WCO bolsters the fight against cocaine trafficking between Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa

04 December 2013

Brussels, 4 December 2013

Press Release

Some 30 countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean joined forces from 26 October to 3 November 2013 during an international operation targeting the trafficking in cocaine by air, which led to 91 arrests and the seizure of over 1.7 tonnes of narcotics, including 181 kg of cocaine, 1,500 kg of cannabis and 40 kg of methamphetamine.

During their controls, airport enforcement units also discovered in excess of 10 tonnes of counterfeit medicinal products, 35 kg of products derived from species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in particular rough or worked elephant ivory, as well as 1,433,000 euro in undeclared cash.

As Africa has become a significant transit zone for trafficking in cocaine bound for the European market and which is increasingly being transported by air, the WCO specifically launched Project AIRCOP in order to build drug enforcement capabilities at international airports in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

A significant feature of AIRCOP was the setting up and training of Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs), each comprising some 20 officers drawn from different services specialized in combating smuggling in general and drug trafficking in particular, essentially Customs and Police.

In addition to seizures and arrests, Operation COCAIR IV aimed to gather information on the status of cocaine trafficking by air, to update risk profiles and targeting criteria, to intensify the exchange of information between Customs and Police at the national level and between enforcement services at the international level, as well as to test the JAITF mechanism.

To facilitate cooperation, the airport enforcement services were given access to effective and secure information and communication systems: the WCO’s CENcomm enabled the sharing of operational information and intelligence, while INTERPOL’s I-24/7 tool made it possible to consult international Police databases.

Funded by the European Commission (EC), Operation COCAIR IV was initiated and organized by the WCO in close cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and INTERPOL.

The Operation included a capacity building component, namely a train-the-trainer session which was organized by the WCO Secretariat for participating countries from West Africa, Central Africa, East and Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.