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24 January 2014

Fuel smuggling rings dismantled in INTERPOL coordinated operation

LYON, France – Two organized crime networks involved in fuel smuggling across Peru and Ecuador have been dismantled following an INTERPOL-coordinated operation targeting illicit trade and counterfeiting.

More than 60 interventions were carried out as part of Operation Alisuyo, targeting the criminal gangs known as ‘culebras’ or ‘snakes’ because of the way they move across borders. One raid near the Peru/Ecuador border involved some 450 officers, resulting in the dismantlement of the distribution network and closure of 10 points of sale in Peru.

Following a two-month long joint investigation by the Ecuador National Police and the Colombian National Police, a second gang was also identified and dismantled following a raid in Sucumbíos Province near the Ecuador/Colombia border.

In total these two raids alone resulted in the arrest of 10 people and the seizure of 27 vehicles, five pumps and 10,000 gallons of fuel with a combined value of USD 254,000.

“The contribution made by the Peruvian National Police to Operation Alisuyo, planned and coordinated with the police forces of Bolivia and Ecuador and INTERPOL, led to excellent results in the fight against organized crime groups dedicated to smuggling, piracy and illicit trade, and the associated loss in taxes,” said Director General of the Peruvian National Police, Jorge Flores Goicochea.

“With operations carried out in the cities and also in the areas bordering the affected neighbouring countries, it was possible to detect and effectively combat these criminal groups. These operations, and the coordination and reciprocal police cooperation are essential to maintaining and enhancing the rule of law in the region,” concluded General of Police Goicochea.

Conducted between 1 and 15 December, the operation focused on taxable goods with interventions at popular markets, shopping centres and warehouses resulting in the seizure of more than 50,000 fake items worth almost USD 2 million, including alcoholic drinks, mobile phones, tobacco, clothes, home appliances, agricultural equipment and cement.

“Trafficking in illicit goods is a problem which every day becomes more transnational in nature, requiring countries to respond with a multilateral approach to effectively tackle the issue,” said Colonel Juliette Kure Parra, Head of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Bogota, Colombia.

“The successes we have seen during this operation are as a result of the extremely high level of cooperation between all of the countries involved, both before and during the operational phase,” said Michael Ellis, head of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting (TIGC) unit which coordinated Operation Alisuyo.

“The dedication and bravery of the officers in carrying out the raids and interventions, targeting dangerous individuals who will not hesitate to use force to protect their illicit and highly lucrative activities, is especially worthy of praise.

“INTERPOL will continue to work to support law enforcement across all member countries to assist their efforts in turning back the threat posed by organized crime in illicit and counterfeit goods which risk the health and safety of consumers globally,” added Mr Ellis.

“These operations would not be possible without the member countries and the frontline officers who are the ones turning plans into tangible results,” said Glyn Lewis, Director of INTERPOL’s Specialized Crime and Analysis unit.

“With the essential and valued support of our member countries, INTERPOL will continue to offer assistance in combating all forms of crime and providing frontline officers with the tools they need,” added Mr Lewis.

Fugitive Eric Bartoli, wanted by the US since 2003 and subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice – or international wanted persons alert – for offences including money laundering, securities fraud and conspiracy, was also located and arrested in Lima, Peru during Operation Alisuyo.

Launched in 2012, actions coordinated via INTERPOL’s TIGC programme have already led to the seizure of more than USD 300 million in counterfeit items and hundreds of arrests worldwide.