Customs and Police Target Drug Couriers in Airports across Africa and Brazil

Customs and Police Target Drug Couriers in Airports across Africa and Brazil

By Dialogo
February 15, 2012

An operation to disrupt the trafficking of drugs from South America to Europe via Africa has resulted in the seizure of more than 500 kilos of drugs and the recovery of cash totaling US$ 3.31 million in 25 airports across Western and Central Africa and Brazil.

Operation Cocair 3, led by the World Customs Organization (WCO) supported by INTERPOL and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), also resulted in nearly 50 arrests in addition to the recovery of guns, counterfeit products including medicine and goods prohibited from export such as ivory and cultural artworks.

Cocaine, heroin, cannabis, ecstasy, methamphetamine and amphetamines were among the drugs discovered in suitcases and a variety of hiding places including cans of tuna, and in one instance beneath a woman’s wig.

In addition to normal risk profiling by customs officers, during the two-week operation in November and December 2011, advance passenger information checks against INTERPOL’s global databases enabled the early identification of individuals suspected of involvement in drug trafficking, leading to their arrest either as they attempted to leave Brazil or upon arrival at their destination airport.

In addition to the WCO communications network among the participating countries, INTERPOL’s global network connecting each of its 190 National Central Bureaus also led to arrests in countries not taking part in Cocair 3. The Command and Coordination Centre at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France liaised with countries to pass on information about high-risk passengers, such as a 48-year-old South African man arriving from Brazil via Lisbon who was taken into custody at Maputo airport in Mozambique with 53 capsules of cocaine in his stomach.

Announcing the results in Dakar, Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya said, “It is essential that we unite and coordinate our efforts on a daily basis to fight illicit drug trafficking in all its forms and on all fronts: this is a scourge exacerbated by the effects of globalization. Operation Cocair 3 – the result of some excellent cooperation between WCO, INTERPOL, UNODC and the European Commission – is a fine example of the success we can achieve.”