An operation across Eastern and Southern Africa targeting transnational crimes including human, drug and arms trafficking, people smuggling, terrorism, car theft and environmental crime has resulted in close to 4 500 arrests.
To address the wide-ranging yet often interlinked types of crime across the region, about 1 500 officers were deployed across 22 countries as part of Operation Usalama III.
Led by the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (EAPCCO) and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) with support from INTERPOL, the two-day (June 29 and 30) operation involved officers from police, customs, immigration, wildlife agencies, counter terrorism units and mining authorities.
Tens of thousands of checks were conducted against INTERPOL’s global databases during the 48-hour operation, resulting in the recovery of more than 30 vehicles recorded stolen by INTERPOL, including from the United Kingdom and Malaysia, and the arrest of a fugitive who was the subject of a Red Notice.
In addition to the rescue of human trafficking victims in Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda, drugs, guns, ammunition and gold were among the illicit goods seized during the operation.
Other key results from Operation Usalama III:
• Following the arrest of a 37-year-old man suspected of counterfeiting and forgery, police in Sudan recovered an AK47, ammunition, fake passports, military uniforms, computers and a range of currencies including euros, dollars, Sudanese pounds and Malaysian ringgit. Police also recovered 85 000 rounds of ammunition which had been buried underground in Sennar state near its border with Blue Nile state and South Sudan.
• ¬In Tanzania, officers recovered 666 pieces of ivory worth $2 million and arrested five men and a woman from Guinea, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
• ¬About 88 000 Captagon tablets hidden inside phone chargers were discovered following a cargo check on a flight arriving at Sudan’s Khartoum airport.
• ¬In Rwanda, police seized cannabis, heroin and illegal fishing nets as well as 651 metres and 5,5 tonnes of copper cables and pylons valued at more than $23,000 either stolen from Rwanda Energy Group stores or after vandalising electricity infrastructures.
• ¬With cattle rustling a significant crime across Africa, 24 people were arrested throughout the region in connection with the theft of 50 goats, 32 cows and 17 sheep with a total estimated value of nearly $20 000.
• ¬In Uganda, police destroyed 55 acres of cannabis plants and arrested six suspects in connection with a range of wildlife crimes after recovering 20 kg of ivory, three tortoises, geese, 12 ostrich egg shells, leopard skins and other illicit animal products. Seven guns and more than 300 rounds of ammunition were also seized.
• ¬Officers at Asmara international airport in Eritrea arrested a man travelling on a forged passport which contained a fake exit visa.
• ¬Nearly 70 acres of cannabis plants were destroyed in Swaziland. In Malawi, as well as seizing more than two tonnes of cannabis, police also destroyed 37 acres of cannabis plants. Police in Zimbabwe intercepted a truck heading to Harare which was carrying a tonne of cannabis concealed under bags of wheat bran.
• ¬A roadside check in Botswana led to the discovery of five pieces of elephant tusk concealed in a car boot. Officers also arrested a traditional healer in possession of a range of illicit wildlife products including tortoises and python skin.
“Access to INTERPOL´s databases played an important role in the success of the operation and again has shown the need for international information exchange. Operations like Usalama show what can be achieved when law enforcement agencies work closely together in combating transnational crime,” said EAPCCO chairman Joseph Boinnet, Inspector General of Kenya’s National Police Service.
Supported by INTERPOL regional bureaux in Nairobi and Harare, a number of pre-operational meetings were held to share intelligence on national and regional crime issues and to provide training on INTERPOL capabilities used during the operation.
“The positive outcome of Operation Usalama III is a true reflection of the importance of inter-regional and multi-lateral co-operation fighting organised and transnational crime,” said Julio Dos Santos Jane, SARPCCO chairman and General Commander of the Mozambique Police.
“The results also show it is vital to look beyond borders to both prevent crime and stop criminals escaping from justice,” he added.
Elizabeth Kuteesa, Director of INTERPOL’s Global Outreach and Regional Support unit said the operation underlined the added value of INTERPOL regional bureaux in strengthening national and regional law enforcement co-operation.
“Operation Usalama III demonstrated what can be achieved through the commitment of countries and the expertise of frontline police backed by INTERPOL’s global capabilities,” said Kuteesa.
“This was a strong, co-ordinated response to tackle the serious crime challenges facing these regions and INTERPOL will continue to provide its support as these arrests are followed up,” she said.
SARPCCO member countries are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe with Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda the EAPCCO member countries.