BUENOS AIRES: An operation coordinated by INTERPOL has led to the capture of nine of Latin America’s most wanted fugitives and positively located several more.
Under the banner of the European Union-funded ‘INTERPOL Support to EL PAcCTO’ project, the four-day operation (1-4 March) brought together investigators from across Latin America and four European countries specialized in tracking down fugitives.
In a command centre established within INTERPOL’s Regional Bureau in Buenos Aires, Argentina, INTERPOL coordinated intensive working meetings between the investigators aimed at locating and arresting a maximum number of fugitives on a list of priority targets established by the global police organization’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit.
The operational model effectively pushes international police cooperation into ‘hyper drive’, allowing investigators to exchange actionable information in real-time.
Wanted for a variety of serious crimes, including drug trafficking, money laundering and heading organized crime groups, all fugitives were subject to INTERPOL Red Notices, a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a wanted person.
For the first time, investigators from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain also joined the EL PAcCTO operation. Two of the nine arrests took place in France while two other fugitives were successfully apprehended in Portugal and Spain respectively.
“Each of these arrests is a success for our member countries. They not only tangibly make the world a safer place but demonstrate what can be achieved through robust international police cooperation,” said Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.
“With operations like EL PAcCTO, INTERPOL aims to cast a police net so wide that no fugitive will be able to escape justice forever,” Mr Kavanagh added.
Drug trafficking, fraud, extortion
The flurry of arrests included the following cases:
- A French national was arrested by Argentina’s Federal Police in Buenos Aires, wanted by his home country on charges of money laundering, drug trafficking and links to organized crime.
- A Peruvian national was arrested in France, accused of recruiting and coordinating drug couriers to transfer cocaine abroad. While the individual’s movements initially suggested he could be located in Spain, investigators found that he had renewed his passport at the Peruvian consulate in Paris. Within two days, French officers from the Brigade Nationale de Recherche des Fugitifs participating in the EL PAcCTO operation had identified the fugitive’s house and arrested him. He is now awaiting extradition to Peru.
- A Venezuelan national was arrested in Spain, wanted by Argentina on charges of membership of a transnational criminal organization committing cyber-enabled property crimes, fraud and extortion. The Argentine authorities’ last record of the fugitive was that she had travelled to Europe and checks by Spanish investigators during the EL PAcCTO operation identified a potential location in a residential area near Madrid. Spain’s Drug and Organized Crime unit (Unidad de Droga y Crimen Organizado) opened an investigation, asking around in the area, and soon established that the fugitive had since left. With no registered vehicles or property, the Spanish authorities managed to locate the individual through surveillance efforts in collaboration with transport authorities.
- Two Ecuadoran nationals were arrested in Colombia, charged with operating an organized crime group. The police action was coordinated by Colombia’s National Police in the department of Putumayo, on the border between the two countries.
Law enforcement from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, France, Italy, Panama, Peru, Portugal and Spain took part in the EL PAcCTO operation.
EL PAcCTO is a European Union-funded cooperation programme that seeks to strengthen capacities and facilitate international cooperation. Its partnership with INTERPOL aims to create and develop a permanent mechanism for fugitive investigations across Latin America.
First launched in 2018, INTERPOL-coordinated EL PAcCTO operations have so far led to the arrest or positive location of 121 fugitives across three continents.