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15 December 2010 - Media release

Tackling organized crime in South East Europe focus of police chiefs meeting at INTERPOL

LYON, France – Police chiefs from across South East Europe are gathering at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters to identify ways of strengthening co-operation to combat organized crime in the region.

The meeting, which brings together more than 70 senior law enforcement officials from 25 countries in addition to representatives from international organizations such as Europol, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Commission, will address a range of issues including drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings and terrorism.

Officially opening the conference, newly-elected INTERPOL Vice President for Europe Mireille Ballestrazzi said that INTERPOL had a key role to play in supporting regional policing activities through initiatives such as project BESA targeting organized crime groups in South East Europe, which earlier this month led to the arrest of 18 people for heroin trafficking.

“We have seen organized crime increase and expand their activities not only in South East Europe but globally, in Western Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, which is why a global response is required and is one which INTERPOL is ideally placed to provide,“ said Mrs Ballestrazzi.

“The presence of so many members of the Southeast Europe Police Chiefs Association (SEPCA) here today is also evidence of their commitment to both a collective and collaborative regional response to organized crime, but also their belief in the tools and operational support that INTERPOL can provide,” added the Vice President.

Launched in 2009, INTERPOL’s project BESA provides support to member countries in South East Europe in several key areas including, the establishment of a network of officers in each participating country, access to INTERPOL’s global tools and services including its secure police communications network and provision of analytical, operational and investigative support.

The President of SEPCA, Director of Police of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Mr Ljupco Todorovski, said that Project BESA underlined the need for international co-operation supported by national forces.

“What is the most important for police services in the region, for SEPCA, for all of us, is the need to not only exchange data, but to find ways of fully exploiting research and analysis to support investigations,” said Mr Todorovski.

“The creation of a network of officers through Project BESA is a successful working model and tool for combating transnational organized crime.”

To date Project BESA has led to the arrest of more than 200 suspects, the seizure of more than half a ton of illegal drugs including heroin and methamphetamine and the recovery of weapons ranging from automatic rifles to rocket launchers and explosives.