The Zimbabwe Republic Police was among countries in Africa and the Middle East that recently participated in an International Police Organisations (Interpol)’s operation code-named “Lionfish” which was aimed at disrupting drug trafficking syndicates.
Interpol, mobilized law enforcement agents in 41 countries and this saw the arrests of 287 individuals and seized illicit narcotics estimated to be worth nearly EUR 100 million.
According to Interpol, the results of these operations, code-named Lionfish, provided a snapshot of the international underworld of drug trafficking, with criminals constantly seeking new routes and ways to smuggle narcotics across borders.
The Lionfish operations, saw police and customs officials coordinate enforcement actions at borders and other hotspots during a specific two-week period, first on the African continent and then in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Interpol secretary general Dr Jürgen Stock said, “The striking results of these two operations demonstrate the sheer scale of the trade in illicit drugs and its international nature.
“Drug trafficking is a threat that we collectively face and the massive seizures achieved in Operation Lionfish show what is possible when law enforcement fights back together.”
The results of the operations included 17 tonnes of cannabis resin, valued at EUR 31 million, confiscated from warehouses in Niamey, Niger – the largest seizure in the country’s history. Shipped from Lebanon to the Togolese port of Lomé and then transported over 1,000 kilometers by lorry, the drugs were destined for Libya.
Head of Libya’s Interpol National Central Bureau Brigadier General Adel Abulkasem Al Sharwy Bentaleb was quoted saying, “We are seeing a marked increase in drug traffickers using Libya as a transshipment point, including for drugs from as far as South America.”
“While many of these drugs are neither produced nor consumed here, this has not spared us from the violent crime inevitably wrought by such activity, which we are determined to combat alongside INTERPOL.”
Meanwhile, the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) seized 973 cocaine bricks, worth an estimated €32 million, from a fishing vessel off the country’s Western coast, arresting 10 individuals.
SAPS National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole, “Drug trafficking most often is the causal factors to so much of the violent crimes plaguing our societies. “I don’t believe that there is any country in this world that is immune to drugs and this is what makes our collaborative effort even more critical to overcoming this scourge.”
Also recovered under the two Lionfish operations recovered was 200 kg of amphetamines, 56kg of heroin, 30kg of methamphetamine, 21kg of cocaine powder and 169 pieces of crack cocaine, 214 ecstasy tablets, more than 4,5 million tramadol tablets, 720kg of cannabis and 10 000 steroids.
Other types of contraband were also seized during the operations, including live pangolins, uncut diamonds, illicit cigarettes and vehicles.
In South Africa, crystal meth bound for Australia was hidden in sandals and inside sculptures of animals. South Africa later requested that Interpol to issue a Purple Notice detailing some of these different concealment methods uncovered during the Lionfish operation, sharing this information with law enforcement in 194 countries.
Interpol purple notices are international police alerts to seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.