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04 February 2008

Liberia requests INTERPOL assistance after major cocaine haul

An INTERPOL Incident Response Team (IRT) is travelling to Liberia to assist national authorities after 2.5 tons of cocaine was discovered on a boat off the West African coast.

The team was deployed at the request of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Monrovia after the fishing vessel was intercepted by a French Navy warship based on information provided by the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Liberian-registered boat Blue Atlantic was escorted to Monrovia, where its nine Ghanian crew members were taken into custody.

The seizure, on 29 January, is the largest recorded this year in the West African region, which is becoming a favoured transit point for traffickers moving drugs from South America to Europe.

In response to this growing threat, INTERPOL has launched two intelligence-driven operations (Cocaf and Proteus) to help co-ordinate activities in the region to combat cocaine trafficking.

As part of the IRT, officers from INTERPOL’s Drugs and Criminal Organizations (DCO) sub-directorate and the Command and Co-ordination Centre (CCC) at the General Secretariat in Lyon, France and the Sub-Regional Bureau in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire will work alongside police in Monrovia to help establish the origin and destination of the shipment, as well as the individuals in the supply chain.

In addition to providing on-site support, INTERPOL can issue international notices to police in its 186 member countries requesting additional information to help locate and arrest any identified suspects.

Last May, an INTERPOL IRT was deployed to Mauritania to assist authorities with the investigation into the largest-ever cocaine seizure in the country’s history. An INTERPOL international wanted persons notice was subsequently issued for the suspected recipient of the shipment.