UNODC establishes airport south-south intelligence to fight drug trafficking between West Africa and Latin America

UNODC regional in Dakar joined hands with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and Interpol as a project to improve communication between police and airports in seven West African countries and Brazil to crack down on drug trafficking has been launched in Dakar (Senegal) the western most point of the African continent.

This project called AIRCOP is aimed at establishing effective communication and exchange of intelligence between Senegal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo during its first phase  while Guinea and Morocco are invited to join. Airports participating in the programme will have units of no more than 20 people operating around the clock.

The 3.2 million dollars project  financed by the European Union and Canada, consists in setting up Airport Anti-Traffics Cells (CAAT) made up by mandated police officers to implement anti drugs operations on 8 international airports including seven (07) in West Africa (Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo) and one in Brazil while Guinea Conakry and Morocco are invited to join the project in not distant future.

The CAAT has no vocation to conduct deep investigation, but it helps to increase the numbers of the seizures and also of improve their quality in order to dismantling of networks by the specialized services.  The project promotes an intelligence based approach to fight drug trafficking and reduce illicit flows by reinforcing sub regional, regional and international capacities and promote operational co-operation.

AIRCOP comes in line with the ECOWAS Regional Action plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organizes crime and drug abuse in West Africa as well as with the Dakar initiative to fight the traffic as AIRCOP represents an operational concerted phase between countries of Latin America, West Africa and Europe.

The implementation team will put together in Senegal personels from Police, Customs and Gendarmerie to form Cells that will function 24 Hours every day. Those cells will be equipped with effective communications devices with access to the Interpol's  international data base and to a protected system of communication managed by the WCO(called CENcomm) allowing the transmission in real time of operational information between all the participating airports.

Chairing the launching event Senegalese Minister of Interior said that aim of the project, dubbed Aircop, was "to establish secure communication between airports in West Africa and Latin America".

For his part, the head of the EU delegation in Dakar, Gilles Hervio, stated that " concretely, Aircop, will "bring together all agencies in charge of fighting trafficking and organised crime at the national level into a unit that can work with regional and trans-regional counterparts". His counterpart from Canada welcomed the new development as "it could also contribute to the fight against illegal movements of migrants, goods  and prevent from terrorism".

ONUDC estimates the quantity of cocaine transiting  through West Africa in 2009 between 30 to 100 tons. Moreover, the frequency of the important seizures seems to accelerate with the recent seizure of 2,3 tons cocaine in Gambia and the failure of a plan intended to make several tons of cocaine pass through Liberia. Cocaine mainly transits through West Africa by air and sea.