WCO and INTERPOL joint operation against illicit trafficking in Africa leads to tobacco and alcohol seizures

27 agosto 2012

WCO and INTERPOL joint operation against illicit trafficking in Africa leads to tobacco and alcohol seizures

Brussels, 27 August 2012

Press Release

A joint operation involving the World Customs Organization (WCO) and INTERPOL against the illicit trafficking of cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol in East and Southern Africa has resulted in the seizure of tonnes of illicitly traded products in seven countries.

Operation Meerkat, which ran from 23-27 July 2012, saw Customs and police authorities carry out some 40 raids at seaports, inland border crossing points, markets and shops in Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

More than 32 million cigarettes – equivalent to 1.6 million packets, 134 tonnes of raw tobacco and almost 3,000 liters of alcohol were seized, resulting in national authorities initiating a number of administrative investigations into tax evasion and other potential criminal offences.

The Operation’s Coordination Unit based at the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison office in Nairobi monitored the exchange of information between participating countries, supported by INTERPOL’s Regional Bureaus in Nairobi and Zimbabwe and by officials from the WCO Secretariat and INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods Programme.

“Combating all forms of illicit international trade is a fundamental Customs function due to the presence of Customs officials at national borders,” said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya. The WCO and its 178 Members are committed to working in a coordinated manner with INTERPOL and Customs’ other partners in the fight against the smuggling of cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol, given the negative consequences for consumer health and safety, for State revenue collections, and for national economic competitiveness and growth,” he stressed.

Over the past decade, illicit trade has grown into a global phenomenon, taking on huge proportions and causing human, social, economic, political and environmental harm, in addition to becoming a key source of funding for international organized criminal networks that undermine sustainable economic development.

“INTERPOL is pleased to have joined forces with the WCO in Operation Meerkat since it has demonstrated the need for Customs and other law enforcement agencies to work closely together to develop a sustainable approach against the criminal networks behind illicit trafficking of goods,” said INTERPOL Secretary General, Ronald K. Noble. “The benefits of police and Customs working closely together has again been proven by the number of products seized and the networks uncovered during the Operation which confirms the international scale of illicit trade,” he added.

With much of the illicit cigarettes or alcohol seized during Operation Meerkat illegally transported from bordering countries, Kumaren Moodley of the South African Revenue Service said, “One of the main challenges we face is understanding the volume of illicit goods coming into the country as well as monitoring and controlling our vast and expansive border line.”

“INTERPOL’s member countries have witnessed unparalleled growth in the illicit trade in tobacco and alcohol products over recent years,” said Roberto Manriquez, a coordinator of the Operation and a Criminal Intelligence Officer with INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods Programme. “Operation Meerkat has again revealed the transnational nature of illicit trade and how criminals will seek to undermine police, Customs and revenue controls to amass huge profits,” he concluded.

The role that the private sector plays in collective efforts to fight illicit trade by sharing information with Members of the WCO and INTERPOL is an essential part of the campaign to disrupt the activities of criminal groups responsible for the manufacture and distribution of illicit goods worldwide.

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