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Operation “Early Bird” targets nuclear, chemical and biological weapons

01 diciembre 2009

Brussels, 1 December 2009

Operation “Early Bird” targets nuclear, chemical and biological weapons

The first joint operation to combat the proliferation and dual-use of sensitive goods was recently undertaken by 18 Customs administrations of EU Member States on behalf of the Council of the European Union. Called Operation “Early Bird”, this joint Customs operation was aimed at preventing the movement through major airports of sensitive goods destined for sensitive countries.

Coordinated by the German Customs Criminal Office (ZKA - Zollkriminalamt) and supported by the Dutch and Swedish Customs administrations, the operation was initiated by the EU’s Customs Cooperation Working Party (CCWP).

The World Customs Organization (WCO) contributed to the operation by granting access to CENcomm – its secure communication tool – for the exchange of information and intelligence. CENcomm templates were specifically tailored to meet the requirements of the operation. Furthermore, the WCO made space available at its Headquarters for a physical Operational Co-ordination Unit (OCU) to be set up. The OCU was staffed by Customs officers from 11 countries with technical assistance being provided by the WCO Secretariat.

WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, said, “ The proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons pose a serious threat to world peace and to international security. I am therefore very pleased that the WCO was able to assist through the provision of its tools, infrastructure and technical assistance during the operational phase of Operation Early Bird”. He added, “ This first joint operation highlights the important role played by Customs in securing trade supply chains and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all participants for their efforts that led to another successful Customs enforcement operation”.

More than 169 warning messages were exchanged amongst participating countries and a total of 23 shipments were reported to the relevant licence authorities for further verification, and so far one criminal investigation has been started.

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