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18 July 2013

Fingerprint technology to boost fight against maritime piracy

VICTORIA, Seychelles – With the collection and transmission of evidence essential in the ongoing fight against maritime piracy, specialist fingerprint collection and transmission equipment has been provided by INTERPOL to the Seychelles law enforcement community.

The Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) has been installed as part of the European Union funded Critical Maritime Routes Law Enforcement Capacity Building in East Africa (CRIMLEA) project implemented by INTERPOL’s Maritime Piracy Task Force.

At the AFIS inauguration, Seychelles Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan said the system – which has already led to a number of identifications - added another level to policing efforts in both national and international investigations.

“Criminals who involve themselves in people smuggling, drug trafficking, piracy or frauds cannot be tackled in isolation. Transnational criminals use technology to their advantage, but today we are also better equipped to assist our allied law enforcement agencies in the fight against such crimes,” said Mr Morgan.

The inauguration was also attended by Lindsay Skoll, British High Commissioner to the Seychelles, Geneviève Iancu, French Ambassador, and Seychelles Police Commissioner Ernest Quatre.

Praising the Seychelles for their proactive role in fighting this form of crime, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin said the new equipment would greatly facilitate the work of the police.

“Piracy is a complex form of transnational crime because of the many players involved and the difficulty in gathering and processing evidence in a challenging maritime environment,” said Mr Louboutin.

“Fingerprints taken from crime scenes and compared to those held in databases has been and remains one of the most effective means of identification.

“Strong international cooperation with a collective, practical approach is the only way to combat maritime piracy effectively, and sharing information such as fingerprints is an essential part of this,” added Mr Louboutin, pointing to the recent successful transfer of two of several pirates by EU NAVFOR to the Seychelles as a result of fingerprint identification via INTERPOL.

On 19 February 2013 the fingerprints of nine suspects captured on the Indian ocean by a Dutch ship under EU NAVFOR, were sent to INTERPOL. A comparison against the global database revealed a match with two individuals who had been among five pirates arrested in December 2012 by a Belgian ship, also under EU NAVFOR and whose fingerprints had been provided to INTERPOL.

The three-year (2011 – 2013) CRIMLEA project, worth EUR 1.6 million, is to enable national law enforcement agencies to combat maritime piracy and armed robbery on the high seas through effective proactive investigations, specifically by reinforcing their forensic and investigative capacities.

Between September 2012 and May 2013, more than 160 law enforcement personnel from five countries in the region underwent training in a range of areas including crime scene investigation, criminal data analysis and financial crimes investigation.

The aim of the CRIMLEA programme is to enhance the capacities of the seven countries of the East African coast – Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen – in combating maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.