker (2008). I did not submit it yet because we were working on more fundamental publications such as “Defining the Public Health Threat of Food Fraud” and “Defining the Types of Counterfeiters.” After previous comments from other articles we felt it was futile to continue to submit an article before the foundation was set.
  • Publication Focus on Foundational Concepts – 2009-2011 – We spent a few years building our publications. We started pretty much anywhere and everywhere we could get published.
  • Review Food Fraud, Food Defense and the Funding of Terrorism – 2012 – In 2012 the Food Fraud research, such as with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), cycled back to Food Defense and the terrorist threat. We realized the research question of this article was still very important. We dusted off the manuscript, updated the content, added a Product Fraud/ Food Fraud perspective, and then updated our manuscript.
  • First Submission to Journal “A” — April 2012 – we submitted the manuscript to a highly rated criminology Journal “A” but it was returned since it was “not in the aim and scope” of the journal. This new crime was not in the scope of a “crime” journal. It is important to note that the article was not “rejected.”
  • Second Submission to Journal “B”– November 2012 – a second, lower rated, criminology journal “B” also returned it for being “not in the aim and scope.”
  • Third Submission to Security Journal – June 2014 – The timing and foundation was different since this submission was after three of our other criminology articles had been published and our first article had been accepted by Security Journal.
  • First Review – August 2014 – We received the first reviewer comments with a “publish with minor revisions” statement.
  • Second Review – October 2014 – We submitted our first revision.
  • Accepted Manuscript – October 2014 – The final version and revisions are accepted
  • Create and Edit Proofs – January 2015
  • Published Online Advance Publication – February 2015
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John Spink
Dr. Spink has been focused on product fraud since the Michigan State University’s Food Safety Program and the School of Packaging began research on the topic in 2006. This work expanded to the behavioral sciences and criminology and led to the establishment of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Initiative in 2008. In 2009 the work shifted to the School of Criminal Justice where the Initiative evolved into a Program.