WCO and EU collaborate on reducing organised crime

Brussels, Belgium

The World Customs Organization (WCO) and the European Union (EU) are partners in a new project called “COLIBRI”, which aims to step up international coordination and efforts with the main aim of combating organised crime and the challenges raised by cocaine trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in West and Central Africa.

This project is being implemented as part of Goal 3 of the WCO Strategic Plan (2016/2019): “Protect society, public health and safety, and contribute to combating crime and terrorism” (Compliance and Enforcement Package), and in line with the role of Customs in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015.

According to the WCO’s 2017 Illicit Trade Report, the cocaine trade grew by some 16.2% in 2017. The Customs authorities of 105 countries reported that, of all seizures of smuggled drugs, 13.8% involved cocaine.

In this campaign conducted by Customs administrations in the fight against trafficking and organized crime, the WCO aspires to be at the forefront of innovation and to expand its capacity building mission to cover emerging threats. The purpose of the COLIBRI Project, which aims to monitor and control general aviation along the entire length of the cocaine route, is to rally Customs and its partners around the risks of fraud in this little-monitored channel and to step up the regional, international and interdepartmental cooperation that is so essential in the fight against drug trafficking.

But what do we actually know about general aviation? General aviation as defined by the WCO is a generic term denoting all the operations of civil aviation for purposes other than commercial transport. Although most civil airports are open to general aviation, many secondary aerodromes are not subject to administration fees, landing or parking charges, operating restrictions or controls. Moreover, general aviation is not subject to the same police or Customs inspection mechanisms, and flight security measures are substantially relaxed, even in highly regulated areas. This means that general aviation represents an opportunity for organised crime and offers a number of advantages to traffickers. This is a discreet, fast mode of transport, which can use smaller airports where the law enforcement agencies are often absent. The COLIBRI Project is helping to meet the challenge of improving security in this channel, which is sensitive in both trafficking and security terms, as well as for tax reasons.

According to the United Nations 2018 World Drug Report, both the range of drugs and drug markets are expanding and diversifying as never before. An increasing number of observers confirm the suggestion that trafficking constitutes a major source of finance for terrorist groups. The situation calls for heightened international cooperation to help the countries concerned to face up to the challenges posed by drug trafficking, to improve security worldwide and to promote the rule of law.


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