International operation Lionfish III supported by CRIMJUST disrupts flows of illicit drugs to Europe

Operation Lionfish III, an international police operation across Latin America and West Africa, conducted between 6 and 15 March, led to more than 350 arrests and seizure of 52 tonnes of illicit drugs. In addition to cannabis and heroin 25 tonnes of cocaine were seized estimated to be worth approximately USD 950 million. Furthermore, the operation – supported by the European Union Cocaine Route Programme funded project CRIMJUST – highlighted how precursor chemicals are being diverted for illicit purposes, with 20 clandestine laboratories dismantled and three tonnes of precursor chemicals seized.

The trans-regional operation led by INTERPOL, implementing partner in the CRIMJUST project, involved 5,000 law enforcement officials in 13 countries to include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Panama and Peru. The Brazilian Federal Police played a key role by hosting the operational coordination unit. The operation disrupted massive illicit flows and narco-groups in Latin America and West Africa responsible for trafficking drugs into Europe.

During the planning stage, operational coordination meetings were held with the purpose of tailoring the operational activities with an intelligence-led approach. The CRIMJUST project supported the meetings, organized by INTERPOL.

The INTERPOL’s Secretary General Mr. Stock stated that “this operation highlights the massive scale of activities of organized crime groups in Latin America and West Africa channelling drugs into Europe”.

The operation was co-organized by INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France, with support from the INTERPOL’s Regional Bureaus in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. INTERPOL’s Criminal Networks unit facilitated information exchange and cross-checking against INTERPOL’s global databases in real time.

Under the framework of the CRIMJUST project funded by the EU Cocaine Route Programme, UNODC and its partners (INTERPOL and Transparency International) aim to assist Member States to enhance their capacity and integrity of criminal justice institutions to detect, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate drug trafficking cases, and to foster cooperation at the interregional level for effective action to tackle drug trafficking and related organized crime.