EU strengthens anti-drug operations on cocaine route in West Africa

European Union-funded anti-drug operation (Operation COCAIR III), carried out in 30 international airports in West and Central Africa and Brazil, has achieved impressive results leading to seizures of substantial amounts of illicit drugs and capital, according to a report published on Monday.

The anti-drug operation was carried out by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), together with INTERPOL and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, between November 28 and December 4, 2011, the European Union (EU) said in a statement received in Accra.

The anti-drug operation resulted in 45 seizures, including 486 kg of cannabis, 24kg of cocaine, five kg of heroin and interceptions of amphetamines and metamphetamines such as Ecstasy.

“Additionally, huge amounts of various counterfeit products, arms and ivory products were seized and cash capital amounting to nearly three million euros was confiscated,” it said.

The statement said apart from the immediate success visible in the various seizures, the operation also led to increased airport checks, helped to raise awareness about the fraud occasionally committed by airport control services and reinforced the exchange of secure information between custom services and Police, particularly in cocaine trafficking.

It noted that drug trafficking was one of the major sources of revenue of worldwide organised crime and had a huge negative impact, both on health and national insecurity.

“Disrupting this trafficking requires coordinated international action to reduce both the demand and the supply of drugs,” the statement said.

It added that the EU had taken a leading role in combating the international trafficking of illicit drugs by financing actions to prevent money-laundering, support law enforcement and improve communication between airports and seaports.

The operation, labelled COCAIR III – the third joint EU-WCO operation under the Cocaine Route programme – was set up to reinforce airport controls against the trafficking of illicit drugs, in particular of cocaine, at 30 international airports in West and Central Africa, such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

“These airports are located along the ‘Cocaine Route’ and are used by traffickers to transport the drug from Latin America to Europe, via West Africa. Sao Paolo Airport in Brazil was also part of the exercise.”

The statement said under COCAIR III, particular attention was given to so-called “mules”, passengers on Europe-bound flights, either on direct or transit flights, who smuggled drugs or other illicit goods, in often very creative ways, such as fixed to their bodies, swallowed or hidden in items of clothing.

It said the large-scale cooperation in all COCAIR operations, but especially in COCAIR III, illustrated the importance of the strong involvement of the local authorities when it came to combating this form of cross-boarder crime, which had the potential to upset the economic and financial balance of the whole region.

The European Pact to Combat International Drug Trafficking, which was adopted by the Council in June 2010, provides the main framework for action on drug trafficking at EU level.

Its objective is to build links between different initiatives to tackle trafficking.

Source: GNA

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