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WCO announces the results of Operation COCAIR V

13 enero 2016

“Operation COCAIR V”: Joint concerted action to counter a genuine threat to the balance of the African, Latin American and Caribbean regions

Initiated and organized by the World Customs Organization (WCO), in close co-operation with the UNODC, INTERPOL, and funded by the European Commission under the Cocaine Route Programme, Operation COCAIR V took place from 5 to 13 December 2015, with involvement by some 30 countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) for West Africa, Central Africa and Western Europe, and INTERPOL.

Operation COCAIR V builds upon “WCO Project AIRCOP” 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), the heightened co-operation between drug enforcement agencies, and the rollout of effective and secure communication systems: the WCO’s CENcomm and INTERPOL’s I-24/7.

Operation COCAIR V can be considered a major success in light of the quantity of messages exchanged (approximately 8,000) and the number of seizures made. By 20 December 2015, some 78 seizures had been incorporated in the CENcomm. They related to 580 kg of drugs in all (including 411 kg of cocaine, 50 kg of psychotropic substances and 50 kg of khat), 750 items of ammunition, several falsified documents as well as sums of money amounting to 1,631,000 US dollars. In excess of 70 people involved in this trafficking were also arrested. In addition 12 hits in the INTERPOL databases were identified and followed up.

This Operation was carried out by implementing a three-phase action plan:
• A capacity building component comprising two train-the-trainer sessions organized by the WCO Secretariat for the participating countries of West Africa, Central Africa, East and Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean respectively in Santo Domingo and in Douala;
• The tailoring and use of the WCO’s secure and encrypted communication tool (CENcomm) to share operational information and intelligence, and consultation of international Police databases via INTERPOL’s I-24/7 tool;
• The establishment of an Operational Co-ordination Unit (OCU), located at WCO Secretariat headquarters in Brussels for the duration of the Operation, containing representatives of the WCO Members, the RILOs, INTERPOL and the WCO Secretariat.

When welcoming the OCU experts, the WCO Deputy Secretary General, Sergio Mujica, declared that “The fight against drugs concerns everyone, at all times and in all situations. It is our duty to prevent illicit drug trafficking and bolster the weakest links in response to this threat.”

This joint Operation, to counter trafficking in cocaine from Latin America and the Caribbean in particular, transiting Africa and bound for Europe, was based on strengthened Customs and Police controls at departure, in transit and on arrival of passengers in each of the international airports located on routes used by smugglers. The Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) of the AIRCOP Project played a leading role in the Operation.

The key objectives of the Operation were met, especially in terms of identifying individuals and corporate entities implicated in this trafficking, gathering information on the status of cocaine trafficking by air, evaluating and analysing this information in order to generate updated and relevant risk profiles and targeting criteria, intensifying the exchange of information between Customs and Police services on this phenomenon, as well as co-operation and information sharing between the regions involved, using the expertise and logistical resources provided by the WCO and INTERPOL.