Trade mis-invoicing is costing some developing countries as much as two-thirds of the value of certain commodity exports according to data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The data provides empirical evidence on the magnitude of trade mis-invoicing in primary exports from five resource-rich developing countries: Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

South African gold

Trade Misinvoicing in Primary Commodities in Developing Countries, the UNCTAD study in which the data is presented, says that between 2000 and 2014, 67 per cent of the value of total gold exports were lost from South Africa through under-invoicing.

The country’s losses over those fourteen years, in gold alone, amounted to US$78.2 billion. More than half of this loss can be accounted for in trades between South Africa and India.

Nigeria and Zambia

Mis-invoicing from 1996 to 2014 of Nigeria’s oil exports just to the US was worth US$69.8 billion, equivalent of one-quarter of all US oil imports.

The data from UNCTAD shows that in the 20 years to 2015, more than half of Zambia’s total copper exports were mis-invoiced, with US$28.9 billion not showing up in Swiss data which should have reflected Zambian data.

First major analysis

Between 1990 and 2014, Chile lost US$16 billion in copper revenue to the Netherlands.

Despite it being common commercial practice for decades, this large-scale analysis of mis-invoicing of commodities to and from specific countries is the first study of its kind.

The UNCTAD study, Trade Mis-invoicing in Primary Commodities in Developing Countries can be found here.