Dominican Republic, United Kingdom Cooperate to Fight Drug Trafficking

Dominican Republic, United Kingdom Cooperate to Fight Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
August 26, 2015

Research and operations personnel from the Dominican Republic's new Transnational Drug Enforcement Division (DTCN, for its Spanish acronym) are training at the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA).

The training, beginning on July 28th, focuses on gathering intelligence to combat drug-trafficking networks that ship narcotics to the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, and other European countries. It consists of 12 modules that will be taught by a group of NCA specialists, as well as support personnel from private security firms in the United Kingdom, said Daniel Pou, an associate analyst and researcher at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in the Dominican Republic.

“The exercise is focused on criminal intelligence on drug trafficking," Pou added. "For security reasons, authorities have not provided any information on the actual content of the training."

The first training course was opened by the director of National Drug Enforcement Bureau (DNCD, for its Spanish acronym), Dominican Air Force Major General Julio César Souffront Velázquez, together with the representative from the Dominican Republic's National Council on Drugs, Fidias Aristy, and the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Steven Fischer.

The importance of cooperation

“International cooperation is essential for confronting the drug scourge. The Dominican Republic has demonstrated its commitment and shows the limitless support of the upper levels of the government for DNCD’s actions,” Maj. Gen. Souffront said during the opening ceremony. “We hope that other countries that also face this problem invest in the commitment to attack the drug scourge and money laundering.”

As part of the ongoing cooperation, Alan Gogbashian, head of the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico Department at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Ambassador Fisher, visited the new unit’s facilities on August 14. There, they learned about the DNCD's actions in detail, including the joint operations it conducts with the Ministry of Defense and the Prosecutor’s Office. The tactical operations have forced go-fast boats carrying drugs from South America to change routes toward the Eastern Caribbean Basin.

The joint effort is part of the bilateral cooperation strategy officials from the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom signed July 25 in England -- an agreement that includes a donation of $2.36 million and the creation of a new division of the DNCD.

Sharing intelligence

In recognition of the successful battle the DNCD has waged against international drug trafficking, the United Kingdom made the agency a member of its National Criminal Investigation Bureau (NCIB) on October 25, 2014. There, the National Criminal Investigation Bureau also promised to use the Latitude database to share intelligence with the National Drug Enforcement Bureau DNCD to support the identification of vessels suspected of trafficking drugs.

Latitude is a program aimed at fostering Caribbean and European Union countries’ efforts in the fight against drug trafficking aboard yachts and sailboats bringing drugs to the UK. As a member of the Latitude initiative, the DNCD announced on May 5 the creation of the Maritime Intelligence Team (MIT), a unit that would operate under the Joint Intelligence and Coordination Center to identify and monitor vessels suspected of trafficking drugs from South America.

The MIT will have a trained intelligence team whose members will have access to the Latitude database.

“These actions are good steps for the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom in the fight against drug trafficking,” Pou said. “The UK understands the ever-growing presence of Mexican and Colombian cartels on Dominican territory, and how cunning theses gangs are in smuggling drugs."

Officials with the NCA are also sharing their experiences with their counterparts in the Dominican Republic.

Transshipment point

International cooperation is crucial in the fight against drug traffickers who use the Dominican Republic as a major transshipment route for cocaine en route to Europe, as well as to the U.S. Organized crime groups transport cocaine to northern destinations on planes, go-fast boats, private vessels, and in containers on cargo ships.

U.S. authorities estimate that 6 percent of the cocaine entering the United States and Europe passes through the Dominican Republic - but Dominican authorities have made major strides in recent months in the fight against drug trafficking.

For example, on July 26, after extensive intelligence work, DNCD agents, in coordination with other security agencies, seized 24 kilograms of cocaine at the Manzanillo Pier in the province of Montecristi, and 18 kilograms of heroin at Multimodal Caucedo Port in Santo Domingo.

Security forces arrested three suspects in connection with the cocaine, which was hidden in a shipment of coconuts on a ship from Puerto Rico headed to the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the heroin was concealed in a refrigerated shipping container that was bound for Puerto Rico.