3-4 July 2023 - CRIMJUST, under the framework of Operation Azure Phase II, launched the Expert Group Meeting on Controlled Deliveries in Vienna, Austria. The main purpose of the meeting, which was organized under the Synthetic Drug Strategy of UNODC, was to develop two technical assistance tools (a handbook and a manual) that will strengthen the capacity of prosecutors and investigators in their efforts of disrupting synthetic drug trafficking with a specific focus on special investigative techniques across different legal systems.
Operation Azure is a global operation launched in 2021 to equip law enforcement and criminal justice agencies from Latin America, the Caribbean, and West Africa with tools, training, expertise, and practice to detect, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate synthetic opioid cases.
The outcomes of this operation have resulted in 125 seizures, amounting to 480kgs of drugs, and the arrest of at least 18 individuals. Due to its positive results and considering the lessons learned in the first version of this global operation, in 2023, with the support of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the U.S. State Department, CRIMJUST launched the second phase of the Operation Azure.
As part of the pre-operation capacity building of the second phase of this operation, UNODC CRIMJUST organized an Expert Group Meeting to bring investigators, judges, and prosecutors coming from both the common and civil law systems in order to develop two guidelines, a comprehensive handbook and a step-by-step manual, needed to support criminal justice actors implementing controlled deliveries across legal systems and regions. The meeting brought together senior practitioners from Operation Azure participating countries, such as Bahamas, Chile, Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Ghana, Honduras, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.
During the opening remarks, Ms. Penny Fields, representing the Permanent Mission of the United States in Vienna, emphasized the importance of a multilateral and multisectoral approach in identifying emerging substances and combating the global threat of synthetic drugs. Ms. Asma Fakhri, the global coordinator of the UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy, emphasized the importance of developing guidelines to ensure consistency and coherence in addressing transnational drug trafficking.
The sessions included a presentation of the use of controlled deliveries in each country; an introduction on the best practices and recommendations to carry out controlled deliveries in both the common law system and the civil law system; an overview of synthetic drug trafficking & related challenges in the United States; the overview, examples, and past achievements of controlled deliveries in West Africa; and a discussion in which the outline and the scope of the handbook and the manual were defined.
During the second day of the meeting, one of the key findings was given by the UNODC experts as well as by the Chief of the International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida regarding the importance of building trust and relationships between key stakeholders and authorities (including liaison officers in each country)to succeed in the operations. Such collaboration will improve the communications and information-sharing and it will ensure efficiency.
In the end the forum helped identify and discuss previous achievements, key case studies, and criminal justice cooperation mechanisms. It also opened the discussion regarding the content of the two guiding tools for these to be useful in assuring the legality and practicality of the controlled deliveries in each country represented in the meeting.
CRIMJUST is funded by the European Union and by the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). It seeks to enhance law enforcement and judicial counter-narcotic strategies beyond interdiction activities and to foster transnational responses targeting each stage of the drug supply chain.
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