10 January 2019
Category : Entrevista
Ignacio Miguel de Lucas Martín, fiscal de la Fiscalía especial Antidroga de la Audiencia Nacional y colaborador del proyecto EU-ACT, nos cuenta cómo se investiga el narcotráfico, ahondando en la relevancia que tiene la cooperación internacional en esta materia.Ignacio Miguel de Lucas with the General State Public Prosecutor, María José Segarra
How does the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office investigate drug trafficking?
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has several Special Prosecutors, including the Special Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office, which deals with drug trafficking from two points of view. The first, we can call it the central one, is the National Court where twelve anti-drug prosecutors work on investigations related to the drug trafficking when the crime is committed by a criminal organisation that affects several provinces; these are the jurisdictional limits of the National Court and also of our Special Prosecutor’s Office. The second point of view is composed of delegates in certain provinces, for example, in Cádiz (Algeciras) where specialisation is a link or even a necessity.
Therefore, the Prosecutor’s Office investigates drug traffic especially through specialisation and experience, working very closely with the State Security Forces.
What are the main difficulties that the investigation into drug trafficking faces?
Obviously, there is a lack of resources, comparatively speaking, if we look at criminal organisations, because they have unlimited financial and human resources, while we have limited resources. They also have no barriers when it comes to making use of globalisation and of transnationality and we have to meet a series of requirements, follow legal parameters that mark our actions so that the evidence we obtain is admissible in court.
We also have an initial difficulty: the need for society to realise that drug trafficking is not a minor issue. Society must perceive that drug trafficking is a real and important threat, not only for health in terms of the damage that a certain substance can produce, but also in terms of security, and the integrity of our institutions.
In my opinion, in many cases drugs are frivolised and that has a consequence: drug trafficking is perceived as something that does not directly harm citizens, there is no individualised victim (unless someone has a person in their family with a serious addiction). But outside of those cases, which fortunately are no longer perceived with the same visibility as before, society, I fear, does not perceive the seriousness of the problem.
How important is the cooperation between prosecutors from different countries in the fight against drug trafficking?
It is fundamental, it is a necessary requirement. Today, drug trafficking cannot be fought simply at the national level, because it operates in the countries the drugs are produced in, those they transit and at the final destination. If action is not taken at the same time in the three areas, the only thing we get is to arrest a few people in a specific place – say Spain – who will be replaced by others tomorrow, but the suppliers that supply the substances will remain free to send drug shipments to our country.
So, obviously, if we do not dismantle the entire chain, including in the countries where the drugs are produced and those they transit, we are not being effective.
How does Spain cooperate with other countries in the fight against drug trafficking?
A differentiation can be established: at the level of the European Union, we have a common legal framework, and in many cases also a direct mutual recognition of judicial decisions. There is, therefore, direct contact between judges and prosecutors and we share a level of guarantees.
If we talk about Latin America, although it might seem different because of the common culture and language, the situation is much more dispersed. There is no such degree of mutual trust, institutions do not always have the same strength… so the work is more complex. We must try to establish platforms, mechanisms that allow that trust and that direct communication to be generated between prosecutors.
So, how does the Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office work with Latin America?
From the National Court we lead a network of anti-drug prosecutors in Latin America that is made up of 16 anti-drug prosecutors and with contact points in all countries. Through the network we try to establish these channels of communication among prosecutors in a fluid, frequent, agile and secure way to exchange information and also to coordinate investigations. This network, established in 2014, requires a lot of maintenance work, but it also bears fruit.
The Network of Black Sea prosecutors has emerged as a result of the prosecutors’ network in Latin America, which is sponsored by the EU-ACT project managed by FIIAPP.
That’s right. This network follows exactly the same parameters as the Ibero-American Network, that is, mutual trust, exchange of information and a common operational framework. In short, direct contact between prosecutors.
It is expected that this platform will be capable of improving cooperation between specialised prosecutors, which complements, but does not replace, the traditional mechanisms for international cooperation, which we call letters rogatory.
A letter rogatory is a way to legally introduce the evidence obtained in another country, but in many cases they are slow and that needs to be improved. How? Through more flexible mechanisms that allow direct communication, exchange of spontaneous information and colleagues from other countries to have information quickly.
Is the situation of the prosecutors in these countries comparable to that of the countries in the Ibero-American Network?
It is not comparable. Some of these countries do not have specialised prosecutors and they are more rigid than in Latin America. There are also structures that must be strengthened.
One of the biggest challenges of this network is to overcome this rigidity, which is not about replacing, but complementing, getting information to be shared through other channels. The rigidity slows down the process.
If I send a request from here to the Ukraine it goes from this Anti-Drug Prosecutor’s Office to the central authority, from there they send it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Justice, from there to the international cooperation unit and from there to the specialised prosecutor; this is a long journey. When, in fact, it is only a question of the prosecutor here communicating with the one there and transmitting the information, so that the prosecutor there has the information and can use it.
How and when did the Black Sea Network emerge?
It arose in September 2018 in Odessa, where it was constituted with representatives from the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Romania and Moldova. It arose from the common need of all prosecutors to address a problem that is not national, but transnational and requires cooperation from all countries.
Have results been obtained yet?
Yes, it is already bearing fruit. It is surprising that in such a short space of time some prosecutors have already been able to identify common investigations, transnational investigations and have already had the will to share information.
What role did FIIAPP play in the creation of this network?
A decisive role. Without FIIAPP and without the EU-ACT project, the network would not have been able to emerge. Because it has given them a chance, it has presented them with an idea, a platform and it has been able to provide examples. The idea was explained to them well, they have understood it and they considered it would work. In addition, it is giving them the resources, accompanying them so that they can start it up. But, above all, and for me this is the fundamental thing, it has been able to say: you have a need that you are dealing with in this way, but you can approach it better from this other way. And the countries have understood this.
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