Massive drug operation by Cabo Verdean authorities  successfully seizes 9.5 tons of cocaine in Praia

     Photo taken by the Judicial Police

With the goal of strengthening institutional capacity thereby contributing to the fight against illicit trafficking in the region, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been providing technical support to Cabo Verde since 2006 when it first established a Programme office in the capital city of Praia. Cabo Verde is located in one of the strategic routes of international traffic, between Europe, Africa and North and South America. Drug trafficking is one of the major challenges the country faces. Like other West African countries, the archipelago has been essentially a transit country of cocaine from South America to Europe. Part of this cocaine that transits through, stays in the country to supply the domestic market.

Through its programme in Cabo Verde, UNODC has supported local authorities in strengthening the national legal framework to tackle drug trafficking and organized crime while also training local law enforcement on international judicial cooperation. Since 2006, UNODC has also been reinforcing the scientific laboratory of the Scientific Police through the provision of equipment and training. Currently, the Scientific Police Laboratory of Cabo Verde is gradually raising the quality of its toxicological analysis of substances to international standards as showed in the first and second rounds of the International Collaborative Exercises results. The Judicial Police successful operations at country level reflect their elevated capacity on countering drug trafficking and organized crime.

One of their most significant operations to date took place on 31 January at the Port of Praia, when the Judicial Police conducted a massive drug seizure using previous intelligence from the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre-Narcotics. Through its Central section of narcotics Trafficking focused on the fight against narcotics trafficking by sea, the Judicial Police followed a search and seizure warrant for the ESER vessel coming from Panama. In the vessel, the Police found 9.570 kg of cocaine inside 260 bales, the biggest drug seizure of the year and one of the biggest in the history of the Judicial Police. Eleven (11) citizens of Russian nationality were detained and referred to the competent judicial authorities in the country.

Judicial Police officers during the incineration on 2 February 2019, Praia

The Judicial Police informed UNODC that, according to the freighter from South America, the vessel was intended for Tangier, Morocco but had to make a stopover at the Port of Praia to fulfill the legal procedures due to the death of a crew member onboard.

On 2 February 2019, UNODC was invited to participate in the destruction operation of the 9.5 tons of cocaine, further illustrating the efficiency of judicial proceedings in this matter.

The search operation that led to this massive seizure counted on the cooperation and technical support of the Portuguese Judicial Police, the French national police, as well as the usual collaboration of National security forces, namely the armed forces, the maritime police, Port of Praia. The challenges surrounding drug trafficking prevention are complex, and the fact that the seizure was carried out in Cabo Verde demonstrates not only international partners' confidence in Cabo Verde's law enforcement entities but also the success of the many training programmes that have taken place over the years.

The continued efforts of the Cabo Verde Government in this matter are essential for further progress. The new Integrated National Programme for the Fight against Drugs and Related Crimes (2018-2023), which has been developed with the technical support of UNODC, is an important document that outlines the country's commitment to tackle issues that threaten Cabo Verde and its population. The purpose of this national policy is to provide the government of Cabo Verde with a reference document that enables the implementation, management, monitoring and evaluation of a range of actions to address the harmful effects of drugs and related crimes on individuals, families, businesses, and civil society.

                            
Judicial Police officers during the incineration on 2 February 2019, Praia

UNODC is proud of this result and reaffirms its commitment to continue and strengthen its support of Cabo Verde's efforts to counter organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.

UNODC's support to Cabo Verde contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular Goal 16 which aims to "Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels". Finally, the important representation of woman in the Judicial Police as illustrated by the picture above is very encouraging and shows Cabo Verde's commitment to SDG 5, dedicated to ensuring "women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life".