UNODC continues countering drug trafficking in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean by implementing Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces in the framework of AIRCOP project.
As part of its continued support to counter illicit trafficking in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, UNODC, in partnership with the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL and with the support of the National Security Council of Panama, organized the 4th International Annual Meeting of AIRCOP Project in Panama City from 21 to 23 April 2015.
Funded by the European Union “Cocaine Route Programme”and co-funded by Canada, Norway and Japan, AIRCOP Project aims at strengthening detection, interdiction and investigative capacities of participating international airports through the sharing of operational information, the establishment and training of inter-service Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) to enable beneficiary countries to tackle illicit trafficking and other forms of transnational crime.
The 4th AIRCOP International Annual Meeting brought together over 60 participants from 35 countries, regrouping officials from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and the US, as well as donors and key national and international partners and law enforcement agencies.
Africa continues to be one of the world’s major transit areas for cocaine trafficking from Latin America and the Caribbean to Europe. Typically, cocaine is shipped by air through the use of dedicated aircrafts, couriers or air freight. As cocaine, and other illicit goods, may be moved several times before being eventually shipped to its final destination, law enforcement agencies may receive key information in the process. The culture of intelligence gathering and information sharing is not yet rooted in regular working networks, thus the need of AIRCOP’s collaborative approach, linking source, transit and destination countries.
In this context, officials from Benin, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo as well as from Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Jamaica, Panama and Peru exchanged experiences and best practices in the fight against illicit trafficking via air routes with the aim of creating a link between AIRCOP countries and strengthening coordination of their actions and sharing of information between JAITFs.
AIRCOP delegation further visited the newly established Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force of Tocumen International Airport in Panama accompanied by high-ranking officials and representatives from UNODC, the European Union, WCO, INTERPOL, Brazil, El Salvador and Dominican Republic. The National Security Council of Panama expressed his readiness to cooperate with various stakeholders and confirmed JAITF engagement to combat illicit trafficking through passengers, cargo and little aviation.
Since its creation, AIRCOP project trained 809 officials, including 121 women, through 48 training and mentoring activities and joint operations. This enabled the JAITFs to seize 635 kg of cocaine, 449 kg of cannabis, 85 kg of heroin, 336 kg methamphetamine and 1.5 tons of counterfeit drugs resulting in 291 seizures and 321 arrests.