INTERPOL Nabs Criminals Across West Africa Borders

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By Dipo Olowookere

An INTERPOL-led border security operation across West Africa has resulted in the arrest of human traffickers, migrant smugglers and the seizure of drugs, stolen vehicles, cash and counterfeit goods.

During the eight-day Operation Adwenpa II, more than 100 frontline officers used INTERPOL global policing capabilities to identify criminals, victims and illicit goods at 28 key border control points across 14 countries.

With several of the involved countries part of key people smuggling routes to Europe, at the Kourémalé checkpoint on the Mali/Guinea border, seven Guinean nationals were arrested on suspicion of facilitating the illegal immigration of seven men and women aged between 16 and 22, heading towards Italy.

At the same checkpoint, 10 men being trafficked to Europe via Libya and to gold mines in Guinea were rescued and two men arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

At Dakola on the Burkina Faso/Ghana border, seven children from Cote d’Ivoire aged between 11 and 16 were taken into protective custody and two men from Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

Other key results include:

  • The seizure of more than 20 vehicles – including luxury cars from Belgium, France and Italy – recorded as stolen via INTERPOL databases;
  • Multiple seizures of drugs including cocaine, cannabis, heroine and 90 kg of methamphetamine;
  • The identification, arrest and extradition from Dakar’s Léopold-Sédar-Senghor airport of a Central African Republic national wanted by France for armed robbery;
  • The recovery of USD 332,000 in cash concealed in luggage and vehicles;
  • The seizure of counterfeit goods including cigarettes, pharmaceuticals and food products. Fake military badges and uniforms were also seized.

“INTERPOL clearly recognizes the severity of the transnational organized crime problem in this region, and has made it a priority to provide a wide range of tools and services to help member countries reinforce their border security procedures and coordinate police action with their neighbours,” said Commissaire Divisionnaire Kambile Pale Elie of the Cote d’Ivoire National Police.

INTERPOL National Central Bureaus coordinated activities on the ground, exchanging real-time data via INTERPOL’s global policing network supported by specialized officers from the General Secretariat and the Regional Bureau in Cote d’Ivoire.

Checks of airline passengers and crew were also made against INTERPOL’s databases to determine if any individuals were attempting to illegally enter countries using a passport reported lost or stolen to INTERPOL, or were wanted internationally.

“Operation Adwenpa II demonstrates what can be achieved when law enforcement officers on the ground are given the INTERPOL training and tools needed to detect crime and criminals effectively,” said Tim Morris, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.

“West Africa’s border management capacity has been boosted in a sustainable manner, demonstrating the importance of INTERPOL’s global capabilities and support services in strengthening national and regional security,” added Mr Morris.

Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, Adwenpa II builds on the success of the first operation conducted in February as part of a two-year Capacity Building Programme to Strengthen Border Management in West Africa.

With sustainability an integral part of the programme, a series of capacity building training sessions including a train-the-trainer session were held throughout West Africa prior to the operation.

Operation Adwenpa II partners include WCO, UNODC, and INTERPOL’s FormaTrain network which deployed vehicle identification experts to key land borders.

Countries which participated in Operation Adwenpa II: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

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