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02 November 2010 - Media release

INTERPOL co-ordinated operation targeting illegal trade in endangered reptiles leads to arrests and seizures worldwide

LYON, France - A worldwide operation co-ordinated by INTERPOL and involving 51 countries across all five continents against the illegal trade in reptiles and amphibians has resulted in arrests worldwide and the seizure of thousands of animals as well as of products worth more than 25 million Euros.

Including national wildlife enforcement authorities, police, customs and specialized units from participating countries, Operation RAMP (September - October) focused particularly on illegal activities relating to the trade and possession of endangered reptiles such as turtles and snakes which included Boa constrictors. The operation resulted in thousands of searches and inspections being conducted, and saw hundreds of suspects being investigated or charged as part of an on-going series of investigations. The goods seized included leather products, and illicit firearms and drugs were also uncovered.

During the two month-long operation, which led to investigations into individuals and companies as well as inspections of premises such as seaports and wholesalers, INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme unit acted as a key operational communications and intelligence centre, facilitating the exchange of information between the world police body’s member countries participating in the operation.

“Our goal in Operation RAMP was to detect and apprehend suspected wildlife criminals, whilst also furthering co-operation and collaboration between agencies and countries in an effort to enhance the fight against organized environmental crime,” said the Director of INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime unit, Bernd Rossbach.

“While investigations will continue well beyond the conclusion of Operation RAMP, this operation has shown what the international law enforcement community can collaboratively achieve against suspected environmental criminals and their networks.”

“The success of this operation would not have been possible without the close co-operation and dedication of the police, customs, wildlife law enforcement agencies and specialized units in all of the participating countries,” added Mr Rossbach.

John Scanlon, Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), who was briefed on the results of the operation during a visit to INTERPOL headquarters on Tuesday, said "The fact that INTERPOL helps co-ordinate such worldwide operations illustrates the level of serious criminality that is now commonly linked to illegal trade in wildlife. I congratulate all the national agencies that participated in Operation RAMP, and the INTERPOL officers worldwide who supported them. Such operations reinforce the very close working relationship that exists between CITES and INTERPOL," the head of CITES said on the sidelines of a meeting with INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

Whilst Operation RAMP focused on detecting and apprehending suspected criminals and criminal groups, emphasis was also placed on ensuring the compliance of lawful traders such as private license holders, public retail outlets and wholesale distributors alongside targeted enforcement actions at national ports where imports and exports transit, collectively resulting in thousands of inspections during the two-month operation.

As the second global operation led by INTERPOL against wildlife crime, results to date from Operation RAMP follow those of its precursor, Operation TRAM (February 2010), which targeted the illegal trade in traditional medicines containing wildlife products and which led to the seizure of products worth more than 10 million Euros.