The world is under threat from a new kind of international crime wave: illicit trade in everything from knock-off Prada bags to bogus medicines, from dangerous weapons to humans themselves. While smuggling is nothing new, globalization has made it larger and far more ominous. The global value of this "dark trade" is estimated to reach a phenomenal ten percent of the world's trade. Since the 1990s it has been growing seven times faster than legal trade—and it's having profound consequences for the world's economy and for politics everywhere.
A new National Geographic Special, Illicit: The Dark Trade, is not just about smuggling or crime, it's about how these criminal networks are changing the world. Illicit trade has increasingly dangerous political consequences: money laundering, massive corruption and the subversion of entire governments. It is changing how we live in ways unrealized, and governments around the world seem powerless to stop it. Illicit trade is redefining economic relationships, borders and the role of workers, managers, armies and governments.
The film is based on the bestselling book, Illicit, by Dr. Moisés Naím, acclaimed editor of Foreign Policy magazine. Naím believes illicit trade could be as great—or even greater—a threat to our way of life as terrorism. Naím lends his expertise and his voice to the film.
A former economics minister of Venezuela and World Bank executive director, Dr. Naím has been the editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine since 1997. In fall 2005 he published Illicit, a meticulously researched book that opened the eyes of powerbrokers around the world. An international best-seller, Illicit has been published in nineteen languages.
The National Geographic Special reveals how hidden criminal networks cost untold numbers of jobs, kill and maim thousands of people and breed violence and corruption. The film also focuses on the role technology plays in both enabling and disabling illicit trade, and raises questions about whether authorities have coherent strategies to combat this new phenomenon. In revealing how consumers are often themselves complicit in illegal trade, Illicit: The Dark Trade provides a timely look into a shadowy world that is relevant to viewers everywhere.