06-07 November 2019 - Law enforcement officials and prosecutors from Ecuador, Colombia and Belgium met in Bogota to discuss current cocaine trafficking trends affecting their respective countries as well as to assess the current state of their criminal justice cooperation. A total of 25 participants attended the forum, including 8 women and 17 men.
During the opening ceremony, European Union Representative, Matilde Ceravolo, stressed the importance of strengthening intelligence sharing and coordinating joint operations between countries of production, transit and consumption to ensure that counter-narcotic policies are comprehensive and effective. She recalled the unique role and responsibility of Colombia, Belgium and Ecuador - as maritime nations - to spearhead the fight against drug trafficking, giving the increase of trafficking via seaports and containers. Likewise, UNODC Representative in Colombia, Pierre Lapaque, urged participants to pool their knowledge and expertise together to ensure discussions during the forum gave way to tangible and impactful actions .
During the two-day forum, representatives from the European Judicial Network, AIRCOP and Maritime Analysis and Operations Center (MAOC) provided an overview of the objectives and deliverables of their respective organizations, sharing key insights into existing international platforms, channels and networks enabling joint investigations and prosecutions. Additionally, UNODC Program Officer, Diego Quintero, outlined current and emerging global cocaine trafficking trends, pertaining to coca production, trafficking routes and seizures affecting Europe and Latin America.
Legal experts from Belgium, Colombia and Belgium outlined the legal framework and tools processing cases of drug trafficking in their respective countries. Each delegation underscored the unique assets and challenges faced by their institutions when investigating and prosecuting drug related crimes as well as listed existing legal mechanisms to exchange information.
The diversification and expansion of organized crime groups operating in Brazil and countries along the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa have brought about new challenges for law enforcement officials investigating cocaine seizures. Prosecution of drug-related crimes has notably proven difficult given the transnational nature of drug trafficking. As such, during the forum, investigators shared major drug cases linking West Africa and Brazil in order to develop post-seizure investigations methods, strategies to facilitate prosecutorial processes and means towards recovering proceeds of crime.
Law enforcement officials further described drug trafficking trends and challenges in their respective countries, assessing emerging developments and foreseen impacts. Of note, all participants underscored the need to enhance intelligence sharing given the increasing expansion, diversification and trans-nationalization of the drug trade. They further shared a series of cases linking Ecuador and / or Colombia to Belgium, providing details of the investigations. All of them consisted on cocaine seizures in containers due to be shipped to Antwerp port, Belgium, from several Colombian container ports. In addition to these cases, the representatives of the National Police of Ecuador also exchanged information on six drug seizure cases involving Ecuador as origin and Belgium as destination. Subsequently, they suggested follow-up actions to support the prosecution of responsible organized crime groups.
CRIMJUST is funded by the European Union under the framework of the "Cocaine Route Programme" 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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