Successful Conclusion of Operation CATalyst

18 December 2015

Combating New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

Press Release

The World Customs Organization (WCO), in cooperation with the Korea Customs Service and the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) for Asia and the Pacific, concluded Operation CATalyst on 30 November 2015.

The proliferation of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in terms of their range, potency and availability is alarming, resulting in a global public health and safety threat. As the distribution networks of NPS involve multiple countries, Customs administrations play a crucial role in intercepting NPS at the borders. Targeting this rapid proliferation of NPS across the globe, Operation CATalyst was initiated to promote responses and consolidated efforts among the international Customs community against this threat.

In preparation of the Operation, the "WCO International Seminar on Combating New Psychoactive Substances", funded by the Korea Customs Cooperation Fund (CCF-Korea) was organized in Seoul, Republic of Korea in May 2015. In conjunction with the seminar, a survey on NPS was conducted and the results, along with the pre-analysis of the NPS trafficking threat, were shared with the participating administrations. On 10 October 2015, Operation CATalyst was launched, pooling the participation of 94 Member administrations, 9 RILOs, and 5 international organizations and enforcement bodies, including INCB, UNODC, EUROPOL, INTERPOL and JAITF. An Operational Coordination Unit (OCU) was established and staffed with the representatives from Korea Customs Service, RILOs of 7 regions (Asia and the Pacific, Central Africa, CIS, Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East, West Africa and Western Europe), EUROPOL, INTERPOL and the WCO Secretariat. In their efforts to facilitate information exchange and provide technical support to the participating administrations, the OCU published 7 alert reports and 6 newsletters.

Operation CATalyst was completed with successful results, having intercepted and seized 13,408 kg of drugs in 371 cases, within which 1,435 kg are NPS related. Participating Members intercepted other contrabands as well, including 61 million pieces of cigarettes, 1,160 kg of CITES items, 1 firearm, 16 bullets, 317,490 EURO and other IPR and taxable items.

Operation CATalyst helped to expose new global trends of NPS abuse. These findings have been of particular value to country leaders, policy and law makers, as well as law enforcement agencies around the world. The WCO Secretariat, in cooperation with Korea Customs Service, will continue to provide support and collaborate with international bodies in countering NPS smuggling and trafficking


Photo captions:

  1. Operational Coordination Unit of Operation CATalyst in the Headquarters of the World Customs Organization, Brussels, Belgium
  2. Members of the Operational Coordination Unit at work
  3. Closing speeches by the World Customs Organization Deputy Secretary General Mr. Sergio Mujica and Mr. Suk-Hwan Roh, Director General of Investigation and Surveillance Bureau of KCS.