So the title of this post may be slightly misleading. But only slightly. The former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo has a new job: he’s partnering with Philip Morris International to combat worldwide smuggling rings and “related crimes”. For those who may not know, Philip Morris is among the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers with brands such as Marlboro in its corporate wheelhouse. It has now launched a panel of experts to help it tackle tobacco smuggling. That panel includes Moreno-Ocampo (update: it also includes Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, as per the comments below). Here’s a snippet from the conglomerate’s own press release:
Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE /Euronext Paris: PM) announced today a major new initiative — “ PMI IMPACT ” — to help confront smuggling and related crimes.
The centerpiece of PMI IMPACT is a prestigious council of external independent experts whose seven members have impeccable credentials in the fields of law, anti-corruption and law enforcement. The experts will oversee grants to enable innovation in three key areas in the fight against smuggling and related crimes – research, education and awareness, and action.
PMI IMPACT will issue a request for funding proposals later this year. Proposals can come from private, public, or non-governmental organizations. PMI has pledged USD 100 million to fund the first three rounds of grants.
“Progress against illegal trade requires ideas, resources, and actions — and that’s why we’re excited to launch PMI IMPACT. We’re especially grateful that distinguished experts have agreed to guide this effort and look forward to broad response to the upcoming request for proposals. In parallel, PMI is continuing to control its own supply chain and to support international protocols against illicit trade,” stated André Calantzopoulos, Chief Executive Officer of PMI…
…Despite much progress, there is still significant illegal trade in many types of tobacco products. For criminals, there is often more profit and less risk in smuggling tobacco than, for example, illegal drugs.
According to PMI IMPACT council member Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was the first Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court: “Tobacco is controlled by state regulations; stopping smuggling is the way to enforce the regulations.”
Remarkably, there’s no mention in the release of the international organization that actually deals with these types of crimes: INTERPOL. But let’s face it. For Philip Morris, this is a brilliant ploy. The global cigarette trade has long faced three primary threats: increasingly restrictive healthcare policies around the world; ongoing health-based law suits against the industry’s biggest corporations; and the illegal trade in tobacco, worth tens of billions of dollars in lost corporate and tax revenues a year. So why not kill two birds with one stone: ally yourself with senior figures in international justice to combat transnational and organized crime while simultaneously protecting your own markets by working to eradicate illicit networks that threaten your business. The
evil genius of the plan is almost breath-taking.
As for Moreno-Ocampo, this is a real head scratcher. Since his tenure as ICC Chief Prosecutor ended, he hasn’t exactly been in high demand. He previously lost out on a job as FIFA’s ethics czar — which, given FIFA’s history with war criminals, may have been bullet dodged). He then took up a position with the World Bank reviewing an investigation into corruption charges relating to “major bridge project” in Bangladesh. More recently, he landed a pretty sweet gig at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
There is no doubt that combating illegal tobacco smuggling is important. But should former chief prosecutors of international tribunals work with cigarette companies at the forefront of that fight? The following comment by Mac (see below) on the sincerity of big tobacco companies in tackling smuggling was enlightening:
Moreno-Ocampo dedicates himself to a WHO goal (“Illicit trade of tobacco products must be stopped”, your source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/). The WHO thinks that this would “reduce the harmful consumption of tobacco by restricting availability of cheap, unregulated alternatives and increasing overall tobacco prices” and “reduce premature deaths from tobacco use and raise tax revenue for governments”. And it would put an end to one income stream of “organized criminal networks involved in arms and human trafficking”).
However, the WHO thinks that the tobacco industry’s efforts are not sincere: “While publicly stating its support for action against the illicit trade, the tobacco industry’s behind-the-scenes behaviour has been very different. Internal industry documents released as a result of court cases demonstrate that the tobacco industry has actively fostered the illicit trade globally. It also works to block implementation of tobacco control measures, such as tax increases and pictorial health warnings, by misleadingly arguing they will fuel the illicit trade.”
It remains unclear what Moreno-Ocampo receives in return for lending his name and expertise to Philip Morris. But all of this does raise the question: after years of working to bring mass murderers and war criminals to justice, why would Moreno-Ocampo join forces with an industry that is linked an estimated six million deaths per year?