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

An European Union-funded anti-drug operation (Operation COCAIR III) carried out at 30 international airports in West and Central Africa and Brazil has achieved impressive results and led to seizures of substantial amounts of illicit drugs and capital, an EU report said on Friday.

The anti-drug operation was carried out by the World Customs Organization (WCO) together with Interpol and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime between 28 November and 4 December 2011.

A statement issued by the European Union and copied to the GNA said the operation has resulted in 45 seizures including 486 kg of cannabis, 24 kg of cocaine, 5 kg of heroin and interceptions of amphetamines and methamphetamines such as ecstasy.

Additionally, huge amounts of counterfeit products, arms and ivory products were seized and cash amounting to nearly €3 million was confiscated.

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.

Drug trafficking is one of the major sources of revenue for worldwide organised crime and has 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, it said.

It said 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,  labeled 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.

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 smuggle drugs or other illicit goods, in often very creative ways such as fixed to their bodies, swallowed or hidden in items of clothing.

The large-scale cooperation in all COCAIR operations, but especially in COCAIR III, illustrates the importance of the strong involvement of the local authorities when it comes to combating this form of cross-border crime, which has the potential to upset the economic and financial balance of the whole region.

The statement said 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.

The “Supporting the fight against organised crime on the Cocaine Route” programme fits into this European Pact and is financed by the Instrument for Stability, Trans-regional Threats, with € 19 million.

The project aims to strengthen the anti-drugs capacities at selected airports in West Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, and at selected seaports in West Africa and to help the law enforcement, judicial and prosecution authorities of Latin America and Caribbean countries to tackle transnational organised crime and money laundering, and financial crime in Latin American and Caribbean countries and West-Africa.

Source: GNA

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