Operation COCAIR VI: overview of initial results

21 December 2017

Operation COCAIR VI took place from 9 to 17 December 2017, bringing together the enforcement services of airports in some thirty countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East.  The main objective of the Operation was to intercept illicit consignments of cocaine by air from South America bound to Europe, either directly or via transit zones in Africa.

More generally, its aim was to intercept any illicit substance or contraband that might be transported by air, in particular currency, countless seizures in previous operations having netted cash and securities.

Cocaine, the main product targeted during the Operation, topped the list in terms of numbers of seizures, and ranks first in terms of quantities intercepted (900 kg).  Heroin, tobacco, methamphetamine, cannabis, khat, medicines, LSD and species of flora and fauna protected by the Washington Convention were among the other products intercepted.  The Operation also made three interceptions of currency totalling over USD 700,000, confirming that the movement of smuggled currencies observed during the previous COCAIR operations is still prevalent.  Thirty-two people have already been detained, and two companies incriminated.

Operation COCAIR VI is part of the “Project AIRCOP” implemented by WCO, UNODC and Interpol and aimed at stepping up controls in international airports in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean through the establishment of Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs), bringing together the national stakeholders in enforcement and the fight against fraud.  Initiated and organized by the World Customs Organization (WCO), it has benefited from the support of the UNODC, INTERPOL, and the European Commission, which funded it under the Cocaine Route Programme.

The JAITFs and other units operating in airports located along the cocaine route thus formed, for a number of days, an enforcement network covering 38 airports in 35 countries.  The officers in these different units were able to exchange information and record their seizures via a tailored version of the WCO’s secure communication system, CENcomm.  They also had access to the INTERPOL data bases (I-24/7) to search the criminal records of those detained, and to verify the authenticity of travel documents in circulation.  The exchange of information during the Operation was intense, as evidenced by the large number of messages issued through the WCO’s CENcomm and the number of searches carried out in INTERPOL’s I-24/7system (see tables below).

The WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) for West Africa, Western Europe, Central Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean also participated actively in the Operation, facilitating the exchange of operational information with their members.

The WCO hosted an Operational Coordination Unit (OCU) in Brussels comprising officials from the Customs services of Brazil, Gambia, the Dominican Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mali, staff working at the RILOs for Central Africa and Western Europe, and representatives of INTERPOL and of CRIMJUST, a UNODC project that seeks to enhance the capacities and integrity of criminal justice institutions in the detection, investigation, prosecution and sentencing of organized crime cases and drug trafficking.

The role of the members of the OCU was to support the operational units by coordinating a number of exchanges and communicating data on passengers from certain airports, in particular Brazil, to allow risk analysis and profiling.

Operation COCAIR VI helped consolidate cooperation between operational services in participating countries, as such cooperation remains the most effective tool in the fight against trafficking organized by serious international crime.  In addition, the rapprochement with the CRIMJUST project opens up new opportunities for further investigations by the national judicial investigation services on currency seizures to determine their origin or purpose.

Number of seizures per category

Category  Number 
Drugs 58
Tobacco 3
Currency 3
Other restrictions and prohibitions 1
Protected Fauna and Flora 1
Total 66

 

Quantities seized per type of product

Category 
Number 
Total Number
Quantity 
KG
Items
Dollars
KG
Items
Dollars
Cocaine
44
44
916.268
Heroin
6
6
20.24
Tobacco
3
3
128,180
Methamphetamine
3
3
5.72
Cash
3
3
708,200
Cannabis
2
2
13
Khat
2
2
59.52
Medicine
1
1
95
LSD
1
1
0.189
Protected Fauna and Flora
1
1
250
Total
59
4
3
66
1,109.937
128,430
708,200

 

CENcomm Messages

Role  Quantity
National Contact Points 2,358
OCU 7,218
Total 9,576

 

I-24/7 searches

I-21/7 INTERPOL Searches Hits
ICIS (Interpol Criminal Information System) 13,673 2
SLTD (stolen and lost travel documents) 12,960 40
Total 26,633 42

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