LYON, France– The world’s largest international police organization, known as INTERPOL, says nearly 30 tonnes of cocaine, heroin and marijuana with an estimated value of US$ 822 million have been seized in an operation targeting the maritime trafficking of drugs and illicit firearms by organized crime groups across Central America and the Caribbean.
On Wednesday, INTERPOL said Operation Lionfish, coordinated by its Regional Bureau for Central America in San Salvador, El Salvador, with support from the Drugs and Criminal Organizations unit at the General Secretariat headquarters here, involved about 34 countries and territories.
It said the operation resulted in 142 arrests, the seizure of 15 vessels, eight tonnes of chemical precursors, 42 guns and abut US$170,000 in cash.
NTERPOL said two operational coordination units, at the Regional Bureau in El Salvador and the Command Centre of the French West Indies Coastguard in Fort de France, Martinique “provided real-time support for information exchange and conducting checks against INTERPOL’s global databases.”
Run in partnership with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the Caribbean Customs Law Enforcement Council (CCLEC) with support from the French Coastguard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Europol, INTERPOL said the joint law enforcement operation was also aimed at enhancing information sharing at the regional and international levels “in order to improve intelligence on modus operandi, routes and the identification of organized crime structures and key players.
“The value of operations such as Lionfish is not just about the arrests and seizures, it is also about INTERPOL’s support to its member countries to strengthen national and regional law enforcement cooperation in our continued efforts to target organized crime networks behind the trafficking,” said INTERPOL’s director of operational support, who is identified only by his last name, O’Connell.
Describing the operation as ‘unprecedented’ in its geographical scope, CCLEC Permanent Secretary Paul Hilaire said: “CCLEC will certainly build on the achievements and lessons learned during this operation, and stands ready to consider future initiatives making our globe more secure with its international and regional partners.”
Supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada (DFAIT), Operation Lionfish which ran between May 27 and June 10 was held under the banner of INTERPOL’s Integrated Border Management Task Force and is part of INTERPOL’s Capacity Building Programme on Organized Crime for the Americas.
Under this programme, INTERPOL said about 161 officers from 36 countries have already undergone specialist training with events held in Panama, Jamaica, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and The Bahamas.