Project Aircop

In 2008, in response to the emerging threat posed by the opening up of a new trafficking route for cocaine from South America to Europe via West Africa, the WCO carried out the first Operation COCAIR. The results of this operation confirmed earlier analyses and demonstrated the need to build the capacities of airport law enforcement services in the countries affected by cocaine trafficking, by providing them with training, facilities, equipment and drug detection tools, as well as the need to establish a robust coordination mechanism.

In order to address these needs, Project AIRCOP was launched in 2011. It is funded by the European Union (EU) and Canada, and implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the WCO and INTERPOL, working in close cooperation with WCO Members and other LEAs. Project AIRCOP is aimed at combating illicit cocaine trafficking by commercial aviation from South America, via Africa, to Europe, as well as at fighting airport-based crime. It is primarily focused on the main international airports in West and Central Africa, where the first multidisciplinary Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs), comprising officers from Customs, Police, the Gendarmerie and other LEAs, were established.

Project AIRCOP’s annual programme includes operational activities. Accordingly, seven COCAIR Operations were conducted within this framework to test the operational capabilities of JAITFs in real time.

In 2014 the Project was extended to cocaine supply countries in South America and the Caribbean through the establishment of JAITFs in the key airports in that region. CENcomm is used as a communication platform by liaison officers and JAITF officials. Countries associated with the Project in other regions, such as Europe and North Africa, can also make use of CENcomm. In addition to CENcomm, INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure global police communication system is used to permit secure information exchange between law enforcement officers in airports and to access a database on stolen and lost travel documents in order to check the validity of a passenger’s document.

For more information, please click on the following link to the AIRCOP webpage on the UNODC website: AIRCOP.

COLIBRI Project: monitoring and controlling general aviation.

The WCO and EU are partners in an innovative project called “COLIBRI”, which aims to step up international coordination and efforts to combat organized crime and to address the challenges raised by illicit trafficking. It has a particular focus on cocaine trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in West and Central Africa.

This Project is being implemented as part of Goal 3 of the WCO Strategic Plan (2016/2019): “Protect society, public health and safety, and contribute to combating crime and terrorism” (Compliance and Enforcement Package), and is in keeping with the role of Customs in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

As part of this campaign waged by Customs administrations to combat trafficking and organized crime, the WCO seeks to be at the forefront of innovation and to expand its capacity building mission to encompass emerging threats. The purpose of the COLIBRI Project, which aims to monitor and control general aviation along the entire length of the cocaine route, is to rally Customs and its partners in response to the risks of fraud in this little-monitored channel and to step up the regional, international and interdepartmental cooperation that is so crucial in the fight against illicit trafficking.

However, what do we actually know about general aviation? General aviation is a generic term denoting all civil aviation operations for purposes other than commercial transport. Although most civil aviation airports also cater to general aviation, many secondary aerodromes are not subject to certain administrative requirements such as those governing landing and parking charges and operating restrictions and even circumvent any controls. Moreover, general aviation is not subject to the same police or Customs inspection mechanisms as for commercial air transport, and flight security measures are substantially relaxed compared to commercial aviation, even in highly regulated areas. This means that general aviation represents an opportunity for organized crime and offers a number of advantages to traffickers. It is a discreet, fast mode of transport, which can use smaller airports where LEAs are often absent. The COLIBRI Project is helping to meet the challenge of improving security in this channel, which is sensitive in both trafficking and security terms as well as for tax reasons.

There are three main components to the COLIBRI Project:

1. Capacity building for Customs officials and the staff of the relevant law enforcement agencies in the countries concerned to provide them with the tools they need to meet this challenge.

2. The creation of a new specialist database to share all relevant information among partner countries on the control and monitoring of general aviation, in order to supplement the functionalities of the WCO’s CENcomm communication tool.

3. The promotion and strengthening of international operational and intelligence cooperation through joint operations in the field.

The COLIBRI Project augments the Global Illicit Flows Programme (GIFP) of the EU − formerly known as the Cocaine Route Programme (CRP) − launched by the European Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) under Article 5 of the Regulation establishing the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace. The GIFP is designed to promote the interception of drugs, support anti-money laundering activities and improve the exchange of information, analysis and intelligence, as well as post-seizure criminal investigations and criminal justice cooperation.

According to the latest UNODC World Drug Reports, both the range of drugs and drug markets are expanding and diversifying as never before. An increasing number of observers confirm the suggestion that trafficking constitutes a major source of financing for terrorist groups. The situation calls for heightened international cooperation to help the countries concerned face up to the challenges posed by drug trafficking, improve global security and to promote the rule of law.

Watch out the new released COLIBRI video with English, French and Spanish Subtitles