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Detecting Suspicious Approaches

Regrettably, not all buyers approach Australian industries with a legitimate commercial purpose. The following information is designed to assist organisations identify activities that may indicate an attempt to illegally acquire conventional arms or procure goods, services and technologies for weapon of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

Illicit WMD programs and proliferation of conventional arms pose significant threats to the safety of all Australians, and to regional and global security. It is in Australia's interest to ensure would-be proliferators are denied access to conventional weapons and items that may contribute to WMD activities are appropriately controlled.

Defence Export Controls works closely with other government agencies to prevent the proliferation of WMD and conventional weapons and, in turn, protect Australia's reputation as a responsible member of the global exporting community.

To this end, industry should ensure that all exports are compliant with all statutory and regulatory requirements. Applications to export regulated defence and dual-use goods, and goods and services that could contribute to a WMD program, must be lodged with us.

Australian industry can help prevent the proliferation of WMD and conventional weapons by reporting all suspicious approaches to us.

Identifying Suspicious Approaches

There are certain red flags that can indicate an attempt to proliferate. These include:

  • Approaches from persons or entities on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Consolidated List;
  • Approaches from countries subject to sanctions, or with a WMD program;
  • Unusual or inappropriate requests for goods to be manufactured to military, or unusually high, specifications;
  • Unusually favourable, or non-standard payment terms; and
  • Unusual requests regarding the shipment route, or labelling of the goods.

If you have encountered any of these red flags, you may have had a suspicious approach.

Know Your Customer & End-User

Knowing your customers and end-users, how they intend to use your product, and how your products can be misused are all important factors when considering whether to proceed with an export.

Consider these questions for every transaction:

Is the customer:

  • On a denied persons or entities list?
  • In a business that is incompatible with the goods being sought?
  • Not locatable via telephone, academic or trade directories, internet websites or other such sources of information?
  • Unknown to industry bodies or company registration authorities?
  • Excessively demanding regarding timeframes?
  • Declining a guarantee or warranty, or refusing the assistance of technical experts when it is generally standard for the equipment?
  • Newly registered, or have they recently or regularly changed their company name? Communicating via e-mail using a generic e-mail account

Is the country of destination:

  • Subject to sanctions or embargoes?
  • Linked via borders or trade routes with a country subject to sanctions or embargoes?
  • Dealing with internal conflict?
  • Known to have a history of human rights abuses?
  • Incompatible with the nature of the goods?

Are the goods:

  • Described in a vague or meaningless way, or is the declared value, weight or volume of the goods inconsistent with industry standards?
  • A commercial quantity but being consigned to an individual?

Does the commercial documentation:

  • Contain spelling errors, simple mistakes, or does not agree in particulars such as description, quantity or consignee?
  • Vary from the usual standard or format used by the customer?
  • Contain an incomplete address, a PO Box only, or identifies the  customer as being located in an area incompatible with the nature of the goods?

Is the transport:

  • Shipment route geographically or economically illogical?
  • Insurance paid on the shipment inconsistent with industry standards (too high or low)?

Are the payment and financial details:

  • Significantly different between the amount on the invoice(s) and the amount in the Letter of Credit?
  • For the goods and/or transport costs prepaid, paid in cash, or excessive for the value of the goods?
  • In an unusual foreign currency?
  • Required by the customer to be separate for delivery of the goods and transport?

If you have answered YES to any of these questions you may have had a suspicious procurement attempt. If after conducting further enquiries you still have concerns about the bona fides of a customer or a transaction, please contact DEC for advice.

Reporting a Suspicious Approach
Persons who have information that could identify a suspicious enquiry or purchase are encouraged to contact us by telephone on 1800 66 10 66. You may also mail us at the address provided on the contact DEC page – please mark all letters ‘In Confidence'.

For further information on Reporting Suspicious Appraches and DEC's Privacy Policy is available on the Reporting A Suspicious Approach page.

A Suspicious Example

In addition to the generic information provided above, the following list of indicators applies specifically to intangible technology transfers and orders regarding nucleic acid sequences:

Intangible Technology Transfers:

  • A request from an unknown individual, institution or company for help and advice in a specific area of technology and/or technical process.
  • Failure to explain or give a convincing answer to questions regarding aspects of a contract, or reasons for why technology/know-how transfer and training is being sought.

Synthetic Biology:

  • A customer whose normal business would not suggest a connection with R&D in the life sciences, biotechnology or a requirement for DNA synthesis services.
  • An unusually large order for synthetic nucleic acid sequences or the same order placed several times.

Note: The information on this page is also available in Portable Document Format (.pdf): Detecting Suspicious Procurement flyer.
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