07 January 2021
Alberto Morales, the chief inspector with the National Police and key expert with SEACOP, the port cooperation project, tells us about the progress made in the four phases of the European cooperation project, which is about to end.
Between 2003 and 2008, a notable increase in drug trafficking (cocaine) by sea was observed in Europe. The state security forces and bodies (SSFB) joined together to create what was later called by the police a “retaining wall“, which led to the usual transport routes being diverted to Africa as an alternative route.
The SEACOP project was born out of this context. The project required on-site visits to the producing, transit and recipient countries for the drug, requiring adaptation and consensus regarding the needs of all these countries in a project that contributed to this fight.
This gave birth to the SEACOP project, a project based on four main pillars: intelligence teams (MIU); port control teams (JMCU); databases and cooperation at the regional and transregional levels.
It is in Africa where the first efforts were initially focused after 2008 and where remarkable advances were seen. For the first time we were able, as specialists, to combine the efforts of the agencies operating in the three countries in which SEACOP was active: Senegal, Ghana and Cape Verde.
Language has always been a slight problem for them hindering fluent communication and even exchanges relating to experiences or working methods, but, little by little, through the different face-to-face encounters between them, they have managed to establish several communication channels between the teams.
The police specialists who participated in the project confirmed that there was a clear need to standardise the training given to the agents or officers taking part in the project, although many of them had had little contact with computers or the other means used to gather intelligence and carry out searches on vessels.
The activities undertaken in these three countries allowed the European Union to consider extending the project in a phase II, with appropriate objectives, to various African countries including: Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin and Ivory Coast, among others, which was a real challenge for all the project members.
Later phases confirmed the need to involve not only the countries that were the destination for some of the drugs produced in Latin America, but also to continue expanding in successive phases III and IV to other regions such as the Caribbean and the drug-producing and transit countries in Latin America.
The Caribbean area is especially sensitive to cocaine trafficking in pleasure boats, which is why SEACOP has established alliances with other projects already operating in the area, in order to enhance the strengths and reinforce the weaknesses, such as connections between the islands, training on boat profiling, elements that raise the suspicions of officers when they visit the marinas, teamwork and obviously to provide them with the necessary material to be able to carry out searches on boats without damaging them too much.
This same training, adapted to the needs of each country, was offered by specialists to the different officers participating in the project. Our experience, after more than twenty years fighting drug trafficking, has been put at their service and it is very gratifying to see how, little by little, they acquired the level required to grow the SEACOP family.
The producing countries are highly important to the project, countries like Colombia, with the experience acquired in its daily fight against drug trafficking, or Argentina, where the problems experiences along its river system are added to the problems at its ports. This was a challenge that has, obviously, been reflected in the work on both regional and transregional training, in which the countries each played their part regarding the way in which they carry out the work, both at their borders and at the international level.
However, the greatest problem we have encountered has undoubtedly been the turnover of officers in their posts, the need for a commitment to permanence has been one of the weaknesses that will definately be taken into account in future projects.
We are left with the impression of a job well done, with the pleasure of knowing that the necessary bridges have been created to carry out future operations to combat drug trafficking and, above all, of creating a network of contacts that is one of the greatest values contributed by this project.
We leave behind many hours of work, many cases analysed, and hours of training that have always given us a sense of satisfaction knowing they have strengthened the implementation of the tasks that are currently being carried out and that will, at least, continue in the coming years to be a reference in the fight against maritime cocaine trafficking.
Alberto Morales, chief inspector with the National Police and key expert on the SEACOP project
11 April 2019
José Manuel Colodrás is a Chief Inspector of Police and Project Coordinator in Ukraine
The project is funded by the and managed by FIIAPP. It is run in five regions that cover what has been called the “Heroin Route”, though in reality there is more than one route involved. Ukraine is the priority country in the Eastern European region.
The aim of the EU-ACT project in Ukraine is to promote an all-encompassing approach to the problem of drugs: to support the work of the institutions responsible for strengthening law enforcement while favouring demand control. Accordingly, the scope of work of EU-ACT covers different sectors of the Ukrainian Public Administration and civil society. A fact easily attested to by simply pointing to the “registered” beneficiaries before the Government of Ukraine: , the Drug Observatory, the Medication and Drug Control Service, the State Tax Service, the and within this the , the Office, the Ukraine Administration of Justice Service, the , the and the of Ukraine.
As stated in its Description of Action (DoA), this project takes an innovative approach to establishing its activities by paying heed to the needs expressed by its beneficiaries. So much so that an agreement was reached with them on the main areas of development of the project in the Ukraine, which are the following:
(2013-2020) and the Action Plan (2018-2020) that develops this strategy in which the EU-ACT project has participated in the design phase highlighting, among other activities, support for the participation of the Ukrainian Delegation in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ( ), both at the 61st session (2018) and the 62nd session (2019). Moreover, continuous advice and support has been given in all those legal initiatives related to drug policy. In this regard, the following measures are particularly worthy of mention: regulation of the use of Naloxone to avoid deaths by overdose, the decriminalisation of the possession of small quantities of drugs for self-consumption, the extending of the powers of the Ukraine Drug Observatory and the establishment of alternative measures to prison for minor offences related to drug use.
Furthermore, the project also participates in the initiative and the development of the National Rehabilitation Programme for prisoners with mental and behavioural disorders caused by the consumption of psychoactive substances. This activity is developed in collaboration with the Ukraine Prison Service.
In addition, backing is being given to the creation of an Investigation Coordination Centre for crimes related to drug trafficking between the different Ukraine police agencies, which represents a first step in implementing an intelligence model in the Ukraine that will allow policy makers to make evidence-based decisions. To this end, the best practice or model to be followed has been chosen: the (CITCO) which is attached to
On the initiative of the Ukrainian Public Prosecutor’s Office and with the support of the Ukraine Regional Office, the EU-ACT project launched the Network of Black Sea Public Prosecutors in September 2018 in the city of Odessa (Ukraine), which has already brought together public prosecutors from Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Ukraine.
The EU-ACT project also supports the integration of Ukrainian administrations into European Union institutions, as well as other supranational organisations. These include the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions , the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes or the Paris Pact Initiative (PPI).
With respect to the fight against the illegal trafficking of psychoactive substances, criminal organisation leaders are being deprived of the gains obtained from their criminal activity as this is the only way to obtain a relevant and prolonged impact against this activity. The EU-ACT Regional Office together with the Ukraine Intelligence Unit and all the agencies responsible for strengthening the enforcement of the law of Ukraine is developing a method adapted to the country to carry out financial investigations in parallel to the traditional ones in this area.
One of the objectives of EU-ACT is to strengthen the inter- and intra–regional cooperation of the countries in which the project is carried out, thus backing the joint investigation work of Ukrainian police forces and prosecutors with other countries, while at the same time encouraging the exchange of experts between countries, both under the project itself and within the context of the programme.
01 February 2018
The project against organised crime and drug trafficking trains the institutions involved in the country
A few weeks ago, the director for Latin America and the Caribbean at EuropeAid, Jolita Butkeviciene, tweeted that “the European Union does not impose programmes, it backs national policies; this is our way of looking at cooperation”.
These statements fit perfectly with the results being achieved in the fight against organised crime and drug trafficking in Peru. This fight is being backed and supported by the European Union in an effective way through a project managed by FIIAPP, as well as additional funding amounting to 32 million euros.
In 2017, our Peruvian partners, whose national policies we back and support, achieved the best ever results in the fight against organised crime. 111 criminal drug trafficking organisations were disbanded, 78 illegal runways for transporting drugs to other countries were destroyed, and 324 cocaine laboratories were burnt down, many of them identified through intelligence work. What’s more, 22,165 hectares of coca leaves were destroyed, preventing the production of up to 204.8 tonnes of cocaine. These results are unparalleled in terms of previous years and denote a clear effort by the new Peruvian administration to improve results in this area.
The project, implemented by FIIAPP, provides training and technical assistance for the main institutions that fight against organised crime and drug trafficking in this Andean country. The Peruvian participants in this project are obtaining very good results and it has been independently verified that they are successfully applying the knowledge and tools transmitted by officials from EU member states to their Peruvian counterparts.
SUNAT Aduanas is one of the institutions being supported by this project, in this case in preventing contraband:
Also worth mentioning is the backing and support the project has given to judicial authorities to successfully resolve big national cases linked to international organised gangs, and the achievements reached in terms of intelligence, such as the creation of the first IT system to manage information to combat organized crime in Peru (SIIETID).
We live in an interconnected world and cooperation plays an essential role in resolving problems related to transnational organised crime. This influences many areas of the bi-regional European-Latin American agenda.
The problem of drug trafficking must be broken down according to its type and its impact on institutions and people. There is a large difference between a drug producing country and a drug transit or a country that consumes drugs. In Latin America, drug trafficking has a direct effect on the governability of states. The enormous amounts of money moved by organised gangs can be enough to buy governmental structures and destabilise countries—sadly, there are many examples in the region. This is without mentioning the violence it generates and the damage it does to social cohesion. In Europe, there is a deep impact in terms of crime, but it remains primarily a public health issue. Two problems which are interconnected on both sides of the Atlantic.
Through big bilateral projects managed by FIIAPP in Peru and Bolivia and regional projects like EL PAcCTO and COPOLAD, the EU backs policies aimed at combating organised crime and drug trafficking, problems which have such a large impact in both Latin America and Europe. This support is applied through an on-demand method, something which our Latin American partners really appreciate, who praise the EU’s horizontal rather than paternalistic way of working. This is definitely a recipe for obtaining good results.
In fact, this participative working method is one of the hallmarks of the ‘soft power’ approach that characterises EU cooperation. These projects, in which knowledge is shared and long-lasting links between public administrations on both sides of the Atlantic are established, are undoubtedly the best way to achieve results which are sustainable in the long term. In fact, our project has produced contact networks that are already working on researching areas related to transnational organised crime, not only between Europe and Peru but also regionally.
Public safety as a goal
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. The fight against organised crime is polycentered and involves many challenges, such as money laundering and effective collaboration between governments. To improve the quality of life of people in many Latin American countries, we need to make progress in this area as this will have a direct impact on the safety and well-being of citizens. In 2017 alone, 25,000 people were violently killed in Mexico for reasons linked to organised crime, something which should make us think about how to support our partners in the region.
Latin America is a strategic cultural and trade partner for the European Union and as such we need to a have a consistent and improved collaboration policy which helps to optimise the well-being of its population and protect the rule of law. Twenty years since its creation, there is no doubt that FIIAPP is a mature instrument that is well suited to channelling and implementing bi-regional European-Latin American cooperation projects and achieving the excellent results we are now seeing. Let’s not forget that, as outlined in the latest Elcano report, the 2016 European Global Strategy talks about a wider Atlantic space and states that the EU will try to extend cooperation and forge strong links with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Due to its extensive experience and recognition in the region, the Foundation is already a key player in achieving this goal and an important ally of European institutions in empowering the State. This is exactly why we need to keep zealously promoting the results obtained by our Latin American partners. Using facts to demonstrate that as well as strengthening our counterpart institutions on the other side of the Atlantic, more importantly, these actions improve the lives of their people.
Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the project to fight drug trafficking in Peru
More information on the project in our area on Radio Nacional de España (RNE):
21 July 2017
Posteado en : Reportage
The project has a budget of €12 million and will cover 30 countries in four years to combat the destructive and massive heroin business
For decades Afghanistan has been positioning itself as the primary international exporter of heroin, a deadly drug associated with the proliferation of organised crime and a massive business that moves billions of euros annually.
Producing 4,800 tonnes of opium in 2016 and with more than 200,000 hectares under cultivation, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country is situated at the nerve centre of the zone known as the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran), the origin of most of the opiates consumed in Europe.
In line with the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020, this week the EU-ACT Action Against Drugs and Organised Crime project was launched, in Brussels, as the third phase of an initiative that fights drug trafficking and organised crime in relation to two contexts:
Supply reduction: this involves strengthening legal and transnational police cooperation to attack the major drug trafficking networks.
Demand reduction: efforts are also aimed at prevention of drug consumption and improvement of drug addiction treatment.
Both fronts are essential. As explained by the leader of the project, Thomas Carter, “they are two sides of the same coin: there needs to be equilibrium between repressive policies that pursue trafficking and organised crime and those focussed on demand reduction”.
More than thirty countries
From Afghanistan, the Heroin Route traditionally crossed the Balkans to reach Europe. However, pathways have multiplied and now pass through some thirty countries using various routes:
Balkans Route: This links Afghanistan with Iran and then passes through Turkey. It is the shortest distance and the most direct overland route to European consumption markets. It has been used since the 1980s.
Southern Route: in recent years, large heroin shipments loaded in the ports of Iran and Pakistan have attracted attention.
Northern Route: from northern Afghanistan, heroin is sent to the large consumption markets of Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Caucasus Route: drugs produced in the Golden Crescent are transported from Iran to Turkey, passing through Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
South Route: this passes through East Africa to reach the EU from the south.
The project focusses on more than 30 beneficiary countries with very different needs and five strategic zones: Central Asia, Southern Caucasus, Ukraine, Asia and East Africa.
Spanish Civil Guard colonel and project co-director Manuel Marión highlights the flexibility of the initiative: “One of the most acute needs of Kyrgyzstan is to train prosecutors and police in using special investigative techniques aimed at drugs, such as controlled deliveries”.
Nonetheless, “it may happen that Tanzania needs to learn about the European experience with coastal surveillance, because the heroin arrives on ships” indicates Marión.
Law enforcement and legal action are generally conducted at the national level, which makes it difficult to eradicate a global phenomenon like this one. Therefore the project places special emphasis on coordination between the police forces of all the drug-transit countries. Transnational and transregional cooperation is essential.
A billion-euro business
Tom Carter describes one of the main difficulties in eradicating heroin trafficking: corruption. “We’re talking about billions of euros, and the issue is that the closer it is to the market, the more money is involved and the more expensive the product is. For example, one kilo of opium may cost €2,000 in Afghanistan and over time, as it approaches Europe, this may reach €25,000 to €40,000”.
“It’s a massive and invasive business. It moves so much money that it easily corrupts. A police officer or customs agent in any country outside Europe, for example in Central Asia or Africa, is very tempted when someone offers €200 to not open a truck”. It is a question of investing in development because “in a country undermined by corrupt officials in its institutions, the project becomes useless”, explains Carter.
The key: influencing policies
One of the main objectives of the project is to help the authorities and security forces of these countries to identify and pursue the major traffickers who handle large quantities of drugs.
However, work is being done in parallel to find alternatives to prison, such as drug treatment. “We have neither the budget nor the time to fix everything, but we can contribute our experiences from the perspective of the EU. Perceptions must be changed so that people see a drug addict as a victim and not as a criminal”, explains Carter.
For the next four years, FIIAPP will be managing this project, which has a budget of €12,000,000 funded by the European Commission, and will be implemented by experts from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, Italy’s Carabinieri and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
10 July 2015
Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the EU project to combat drug trafficking in Peru, witnesses an operation conducted by the Peruvian port authorities at the Port of Callao.
It’s 6:15 in the morning and we are at the entrance to the loading docks at the Port of Callao, around 25 kilometres north of Lima. There is a quite odd and steady flow of workers, stevedores, seamen, customs officials, contractors and other people that you really can’t tell what they do at a port, which employs over 5,000 people and is one of the largest ports on the American continent. One of the characters milling around the port approaches me and asks me for a cigarette, I offer him the last one in my pack, telling him to keep it and that I’m going to give up anyway. Oddly, it’s the same brand as he usually smokes, or so he tells me. The guy smiles and asks me where I’m from, I tell him that I’m from Iceland, that usually means that people will leave me alone and not bother me with talk about Barça and Madrid. It’s very early and I got up at 4:15 am.
Here the days begin way before dawn and you never know when they will end, today is the second week of the course that we have organised on searching ships and shipping containers for drugs. Two German customs officials have come along to teach the primarily practical activities. From their height and build, it’s obvious that they are not from this land. Both the instructors and the students are excellent and have achieved some unbeatable results.
It’s calculated that 60% of the cocaine that currently arrives in Europe comes from Peru. The majority of this substance is transported to its destination by sea. It normally arrives at the commercial ports and recreational harbours of Spain, Belgium or Holland. Drug traffickers are usually ahead of the curve in terms of techniques for hiding drugs. We have seen everything from clothing impregnated with cocaine, drugs hidden in the stomachs of frozen fish or in babies’ nappies – anything goes.
No less surprising or dramatic is the situation faced by some people in Peru who become involved in this illegal trade, most due to need but others due to greed. From the poor farmer who is under a death threat to grow the coca plant (both he and his family) from the narco-terrorist group Shining Path; the young person forced to work in a chemical laboratory in the jungle to make base paste and who is a target of bombing by the army (something which is not reported in newspapers); the single mother who, to pay her bills, swallows 74 bags of cocaine and is arrested on arrival in Europe because she has been reported by the very same organisation that it trying to smuggle in other “drug mules” on the same flight and so wants to distract customs officials; to other more tragic situations that I prefer not to go into. It’s hard when you see the human faces involved in this business to get the ‘product’ to the end user.
Of course, the protagonists of the previous paragraph are just cannon fodder for this business. In reality, the real beneficiaries of this illegal industry are the large criminal organisations, fiscal paradises and certain powers that be, which have no regard for the human repercussions of this issue.
With a view to disrupting this illicit trade, the European Union has launched a project to support the fight against drug trafficking in Peru, led by FIIAPP, in collaboration its partners, the law enforcement agencies of Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Czech Republic. The objective of this project is to improve the air, land and sea drug interception capabilities, as well as improving capabilities for obtaining intelligence, investigating and prosecuting drug lords.
At the time of writing this post, as part of one the project’s activities, we are working at the Port of Callao alongside the institutions responsible for drugs seizures at Peruvian port, namely customs, police, public prosecutors and coast guard.
As I said at the start, in the morning we build a profile of suspicious ships and containers, then we later carry out the practical search activities on them to see what we can find. For example, the port intelligence unit passed us some information about a container carrying frozen corn, passion fruit pulp and Rocoto pepper (very spicy) to Spain. Come on! As if there isn’t enough corn in Spain or it is cheaper to bring it frozen in a refrigerated container from Peru – it just doesn’t make sense. So we set the container aside to be searched. The students on the course disassemble the container’s refrigeration system and check the load and, indeed, among the corn and passion fruit pulp we find a suspicious box containing a security seal and instructions on how to apply it. This means that at some point between Callao and Spain, this container would be opened, loaded with cocaine and the new security seal would then installed. An investigation is currently ongoing into who placed the new security seal inside the container and into other issues relating to the container’s origin and destination. Curiously, a worker from the loading area in which the container was stored has disappeared and no one seems to know where he is.
At the end of the day we attend a debriefing session, where everyone explains what they have learned and how it can be replicated in their units. The idea behind this project is that every time you train someone, that person in turn conveys the knowledge gained to other members of the department to which they are assigned.
As night falls, our day’s session comes to an end and we make our way back to Lima, in rush hour traffic it will take us at least another hour to get home. Tomorrow we will begin again at dawn, I wonder what we will find…
Gerard Muñoz Arcos – Coordinator of the EU-ENLCD Project (Videoblog)