Customs and Police target drug couriers in operations at airports across Africa and Brazil

INTERPOL on February 13, 2012 released the following:

“DAKAR, Senegal – An operation to disrupt the trafficking of drugs from South America to Europe via Africa has resulted in the seizure of more than 500 kilogrammes of drugs and the recovery of cash totalling two and half million euros in 25 airports across Western and Central Africa and Brazil.

Operation Cocair 3, led by the World Customs Organization (WCO) supported by INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), also resulted in nearly 50 arrests in addition to the recovery of guns, counterfeit products including medicines and goods prohibited from export such as ivory and cultural artworks.

Cocaine, heroin, cannabis, ecstasy, methamphetamine and amphetamines were among the drugs discovered in suitcases and a variety of hiding places including tins of tuna and in one instance, beneath a woman’s wig.

In addition to normal risk profiling by customs officers, during the two-week operation in November and December 2011, advance passenger information checks against INTERPOL’s global databases enabled the early identification of individuals suspected of involvement in drug trafficking, leading to their arrest either as they attempted to leave Brazil or upon arrival at their destination airport.

In addition to the WCO communications network among the participating countries, INTERPOL’s global network connecting each of its 190 National Central Bureaus also led to arrests in countries not taking part in Cocair 3. The Command and Coordination Centre at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France liaised with countries to pass on information about high-risk passengers, such as a 48-year-old South African man arriving from Brazil via Lisbon who was taken into custody at Maputo airport in Mozambique with 53 capsules of cocaine in his stomach.

Announcing the results in Dakar, Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya said, “It is essential that we unite and coordinate our efforts on a daily basis to fight illicit drug trafficking in all its forms and on all fronts: this is a scourge exacerbated by the effects of globalization. Operation Cocair 3 – the result of some excellent cooperation between WCO, INTERPOL, UNODC and the European Commission – is a fine example of the success we can achieve.”

Ahead of the operation more than 40 customs and law enforcement officers from the participating countries were given specialist training provided by INTERPOL and the WCO in combating drug trafficking.

“Drug traffickers will use every opportunity to exploit any weakness in security, which is why joint police and customs operations such as Cocair are so important in producing an effective law enforcement response against this form of criminality,” said INTERPOL’s Acting Executive Director for Police Services, Bernd Rossbach.

Operation Cocair 3 was carried out under the umbrella of AIRCOP, a project funded by the European Union and Canada aimed at building drug-interdiction capabilities at selected international airports through improved inter-service coordination and international cooperation. The project, involving INTERPOL, the UNODC and the WCO also aims to promote information-sharing between services at national and international level as well as an intelligence-led approach to countering drug trafficking.

Participating countries in Cocair 3; Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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