ITIC Warns Agents to Beware Crew Smugglers

Friday, October 10, 2003
Fraudsters are continuing to involve ship agents in the smuggling of illegal immigrants by pretending they are joining crew. In the past twelve months, over twenty approaches to ship agents have been reported to the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC), the specialist mutual insurer of transportation professionals. In the latest issue of ITIC's annual publication, Intermediary, the club notes that the majority of attempts by crew smugglers over the past twelve months have involved a company in Chittagong, which describes itself as "one of the leading shipping companies in Bangladesh". Another feature of recent reports is the targeting of agents in South American countries, including Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. ITIC also notes that, sometimes, the object of the fraudsters is solely to make money from the illegal immigrants, and not to get them to the country of their choice. Late last year, two ship agents in Africa - one in Cameroon and the other in Gabon - were asked by the same bogus US company to attend joining crew from the Indian subcontinent. Thirty-three crew arrived in Douala, and six in Port Gentil, supposedly to join a fish factory ship, having bought their own one-way air tickets and each having paid the crew smugglers $1,000. By the time the unsuspecting agents had realised they were dealing with crew smugglers, substantial costs had been involved in maintaining and repatriating the illegal immigrants, who may or may not have been deceived into thinking they were getting a well-paid job on a foreign-flag ship. What is known is that the crew smugglers earned $39,000 from the scam, which cost local ship agents $50,000 in repatriation expenses. ITIC has warned its members on a number of occasions about the practices employed by such fraudsters, and cautions agents to maintain their vigilance. It concludes, "Relaxing your guard can result not only in expense - immigration fines, hotel bills, repatriation costs etc - but also in a massive waste of time and effort. The former is insured by ITIC, but the latter is not. If in doubt, ask the club."

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