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Organised criminal groups’ use of corruption and physical threats against customs officials

Various customs administrations have reported that their officials are physically threatened by organised criminal groups to abuse their power and facilitate illicit activities, such as drug trafficking. This Helpdesk Answer conceptually analyses how organised criminal groups use corruption and physical threats to influence customs officials and enable their profit-making activities, before describing how applying certain integrity measures could potentially prevent and counter the emergence of such threats.

12 September 2023
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Main points

  • There is general agreement within the literature that organised criminal groups use corruption and physical threat as tactics to enable their profit-making activities, but less agreement on what makes them select one tactic over the other given the influence of many contextual variables.
  • Both of these tactics are used against customs officials to facilitate their profit-making activities. While their use of physical threat has been comparatively less studied, it presents serious risks to the integrity of customs administrations.
  • Customs administrations are best placed to take internally orientated measures to prevent and respond to the infiltration of organised criminal groups and the emergence of physical threats.
  • Enhanced integrity measures have the potential to make a positive contribution in this regard. These measures include safe and secure whistleblowing mechanisms, lifestyle checks, staff rotation policies and integrity training of officials.

Cite this publication

Bergin, J.; (2023) Organised criminal groups’ use of corruption and physical threats against customs officials. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2023:19)

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)