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30 November 2012

INTERPOL-supported operation leads to seizure of illegal drugs

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Nearly 40 people have been arrested and EUR 15 million worth of drugs seized during a global operation targeting the trafficking of methamphetamines by air from Africa to Asia.

Operation WESTERLIES (16-25 November), organized by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Japan Customs and supported by INTERPOL, saw some 100 customs and law enforcement officials target the criminals behind the trafficking through heightened controls on departing, transiting and arriving passengers at international airports located on known routes used by drug smugglers.

The operation targeted methamphetamines either produced in, or being exported from, African countries and destined for sale in Asia. Passengers travelling between the two regions, often via airports in Europe and the Middle East, were screened to detect any who might be smuggling the drug.

Officers checked passenger information against INTERPOL’s criminal databases via the I-24/7 secure global police communications network, and shared information and intelligence through the WCO’s communications tool, CENcomm. Training sessions were held in the participating countries prior to the start of the operation, and drug detection kits were distributed at the selected airports.

Bernd Rossbach, Director of INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime unit, said INTERPOL must continue to build strong partnerships with organizations like the WCO to more effectively combat the criminal networks behind drug trafficking and other serious crimes.

“Close cooperation between the WCO and INTERPOL, making the best use of each other’s tools and services, and effective integrated border management systems are key to ensuring secure borders and protecting citizens from the threat of illicit drug trafficking and related crimes.”

“Our drugs and organized crime initiatives can only be successful if we have strong alliances with partners in law enforcement and beyond,” concluded Mr Rossbach.

Customs officials at various airports seized 220 kg of drugs, including 63 kg of methamphetamines and amphetamines, and 58 kg of cocaine. Also seized during the operation were 120 kg of illegal elephant ivory and some USD 3 million in undeclared currency.

As a result of information obtained during the operation, three global alerts were issued informing law enforcement of newly detected smuggling methods.

The Secretary General of the WCO and the Secretary General of INTERPOL recently met and reaffirmed cooperation between the two organizations in their efforts to bolster the fight against transnational organized crime.