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07 August 2008

Senegal and international crime

Dakar, Senegal

INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Dakar has a staff of ten who provide support and assistance to all departments, organizations and authorities whose mission is to prevent and combat crime in Senegal and the rest of the world. INTERPOL Dakar is an active NCB which contributes greatly to the success of its national partners. Here are a few examples relating to 2008.

Seizure of drugs valued at over EUR 30,000

The Office central de répression du trafic illicite de stupéfiants (OCRTIS – central office for the suppression of illicit drug trafficking), which is based at Dakar central police station, arrested six drug traffickers in possession of 410 kg of cannabis valued at
EUR 30,000. The traffickers, who were aged between 34 and 50 years, had passed themselves off as tradesmen, and had hidden the drug in consigments of coal.  They had been put under close surveillance, which allowed OCRTIS officers to arrest them as they tried to enter Senegal.

INTERPOL Dakar is currently working on the international aspects of this case, which involves foreign nationals, so that all the countries concerned can take the necessary action, bearing in mind that this traffic is the work of structured international networks with a strong demand in Senegal. The six Indian-hemp traffickers were brought before the Public Prosecutor in Dakar, and will be tried for possessing large quantities of drugs and international cannabis traffic. They face heavy sentences, particularly following the adoption of the new law on drug trafficking (the “Latif Gueye" law), which provides for sentences of between 15 and 20 years for this type of crime.

International scope

Commissaire divisionnaire (chief superintendent) Abdoulaye Niang is Head of OCRTIS, the specialized branch of the police responsible for combating the illicit national and international traffic in drugs. OCRTIS plays an operational and intelligence role, and works closely with the INTERPOL NCB in Dakar, co-operating on a real-time basis to track criminals and ensure border security.

Senegal has borders with Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, and is a transit country for all kinds of drugs.  Situated on the Atlantic coast, which provides transport routes to South America, the country is also gradually being used as a transit point for cocaine trafficking.

Dismantling of cybercrime networks

During an operation launched simultaneously in various areas of Dakar, the Division des Investigations Criminelles (Criminal Investigation Division), which is attached to the Direction de la Police Judiciaire (Criminal Investigation Directorate), dismantled two major cybercrime networks.

Anticybercrime Operation: The first raid led to the seizure of seven computers and their hard disks.  It uncovered numerous false refugee cards, false transfer orders and a false letter purporting to be from the Head of the Microsoft’s international promotions department, guaranteeing a win of USD 25 million to a potential Internet fraud victim.

A false document certifying that 5,600,000 CFA francs had not been laundered, and various false documents bearing the names of prominent persons, were also found during the search by police officers.

The accused, who are all foreign nationals, sought help via Internet to transfer large but non-existent sums of money, supported by false authenticity documents issued by invented accredited officials, notably lawyers and solicitors.

A police raid in the other cybercafé led to the arrest of six Nigerian and two Senegalese nationals who were caught performing the same fraudulent operations as part of an organized network.  The group was the brains behind a West African network.  The two women arrested were Senegalese nationals, and accomplices of Nigerian criminals.  They had opened the bank accounts in their own names to avoid raising suspicions.  They passed themselves off as businesswomen in order to provide legitimate cover for their operations.

Police anticybercrime training: The Senegalese police regularly organize training sessions on cybercrime. Courses lasting from one month to 45 days are frequently organized, with experts providing staff with training or further training.  The aim is to give them a solid understanding of this type of crime, which is constantly changing, and to familiarize officers with the modus operandi of the local and international networks. However, as this type of offence is usually committed through the medium of English, investigators need training in this language.

Profitability: Cybercrime is becoming increasingly frequent because the profits can be vast, and the offenders behave as if there were no risks. In Senegal, cybercriminals are generally tried and sentenced for fraud or extortion, with aggravating circumstances in some cases, such as possession and use of false documents.

However, a law on cybercrime was adopted by the National Assembly in April, thus making it possible to combat this form of crime in the same way as the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crime Commission) in Nigeria, following the adoption of the famous "419 provision".

The gang arrested in the context of this case had managed to defraud its American victim of USD 379,000; but its members had not had time to spend the money freely because they had all been brought before the courts.