Tackling Drug Trade on Southern Route
Representatives from the Triangular Initiative (TI) countries - Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan - recently got together for the first time with representatives from Africa and Indian Ocean states - Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania - the UAE, and Colombia, to share experiences and best practices at the inter-regional level on how to detect, investigate and disrupt the methods used by transnational organized crime groups to finance their activities.
The workshop, entitled “Understanding and disrupting illicit financial flows associated with the Southern Route for opiate trafficking,” was convened in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Heroin trafficking on the Southern Route - a collection of illegal trafficking flows south from Afghanistan - creates a permissive environment for other organized crime, drives corruption and is also believed to be a key source of funding for militants which poses a threat to regional security and stability, unodc.org reported.
Afghanistan’s borders with Iran and Pakistan are constantly under attack from criminal groups that smuggle precursor chemicals into Afghanistan while trafficking drugs out of the country. Above 70% of Afghan opiates are trafficked via Iran and Pakistan every year. Information sharing and coordination among anti-narcotics forces of the three countries are key tools for the achievement of successful counter narcotics results.
The three neighbors under the auspices of the UNODC have built bridges in the area of counter-narcotics enforcement through the Triangular Initiative, launched by their respective policy-makers in Vienna in June 2007. The initiative sets in motion a series of trust building measures and joint operations, with the ultimate goal of information/intelligence sharing.
The Zanzibar event was attended by 65 experts from law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units, prosecuting authorities, customs agencies, central banks and ministries of foreign affairs.
During the four-day event, topics for discussion included: lessons from investigating cocaine trafficking networks; the drugs-terrorism nexus; developing and retaining financial investigation experts; multi-commodity networks (namely, cocaine and heroin); asset recovery networks; enhancing national anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) risk assessments; and, strategic planning for the financial disruption of organized crime networks.
On the margins of the workshop a number of operational planning meetings took place and experts also identified where information-sharing agreements were required to be signed as a priority.
At the workshop’s closing, experts recommended that similar meetings should be held every six months to update current money laundering threats, new methods for financial disruption of organized crime networks and priorities for technical assistance.
The aim is to bring countries in these regions together to develop strategies and build cooperation in countering drugs, crime and terrorism.
The UNODC which serves as the secretariat of the Triangular Initiative facilitates the implementation of technical assistance and mobilizes financial support. Periodic meetings of experts and policy-makers have been facilitated, building trust among their anti-narcotics authorities.
At the operational level, a Joint Planning Cell has been established in Tehran for information and intelligence sharing and the implementation of joint operations targeting drug trafficking networks operating in the region.
Moreover, the three countries have identified strategic locations to place Border Liaison Offices (BLOs) at their common borders to improve information exchange and ensure a concerted inter-agency and cross-border response against drugs and precursor trafficking.
So far, 11 joint operations have been conducted since the Joint Planning Cell started its work at the end of 2009. Joint operations in March 2011 resulted in more than three tons of drugs being seized.
Drug trafficking is a global business that generates huge profits. The illicit financial flows that sustain this business undermine the economies of nation states, heighten perceived and actual risks to direct foreign investment and the confidence of international development efforts.