Operation ICE BREAK II successfully conducted by RILO A/P and Customs of the region

01 October 2020

The WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office (RILO) for the Asia/Pacific region and Member Customs administrations of the region conducted Operation ICE BREAK II, a joint operation targeting illicit drugs and drug precursors trafficking, with a focus on methamphetamines, over a five-week period from 15 June to 19 July 2020.

Twenty-one Customs administrations from 18 territories in the Asia/Pacific region participated in the Operation, using the RILO A/P office located in Seoul, Korea, as the Operation Coordination Unit (OCU). Seizures during the Operation amounted to four tons of illicit drugs, with around 700kg of methamphetamines.

WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya congratulates the RILO A/P highlighting that “despite the challenges posed by the global health crisis, Customs administrations have once again demonstrated their relevance and capacity to adapt and protect the society against organized criminal activities.” “The WCO will continue to play its leadership role to guide Customs during this pandemic,” he added.

This Operation was a follow-up to Operation ICE BREAK I, which was conducted last year. This year, despite the unprecedented situation - with restrictive measures generated by the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the working environment - Operation ICE BREAK II reaped huge success by conducting intensive crackdowns on all modes of transport, including Mail and Express Cargo services.

The RILO A/P and participating Members had anticipated that the trafficking of illicit drugs and their precursors across borders from major drug production regions would be limited, and the inventory stockpiled, due to enhanced border controls following COVID-19. Accordingly, in order to respond to the risks of changes in the modus operandi for drug trafficking by transnational criminal groups, a collaborative approach through a joint operation was seen as the best way to adapt promptly and adequately address the drug crisis together.

An analysis of seizures made during the Operation reveals that methamphetamines remain a highly potent and pervasive drug threat in the region and, as expected, Mail is the preferred mode of transportation for this type of drug trafficking. Moreover, as the trafficking of drugs and precursors from major illicit drug manufacturing regions became difficult due to border and travel restrictions, illicit drugs and precursors were not only being stockpiled in the producing region, but also potentially moved into neighboring countries. Also, some modus operandi similar to the ones identified for methamphetamine trafficking during the previous operation were used again and recognized by participating Members, such as the use of Chinese tea bags or brick forms as concealment methods.

Operation ICE BREAK II was a real success, as participants could identify illicit drug trafficking trends used by transnational criminal groups attempting to circumvent the border controls, and despite the difficulties generated by lockdowns decided upon by Governments to address the COVID-19 pandemic, participants were able to share information on a real-time basis and react actively to the drug crisis.