Data Sources

Source Key links Comments
International Organisations

Mutual evaluation reviews by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and FATF-style regional bodies

Mutual evaluations

Value: A source of country-specific information on FTZs. The timeliness of the information depends on how long ago the respective mutual evaluation report (MER) was published. More recent follow-up reports may be available, which are likewise accessible via the same page on the FATF website.

Additional context: The FATF sets AML/CTF standards and evaluates member states’ compliance with them. MERs are publicly available and, insofar as relevant to their objective of assessing compliance with the FATF recommendations, sometimes discuss financial crime and illicit trade in FTZs. Almost all countries in the world are a member of either the FATF or a FATF-style regional body, which likewise publish MERs of their members. Links to all such reviews are available on the FATF website.

UN Security Council


Value: The list of UN sanctions regimes enables identifying countries whose governments, organisations and citizens are subject to UN sanctions. The webpages of respective sanctions committees provide reports on sanctions enforcement that are helpful in identifying countries involved in sanctions evasion.

Additional context: Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council are binding on all UN member states. This is not the case in relation to sanctions imposed unilaterally by individual states (such as the US) or international organisations (such as the EU), even though they can be influential in practice.

World Customs Organization (WCO)

Refer to the WCO’s website, including the pages on ‘Free Trade Zone/Special Customs Zone’ and '"Extraterritoriality" of Free Zones: The Necessity for Enhanced Customs Involvement (WCO's research paper on FTZs)’

Value: The WCO’s 2019 research paper identifies trends in the number of seizures and types of illicit goods seized in FTZs or having arrived from FTZs. This analysis is non-country specific.

Additional context: The WCO is predominantly concerned with the harmonisation of customs controls and procedures but has occasionally undertaken activities and research focused on preventing crime in FTZs.

GAFILAT (Financial Action Task Force of Latin America)

Refer to GAFILAT's publications, including the ‘Outcomes Report of the Regional Workshop on Trade-Based Money Laundering (TBML), Panama City, April 2019

Value: GAFILAT's publications serve as a useful source of information on financial crime risks in Latin America, including those related to FTZs in the region.

Additional context: GAFILAT is a FATF-style regional group for Latin America, which means that it monitors the implementation in Latin America of international anti-financial crime standards set by the FATF and publishes analysis relevant to the countries in the region.


US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

Civil Penalties and Enforcement Information

Value: OFAC’s enforcement actions contain information that helps identify trends as to countries and geographical areas involved in breaches of US sanctions.

Additional context: OFAC is an agency within the US Department of the Treasury in charge of enforcing US sanctions.

US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports (published annually)

International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports

Value: An up-to-date source of information on the financial crime landscape in countries covered by the report.

Additional context: Each of these reports includes two volumes: Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control and Volume II: Money Laundering and Financial Crimes. The latter reflects countries’ efforts against money laundering, including the laundering of the proceeds of various types of illicit trade.

Customs agencies’ websites

Refer to respective agency’s website

Value: Customs agencies’ websites occasionally offer information on seizures of illicit products in FTZs. Examples include InSync, the publication of Singapore’s Customs.

Additional context: Many customs agencies publish limited if any statistics related to their operations in FTZs.

Trade or other ministries’ websites

Refer to respective agency’s website

Value: Respective trade or other ministries may be promoting some of the benefits of the FTZs in their territory.

Additional context: They may also be in charge of approving FTZs’ establishment and/or monitoring their security arrangements.

Free-Trade Zones

World Free Zones Organization (WFZO)

Safe Zone

Value: The certification of an FTZ as a Safe Zone by the WFZO signifies compliance with a set of standards based on the OECD’s Code of Conduct for Clean FTZs as certified by a third-party evaluator vetted by the WFZO.

Additional context: The WFZO is a membership association of over 600 FTZs. The Safe Zone programme was launched in 2020 following a pilot with the participation of five FTZs. The Safe Zone programme is separate and independent from the OECD’s work on FTZs.

FTZs’ websites

Refer to respective FTZ’s website

Value: FTZ websites often contain basic information on their operations, including incentives for business.

Additional context: FTZ websites are generally unlikely to include information on the extent or nature of criminal activity in them.

Non-Governmental Organisations

Basel Institute on Governance

‘Basel AML Index’

Value: The Basel AML Index is a composite index that brings together various factors that reflect a country’s ability to effectively fight money laundering. It can be useful for estimating money laundering risks in countries where FTZs are located.

Additional context: The Basel Institute on Governance is a research organisation that provides analysis on issues related to corruption and financial crime.



Value: Reports by C4ADS provide detailed analysis of illicit trafficking routes and methods based on open-source investigations.

Additional context: C4ADS is a non-governmental organisation providing data-driven of security issues.


Sanctions Explorer

Value: ‘Sanctions Explorer’ brings together information on UN and key unilateral sanctions regimes, including a map that visually represents countries whose governments, organisations and citizens are subject to sanctions.

Economist Intelligence Unit

The Global Illicit Trade Environment Index 2018’, including 'Free Trade Zones: Five Case Studies'

Value: This report brings together information on illicit trade vulnerabilities in select countries and can serve as basic foundation for assessing the extent of illicit trade in those countries.

Additional context: The report was produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT).

Global Witness


Value: Investigations by Global Witness cover a wide array of crimes, especially environment-related, and detail the trafficking routes and intermediaries used to perpetrate them.

Additional context: Global Witness is a non-governmental organisation intended to fight corruption and environmental degradation.

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

Controlling the zone: balancing facilitation and control to combat illicit trade in the world’s free trade zones

Value: The 2020 edition of ICC’s report on FTZs provides examples of crime taking place in FTZs and customs operations designed to disrupt it.

Additional context: The ICC’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) is an initiative that aims to raise awareness of the harms of counterfeiting and brings its members together for joint action against counterfeiting, for instance by developing the ‘Know-your-customer best practices for maritime operators’.

Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Improving Governance and Tackling Crime in Free-Trade Zones

Value: A report detailing criminal risks in FTZs and best practices in counteracting them, with a particular focus on Morocco, Panama, Singapore and the UAE.

Additional context: RUSI is a UK-based research institute conducting research on financial crime and organised crime among other security-related issues.

The Sentry


Value: The Sentry’s reports document illicit trafficking routes and methods related to countries experiencing conflict.

Additional context: The Sentry is a non-governmental organisation aiming to detect and deter financial crime related to war crimes and crimes against humanity.



Value: TRAFFIC publications document trafficking routes and methods related to illicit wildlife trade in various countries and regions.

Additional context: TRAFFIC is a non-governmental organisation aiming to counteract wildlife crime.

Transparency International

Corruption Perceptions Index

Value: Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index is a widely used source of comparative assessment as to the level of public corruption in countries assessed. It can be useful for understanding the context in countries where FTZs are located.

Additional context: Transparency International is a leading international anti-corruption non-governmental organisation.

Property Rights Alliance

International Property Rights Index

Value: The annual International Property Rights Index aims to rank countries based on the strength of their protection of property rights, including intellectual property rights. This can be a source of contextual information on the country concerned.

Additional context: The Property Rights Alliance describes its mission as 'an advocacy organization dedicated to the protection of innovation, intellectual property rights, and physical property rights around the world'. It is an affiliate of the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation.

Academic Sources

Rodolfo Samuda

Zonas Francas Panameñas: Análisis y propuesta de mejoras para controlar el comercio ilícito

Value: A detailed, country-specific analysis of Panamanian FTZs' vulnerabilities

Additional context: Written by a then-academic with extensive experience of work at senior levels in Panama's customs administration.