AIRCOP task forces participate to the seizure of more than 55 tons of narcotics during the INTERPOL-led Lionfish joint operation

From 17 September to 8 October 2018, all AIRCOP Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs), one AIRCOP associate country and multiple other countries, invited to participate by AIRCOP, took part in the INTERPOL-led operation Lionfish, the first global initiative simultaneously involving all of INTERPOL's regions against drug trafficking and a total of 93 countries. 

During the operation, the JAITFs of Argentina, Barbados Benin, Bolivia, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Dominican Republic (Punta Cana and Santo Domingo) Mali, Nigeria (Abuja and Lagos), The Gambia and Togo as well as AIRCOP partners in Brazil synchronize their actions with police across the globe through Interpol I-24/7 and 5 regional operational coordination units.

Overall, more than 55 tonnes of illicit substances and drugs were seized, including more than 35 tonnes of cocaine, five tonnes of heroin, 15 tonnes of cannabis and 430,000 Captagon tablets, and 1,300 suspects arrested. A series of INTERPOL Purple Notices were published during the operation to highlight new modi operandi and drug concealment methods in cases which remain under investigation.

As a contribution to the overall operation, AIRCOP JAITFs and participating international airports in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East seized, among other commodities, almost 600 kg of cocaine, including 330 kg by the JAITF of Colombia and 190 kg of cannabis in Barbados and arrested 49 people. JAITFS in West Africa intercepted 21 kg of cocaine in Benin, 2 kg in the Gambia, 74 kg of counterfeit medicine in Côte d'Ivoire, more than 5000 tablets of counterfeit medicine in Cape Verde, 5 kg of heroin in Mali, 5,5 kg of methamphetamine in Nigeria (Abuja), 10 kg of heroin and 18 kg of precursors (ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine) in Nigeria (Lagos), as well as 9 kg of khat in Togo, leading to the arrest of 11 passengers. Seizures in participating airports in the Middle East included 22 kg of counterfeit medicine in Lebanon, 2 kg of cocaine in Morocco and 8 kg of khat in Jordan.


                                        Sergio Naranjo, LAC Coordinator presenting AIRCOP future cooperation

While JAITFs seizures might appear modest in terms of weight, as they focus mostly on passengers rather than cargo, they contribute greatly to the identification of new routes, trends, modi operandi and drug concealment methods in the different regions where they are active, as well as to improved inter-agency cooperation and information exchange at the national, regional and transregional levels.

AIRCOP, implemented by UNODC in partnership with INTERPOL and WCO, aims at strengthening the capacities of international airports to detect and intercept drugs, other illicit goods and high-risk passengers. AIRCOP also promotes intelligence and information sharing between services at national and international level, as well as an intelligence-led approach to countering drug trafficking and other threats.

Seizure of cocaine at the JAITF of Lagos
at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Nigeria   
Seizure of cocaine at Guarulhos International Airport
in Sao Paulo, Brazil

The project, funded by the European Union, Canada, Japan, the United States of America, the Netherlands, Norway and France, was initially designed in 2010 as part of the European Union's Cocaine Route Programme. Since then, it has expanded its scope to cover multiple threats targeting airports and is geographically covering over 30 countries, including 24 airports with an operational JAITF and 5 associate countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

For more information:

AIRCOP Project

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