07 January 2021
Posteado en : Opinion
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
25 July 2019
Posteado en : Reportage
Money laundering is closely related to crimes such as drug trafficking, corruption and organized crime. At FIIAPP we work to fight this problem through a wide range of projects
The concept of “money laundering” arose during the 1920s in the United States. American mafias, dedicated to the smuggling of alcoholic beverages, created a network of laundries to hide the illicit origin of the money derived from this business.
As explained by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), money laundering is “the method used by infractors to hide the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their income, with the goal of flying under the radar of institutions in charge of investigation and law enforcement”.
The United Nations has the Financial Action Task Force, which sets standards to organize the legislative architecture of the fight against money laundering by organized crime .
UNODC also emphasizes that individuals and terrorist organizations employ techniques similar to those practised by people who are involved in money laundering to hide their resources. All these techniques carry with them crimes such as corruption or organized crime.
In this regard, the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund , Min Zhu, notes that “money laundering and terrorist financing are financial crimes that have economic consequences . They can threaten the stability of a country’s financial sector or its external stability in general. Effective regimes to combat money laundering and terrorist financing are essential to safeguarding the integrity of markets and the global financial framework, as they help mitigate the factors that lead to financial abuse.”
Along these lines, we must emphasize that money generated by criminal activities is difficult to hide. Over the years, States have reinforced the mechanisms necessary to identify, seize and confiscate that money wherever it is. “Measures to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing, therefore, are not just a moral imperative, but an economic need,” according to Zhu.
2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 16
Spain, together with the 193 countries of the United Nations, pledged to comply with the 2030 Agenda, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. In this context, the non-governmental organization Transparency International (IT) has published a report, which takes April to June 2018 as its reference, in order to examine the progress of Spain in relation to Sustainable Development Goal 16, based on promoting a just, peaceful and inclusive society, which contains goals related to transparency and fighting against corruption . This document focuses on the situation of illicit financial flows, bribery and corruption in all its forms, transparent and accountable institutions, public freedoms, and the right to access information.
In addition, the report highlights that, although Spain has made great strides at the legislative level on this matter, “it is necessary that the institutions constituting the first line of prevention and fighting against corruption, such as the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, remain totally independent from political power.” Likewise, “Spain has the challenge of achieving a homogeneous and effective legal framework in all matters related to public integrity and accountability, and at all territorial levels.”
FIIAPP works on the fight against money laundering
FIIAPP is working on the fight against money laundering through a variety of projects.
EL PAcCTO is a European Union programme implemented by FIIAPP and Expertise France with the support of IILa and Camões. The main goal of this project is the fight against transnational organized crime and the strengthening of the institutions responsible for guaranteeing citizen security in 18 countries in Latin America.
“EL PAcCTO aims to address various challenges and, thanks to the exchanges in working groups and the presentation of practical cases, also identify the difficulties and weaknesses specific to Latin America and identify possible coordination difficulties between the agents in the fight against money laundering”, highlights Jean Dos Santos, an EL PacCTO project expert.
Additionally, a project called European Support for Bolivian Institutions in the Fight against Drug Trafficking and Related Crimes places special emphasis on money laundering. The project has sought to improve capability through training courses. It has focused on strengthening inter-institutional coordination and international cooperation and has given aid support to overcome the fourth round of the Mutual Evaluation of the Financial Action Task Force Group of Latin America.
“Whether or not the Bolivian State can remain off the famous black or grey lists comprised of States that have neither established prevention measures against money laundering nor committed themselves to doing so depends in large part on passing this Mutual Evaluation”, emphasized Javier Navarro, National Police Inspector and expert on this project.
Following this same line of work, the EU Law Enforcement Support Project in the fight against drugs and organized crime in Peru seeks to improve the effectiveness of training schools, inter-institutional cooperation and Peruvian intelligence systems in order to fight drugs, organized crime and money laundering.
Likewise, EU-ACT projects on Action against Drugs and Organized Crime and SEACOP are also active in the fight against money laundering, a problem closely related to drug trafficking and organized crime.
“Drug trafficking organizations are present in different countries. The materials may be supplied by one country, others may be transit countries, others destination countries, etc. Money laundering may take place in yet other countries. Therefore, if this is not addressed from a transnational standpoint, it is impossible to deal with,” explains José Antonio Maté, EU-ACT Project Coordinator for the Central Asia area.
With the ARAP-Ghana project , ‘Accountability, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption of Ghana’, the goal is to reduce corruption and improve accountability in the African country, taking into account the money laundering that corruption brings. Ghana has created the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACAP), of which this project is part.
Finally, in the El PacCTO:Supporting AMERIPOL project it is expected that money laundering will be incorporated into the technological platform for the exchange of police information that this project is promoting in Latin America.
10 January 2019
Posteado en : Interview
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.
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.
25 October 2018
Posteado en : Interview
Javier Navarro, National Police inspector and technical expert on the FIIAPP programme to support the Bolivian special force fighting drug trafficking, shows us in this interview how complicated it is to pursue the production and illegal trafficking of coca leaf in Bolivia, where it is grown and consumed legally
How do people see the coca leaf in Bolivia?
The production and consumption of coca leaves are deeply rooted in society and its customs. The Plurinational State of Bolivia has acknowledged that there are 20,000 ha of coca plants being grown in two main areas: Las Yungas, in the department of La Paz, and Chapare, in the tropical region of Cochabamba. Producers are registered and are entitled to grow one “cato” of coca (1,600m2). The coca leaf they grow then goes to a cooperative and from there onto the legal market, either for personal consumption, called “picheo”, i.e., balls of coca leaves are put into the mouth and the juice sucked out of them, or for coca mate, sweets and other products. All that comes from these areas is considered legal cultivation. The Government also has to manage the eradication of coca leaves in places where their cultivation is not authorised.
How does it become illegal?
Logically, not all the production goes onto the legal market; some of it follows parallel routes and is used to make coca paste. The paste is the result of adding other elements to the coca to produce cocaine hydrochloride.
Also, it should be remembered that Bolivia is not only a producer, it is also a transit country, as paste arrives from Peru, another producing country that has some 45,000 ha of coca cultivation.
So, what is the profile of a coca leaf producer in Bolivia?
It is, purely and simply, that of a farmer, who, with one “cato” of coca, earns just enough to make a modest living. That is the reality and what I see. Can this coca leaf subsequently be processed or go to an illegal market? It may do, but the producer par excellence does not have the profile of a trafficker.
The producers produce it as part of their basic subsistence economy, to live decently with their families, and producers are different from traffickers. Maybe this would be the smallest link, the lowest on the chain, where a producer is making it illegally.
What resources does Bolivia have to prevent illegal trafficking?
The government has the Bolivian police force, especially the Special Forces to Combat Drug Trafficking, a vital ally in the fight against drug trafficking. These are special squads that are found all over Bolivia and they try to prevent drug trafficking from intensifying.
What is the role of the project in this network?
The project tries to provide support and strengthen departments and institutions linked with drug trafficking by bolstering their skill sets through technical assistance (legal, protocol, manuals), for which we co-opt experts in the short term from the National Police and Civil Guard in addition to French experts. The latter give assistance in very specialised areas, to strengthen the aspects that they consider necessary. Specifically, five themes are dealt with: criminal investigation, intelligence, borders and airports, and related crimes (money laundering and people trafficking and smuggling).
What are the prospects for the future?
The project is solid and well established; in fact, it is the institutions that turn to it so that they can become stronger in the areas they consider the weakest. This year, we have been working on all the areas to consolidate them and strongly reinforce them and next year will see the final implementation.
We also hope that, logically, when this first part of the project ends there can be a second part, as this would be very important, so that we could continue to strengthen these areas and move forward and improve all the Bolivian institutions.
06 September 2018
Posteado en : Reportage
How do you fight against drug trafficking in a coca leaf producing country? We know the case of Bolivia together with the project to support institutions in this task
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states in its report on coca leaf crops in Bolivia that the country has more than 20,000 legal hectares. An extension concentrated on two main areas: the area of the Yungas, in the Department of La Paz; and the area of Chapare, in the Tropic of Cochabamba.
The UNODC thus provides information to the Bolivian government on the amount and geographical location of the crops, since part of the coca leaf is diverted to illicit trafficking. The Bolivian Police and other institutions involved are trying to avoid this product becoming an international drug. This report allows them to develop strategies and policies for their control.
These institutions also have the support in this task of a project managed by the FIIAPP , in coordination with the National Council for the Fight against Illicit Drug Trafficking (CONALTID), with funds from the European Union and the AECID (Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency). And the paradox is even more difficult to tackle when the coca leaf is a cultural product.
The farmer is not the trafficker
Javier Navarro is one of the experts of the project. The Spanish National Police inspector recalls that “the consumption of coca leaf is something that is deeply rooted in their customs.” In Bolivia, the product is consumed directly with the acullico (chewing the coca leaf itself with other products that sweeten it) or is used for yerba mate or sweets.
Its production is managed through cooperatives. Each registered farmer has the right to grow one cato (1,600 square metres plot) of coca. The product would reach the legal market after going through the cooperative. The problem is that not all production follows that path.
Part of the coca leaf enters “parallel circuits” and with it the base paste from which cocaine hydrochloride comes out is made. Once this substance is obtained, we speak of trafficking itself, explains the police inspector. There are also illegal crops “in border areas or areas that are difficult to access”.
None of the farmers, however, cooperate on this, they just live on it. “The producer does not have the profile of a trafficker,” says Navarro, and even if they acted unlawfully, they would be the smallest link in the entire drug trafficking chain.
Javier Navarro also points out that “Bolivia is not only a producer, but also a transit country”, mainly due to geographical issues. The base paste comes to the country from Peru, which is also a producer, to carry out the so-called “purification” in laboratories.
And he provides an important fact: “One kilo of cocaine hydrochloride costs 2,500 dollars in Bolivia. When it arrives in Spain, it costs 35,000 dollars.” Once again, Spain acts as a transit country: from here cocaine is exported to France, Italy or Great Britain with the resulting price increase. A journey that makes it a transnational problem.
What is the aim of the project?
To deal with this problem, members of the Civil Guard and the National Police work on this project with Bolivian officers in the fight against drug trafficking and related crimes, such as money laundering and human trafficking. Action is additionally taken at borders and airports.
In particular, the Special Force to Fight against Drug Trafficking is formed, specialised units spread over several areas of Bolivia. Drug trafficking is the dominant sector in organised crime. The changes in its methods of organisation and action require constant adaptation in the devices and strategies fighting this problem.
This training that has been complemented by visits to Spain to learn about the procedures of the Spanish security forces, for example, in intelligence and criminal investigation.
After two years of work, “the project is consolidated and it is the institutions themselves that come to it”, explains Javier Navarro. Among other things, the investigations have been addressed in a more comprehensive way. This is, according to the inspector, to not only stop the trafficker, but also to have the organisations dismantled.
This work is completed with the citizens’ awareness through some communication activities. The last of these, a workshop for journalists in which they worked on how to adequately communicate on such sensitive issues.
Projects for a transnational problem
Until recently, the FIIAPP managed a similar project in Peru , an example of good results with the dismantling of more than one hundred criminal organisations dedicated to illicit drug trafficking. The Foundation is also present in this operational dimension with the SEACOP project, for the fight against maritime drug trafficking.
There are also regional programmes to add to the public policies of Latin American countries. This is the case of EL PAcCTO against transnational organised crime or COPOLAD , which covers the social and health dimension.
Other projects follow the most important drug trafficking routes, such that of as heroin. EU-ACT operates in 30 countries in Central Asia, the East Coast of Africa and Eastern Europe, and works to improve the effectiveness of police and judicial bodies, as well as to prevent drug use.
30 August 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
Juan Antonio Aunión, from El País, explains his experience in the journalistic reporting workshop he led in Bolivia as part of the project against drug trafficking and human trafficking
Few jobs have such a frenetic pace as that of a journalist. Day-to-day urgencies rarely leave room for reflection on our own work, to think carefully about the things we fail at, the things we do well in, and especially about what we can do to improve. That is why I appreciate my work as a professor at the UAM-El País School of Journalism, because it forces me to reflect on all this. It is also why I accepted, without giving it a second thought, the FIIAPP’s invitation to lead the International Workshop on journalistic reporting on the prevention of drug use and human trafficking, issues that are so important and so serious that they deserve even more care and self-criticism when dealing with them in the media. The workshop was held in La Paz, Bolivia, in coordination with the Coordination Secretariat of CONALTID and with the funding of the European Union and the AECID.
In that context, the most logical thing for me to do was to propose, from the beginning, a joint five-day reflection with the participants, about twenty professionals from the Bolivian press, radio and television. Precisely, the diversity of the group (not only because they came from different media, but also because some were very young, newcomers to the trade, while others were seasoned journalists with decades of experience behind them) ended up contributing enormously to the workshop. But it was also the main difficulty, solved, in any case, by the chosen format: brief presentations accompanied by many examples of reference texts, a format which allowed us to immediately put into practice all the ideas and techniques presented, along with a lot of interaction and a lot of dialogue.
This practical task consisted of writing a report about drug use or human trafficking. This enabled us to review the entire journalistic process, from the choice of topic, its development, documentation, field work, to the writing and editing (or in this case, proofreading). This way, we managed to delve deeper into fiction techniques that might enable us to present our work in a deeper and more attractive way, without ever losing sight of the strengths of any journalistic text: honesty, rigour, fact-checking each piece of information and giving the context needed to understand complex realities. That’s on top of striking the essential balance between professional distance and the sensitivity required when dealing with social issues in general, and drugs and human trafficking in particular.
Many of the problems that the students faced are the same ones Spanish professionals face in our daily work: how to approach the characters, how to present the story and make it attractive, what part of the information, obtained with great effort, to leave out to improve the end result, etc. However, others had to do with traits unique to Bolivia, which has its own working conditions and cultural environment, for example the bureaucratic written procedure necessary to request almost any official information. The answers that we all gave to these problems, at the peak of their experience and mine, were the most interesting part of the course, at least for me, and I think it also has a lot to do with the philosophy of the work that FIIAPP does in all the countries it is present in.
Apart from that, my objective for this course was to give the participants a series of tools to tell, in a slightly more attractive and familiar way, both the big stories, those large-scale events that the media relies on, as well as the small everyday stories, those that have to be covered at full speed, but which also deserve, apart from the essential rigour, all the care and affection we can give. Especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as those that have to do with drug use and human trafficking.
Juan Antonio Aunión, El País journalist specialising in social and educational issues