Operation Cosmo’s interdiction phase concludes

31 October 2014

As part of its Strategic Trade Controls Enforcement (STCE) Project, the WCO, with the support of its international partners (INTERPOL, UNODC, UNODA, IAEA, and OPCW) and its Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) Network, has been organizing an unprecedented law enforcement operation to detect and prevent illicit trafficking of strategic goods in international supply chains. The operation, which goes under the code name of "Cosmo", has brought together 90 WCO Member Customs Administrations and their national partners to coalesce around the goals of international security and non-proliferation.

Operation Cosmo deploys an intelligence driven and risk-based approach and commenced with a global planning session at the WCO (8-10 April 2014). Prior to the global event, WCO had organized six regional seminars to discuss the various challenges faced by Customs and Border Agencies when enforcing strategic trade controls. A global operational plan for Cosmo was finalized in late April. According to the plan, the operation consists of four key phases which include: intelligence gathering and target building; interdiction; follow-up and investigation; and reporting.

As part of the pre-operational phase, participating countries were asked to create national implementation plans. These plans were required to contain risk profiles, which based on national inter-agency threat and trade analysis. Following the profile-creation, Administrations were requested to disseminate the profiles to their front-lines and use them for their targeting activities during the interdiction phase.

The interdiction phase took place throughout the month of October. As part of this phase, hundreds of controls were conducted and shipment contents verified. When non-compliance was detected, it was submitted for further investigation whilst facilitation was granted to those shipments that were of low-risk nature. The interdiction phase was supported by an Operational Coordination Unit (OCU) at the WCO. The OCU facilitated operational communication between participating countries and International Organizations, provided technical expert advice to Members on commodity identification, collated operational intelligence to support control activities, and assisted Members through tracking high-risk containers in the logistics chain.

"Operation Cosmo has been a ground-breaking new initiative by the WCO and the global Customs and Border Agency community. The operation, which directly promotes and supports the objectives of many UN Security Council Resolutions, has until now never before been conducted on a global level by Customs Administrations and Border Authorities" declared Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO. He continued by stating that "in the current global security environment, strategic trade control enforcement has become an increasing concern for Customs officials who control the movement of goods across our borders. One of the WCO’s priorities is to help its Members to achieve supply chain security, visibility and transparency. Operation Cosmo has significantly contributed to these outcomes and many good practices, which will be incorporated in future WCO law enforcement operations, have been identified."

During the follow-up and reporting phase, cases of administrative and criminal wrong-doing will be investigated at the national and international level. Countries will continue to report any new cases that they discover through their daily work in this area. Similarly, all participating nations are requested to turn in a national capacity assessment in which they assess their national strategic trade controls enforcement systems, identifying the positive as well as the existing gaps. More information on the results of Operation Cosmo will be made available in June 2015.