170 kg of drugs seized during a joint operation targeting drug trafficking from Latin America to Europe via Africa
In the framework of the EU-funded Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP), implemented by UNODC in partnership with Interpol and the World Customs Organization (WCO), an operation targeting drug trafficking from Latin America to Europe via Africa has resulted in the seizure of nearly 170 kilograms of drugs worth an estimated EUR 10 million, as well as gold coins and stolen credit cards.
During Operation Folosa, which involved 22 countries, law enforcement and customs officials conducted heightened controls on departing, transiting and arriving passengers at international airports on known smuggling routes, including via the Middle East.
Some 41 people were arrested in possession of drugs including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana during the operation, which ran from 19 to 28 September. In addition to being hidden in luggage, or swallowed by couriers, drugs were also discovered concealed in shoe heels and hair.
Results confirmed a methamphetamine trafficking route from Nigeria to South Africa, in addition to identifying an emerging modus operandi of money swallowers and a developing market for European ecstasy in Brazil.
The Joint Operation Folosa, implemented by Interpol with the support of UNODC, WCO and Europol, was coordinated from the Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport in Brazil by their INTERCOPS Unit.
A significant feature of AIRCOP, which covers 26 countries, is the establishment and training of Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) composed of officers drawn from different services specialized in combating smuggling in general and drug trafficking in particular, essentially Customs and Police.
Throughout the operation, law enforcement and customs officials as well as the AIRCOP JAITFs, were able to exchange information about high-risk passengers and seizures via Interpol's I-24/7 network and WCO's communications tool CENcomm. Analysis of information generated a list of some 200 suspected drug traffickers who had traveled extensively throughout Latin America.
Checks against INTERPOL's global databases also resulted in the identification and detention of a South African woman who was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice, or international wanted persons alert, for drug trafficking offenses.
Building on the arrest and seizures, a third phase of Operation Folosa, will include analysis of information and intelligence gathered - including names, photos and contacts from phone records and messaging apps - for further investigation.
The participating countries in Operation Folosa are Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
The operation is part of the Airport Communication Programme, funded by the European Union "Cocaine Route Programme", co-funded by Canada, Norway and Japan, and implemented by UNODC in partnership with Interpol and WCO.