As part of AIRCOP, operation COCAIR VI led by the WCO took place from 9 to 17 December 2017, bringing together law enforcement services at airports in over thirty countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East. The main objective of the operation was to intercept any illicit substance or contraband transported by air, with a focus on cocaine, from South America to Europe, directly or via transit zones in Africa.
Cocaine, primarily targeted during the operation, topped the list in both number of seizures (44) and quantity seized (over 916 kg). Heroin, tobacco, methamphetamine, cannabis, khat, medicines, LSD and protected species of flora and fauna were among other products seized. Three interceptions of currency totalling over USD 700,000 were made during the operation, confirming that the movement of currency observed during the previous COCAIR operations is still relevant.
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During the operation, JAITFs and other units operating at airports located along the cocaine route(s) formed an enforcement network covering 38 airports in 35 countries. The officers in the different units exchanged information and recorded seizures via a tailored version of the WCO’s secure communication system, CENcomm. Access to INTERPOL’s I-24/7 to search criminal records of detainees and verify the authenticity of travel documents additionally enhanced the effectiveness of the units and the operational results. The operation resulted in a total of 9,576 messages exchanged through WCO’s CENcomm and 26,633 searches carried out in INTERPOL’s I-24/7system.
The WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs) for West Africa, Western Europe, Central Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean actively participated in the operation, facilitating the exchange of operational information with their members.
The WCO hosted an Operational Coordination Unit (OCU) at their Brussels headquarters comprising officials from the Customs services of Brazil, Gambia, the Dominican Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mali, staff from the RILOs for Central Africa and Western Europe, and representatives of INTERPOL and CRIMJUST – also part of the CRP. The OCU supported the operational units by coordinating exchanges and communicating data on passengers from certain airports, in particular Brazil, to allow risk analysis and profiling.
Operation COCAIR VI helped consolidate joint work between operational services in participating countries, as cooperation remains the most effective tool in the fight against trafficking and organised crime. The collaboration with the CRIMJUST project opens up new opportunities for follow up investigations post-seizure by the national criminal investigation services.