CRIMJUST supports follow-up Inter-regional Investigative Case Forum between Spain and Ecuador

13-14 February 2020
- CRIMJUST held an Inter-regional Investigative Case Forum between Spain and Ecuador in Guayaquil, Ecuador involving 14 prosecutors and law enforcement officials, to review the current state of their criminal justice cooperation and to identify opportunities to strengthen their collaboration. This event followed a similar Case Forum held in Madrid, Spain in October 2020, enabling participants to review actions undertaken since their last meeting, share challenges encountered and formulate subsequent solutions.

The European Union Ambassador in Ecuador, H.E. Mrs Marianne Van Steen, Consul General of Spain in Guayaquil, Mr. Jorge Friend Mergelina, Officer in Charge of UNODC Ecuador office, Ms. Dorothee Gottwald and Director of the Anti-Narcotics Directorate, General Marco Villegas inaugurated the event. H.E. Mrs. Marianne Van Steen stressed the importance of looking beyond national borders when implementing counter-narcotic strategies due to the transnational nature of organized crime. Meanwhile, General Marco Villegas presented an overview of the current trends on drug trafficking in Ecuador andhighlighted the country’s commitment to promoting law enforcement and judicial cooperation. Mr. Jorge Friend Mergelina pointed to the geographical position of Spain in Europe, which continues to be one of the leading transit points in Europe for cocaine originating from Latin America, and reiterated Spain’s commitment to strengthening ties with Ecuador. 

CRIMJUST partners, including AIRCOP, the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (MAOC), the European Judicial Network, the Iberoamerican Network of Prosecutors (Red de Fiscales Antidroga de Iberoamérica - RFAI), and INTERPOL, attended the forum. RFAI underscored the need to address the nexus between drug trafficking and money laundering. Meanwhile, INTERPOL argued that although maritime freight continues to be the preferred choice of transportation to smuggle drugs, recent operations have pointed to the rising use of air travel to traffic drugs. Other representatives discussed their respective organizations’ objectives and deliverables, highlighting means, lessons learned and best practices in fostering criminal justice cooperation beyond interdiction activities.

Law enforcement officials delivered a series of presentations to underscore recent changes in cocaine trafficking trends and methodologies observed in their respective states. Notably, officials stated that today, much of the cocaine shipped to Europe is smuggled through Ecuador’s ports in Guayaquil, Puerto Bolivia and Machala.

These presentations gave way to a series of recommendations seeking to strengthen transregional justice cooperation in criminal matters, including the importance of prioritizing effectiveness and overcoming bureaucratic protracted procedures and processes. To this end, participants agreed to complement formal channels of communication with direct coordination and exchange with the focal points identified during the meeting when investigating a drug-related case.

Following these discussions, delegations reviewed a total of 20 recent cocaine seizures linking both countries, with each delegation identifying areas requiring transnational investigative support. Officials discussed the specificities of each case and agreed on actions to support post=seizure investigation and prosecutions. 

Guayaquil Port remains a key cocaine gateway for Europe. With a third of Colombia’s cocaine reportedly transiting via Ecuador, organized crime groups have capitalized on the Port’s impressive infrastructure and heavy traffic to smuggle vast amounts of drugs to Europe via containerships. The prosecutors and investigators undertook a tour of the port, observing screening of cargo departing the port. 

CRIMJUST is funded by the European Union under the framework of the "Global Illicit Flows Programme (GIFP)" 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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