LYON, France – The seizure of more than 55 tonnes of drugs in an international operation across Latin America and West Africa between 6 to 15 March underlines the ‘massive scale' of activities of transnational organized crime groups, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said.
Operation Lionfish III involved 5,000 law enforcement officials in 13 countries, with 357 arrests and the bulk of seizures resulting from intelligence-led operations by police in participating countries.
“This operation highlights the massive scale of activities of organized crime groups in Latin America and West Africa channeling drugs into Europe," said Secretary General Stock.
“As law enforcement faces increasing demands on its resources, it is a significant reminder of the wide range of threats facing communities worldwide, not only from terrorism, but also by transnational organized crime networks."
"The commitment of participating countries to working in a coordinated fashion via INTERPOL's global network to disrupt drug trafficking routes and crime groups underpinned the success of this operation," added Mr Stock.
Seizures in the operation included 52 tonnes of cocaine, cannabis and heroin, with the cocaine haul of 25 tonnes alone estimated to be worth approximately USD 950 million.
The operation further highlighted how precursor chemicals are being diverted from legitimate to illicit purposes, with 20 clandestine laboratories dismantled and three tonnes of precursor chemicals seized.
“The Brazilian Federal Police was pleased to play a key role in Operation Lionfish by hosting its operational coordination unit. INTERPOL’s policing capabilities and global network helped enhance the capacity of participating countries to cooperate and seize large quantities of drugs as well as arrest high level targets,” said Rogerio Galloro, Executive Director of the Brazilian Federal Police.
The operation was co-organized by INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, with support from the INTERPOL Regional Bureaus in Buenos Aires and Abidjan. INTERPOL’s Criminal Networks unit facilitated information exchange and cross-checking against INTERPOL’s global databases in real time.
“Operation Lionfish III shows the intrinsic role of INTERPOL Regional Bureaus in supporting member countries combat organized crime and drug trafficking affecting entire regions,” said Kedji Abbe, Head of the INTERPOL Regional Bureau in Abidjan.
The operation was held under the framework of INTERPOL’s CRIMJUST project, managed jointly with the UNODC and Transparency International and funded by the European Union.
It aims to strengthen criminal investigations and cooperation along cocaine routes in Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa by fostering interregional law enforcement coordination and information sharing.
Drawing on the resources of INTERPOL’s Project Fortaleza which supports Latin American countries fight organized crime syndicates, the operation involved Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Panama and Peru.