Promotion of best Customs investigation practices aimed at fighting the illegal wildlife trade

16 October 2023

From 25 to 29 September 2023, the World Customs Organization (WCO) Secret  ariat organized a five-day regional workshop on the Compendium of Customs Operational Practices for Enforcement and Seizures (COPES) in Lomé, Togo, as part of a collaboration between the WCO COPES and Environment Programmes.

This event was aimed at helping Customs administrations not only improve their evidence collection standards in support of case finalization, but also develop cooperation links between Customs and other law enforcement agencies in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. This training was delivered under the INAMA Project, with the financial support of the United States Department of State.

The workshop content was based on the COPES concept, originally developed to meet the need identified by WCO Members to improve their capacities in managing evidence collection, so as to incorporate Customs activities more fully into the fight against organized crime and into border security issues.

The training brought together 15 participants from five Customs administrations, namely Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Republic of the Congo, and Togo. It was facilitated by two WCO accredited experts from France and Benin.

One of the key outcomes of the training was raising participants’ awareness about Customs administrations’ roles and responsibilities in the areas of evidence gathering, seizure handling, and Customs investigation and criminal prosecution procedures when dealing with illegal wildlife cases.

The workshop sessions consisted of modules on exploring how to ensure border security as a whole, handle illegal wildlife seizures, and develop passenger targeting and profiling techniques. They also underscored the importance of notetaking, and of applying forensic investigation, evidence management, and interviewing techniques that are critical to achieving law enforcement outcomes. In addition, participants were encouraged to interact with each other and exchange views on good practices through group work and practical exercises.

The INAMA Project and the COPES Programme wish to express their deep appreciation to the Office Togolais des Recettes (OTR) and, in particular, to Mr. Kwako Atta-Kakra Essien, Commissioner of Customs and Indirect Duties, for his support, cooperation and warm welcome.