VCN – Under the coordination of the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Asia and the Pacific (RILO AP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Customs administrations in 22 countries and territories in Asia – Pacific cooperate in fight drug crimes and wildlife trafficking within the framework of Operation Mekong Dragon.
|Representative leaders of the Anti-smuggling and Investigation Department (General Department of Customs) attended the virtual meeting at the headquarters of the General Department of Customs.|
Many cases worth millions of dollars
On the afternoon of April 1 (Hanoi time), representatives of RILO AP, UNODC and the 22 Customs in Asia-Pacific attended an online meeting to launch the Mekong Dragon Campaign for Phase 4 (from April 15 to September 15, 2022).
Representative of Vietnam Customs, Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department (General Department of Customs) Vu Quang Toan said through 3 phases of implementation, Operation Mekong Dragon has achieved great success with increasing numbers of members, created a reputation for anti-smuggling control of items related to the CITES list, drugs and transnational crimes.
Operation Mekong Phase 3 recorded a total of 868 seizures with 756 cases of illegal drugs and precursors and 112 cases related to CITES.
“This demonstrates the success of the coordination work of the member States with the effective support of the UNODC Regional Office and the RILO AP. As a key member of the Campaign, Vietnam Customs has been active in organizing, directing, and giving warnings to customs authorities,” said Deputy Director General Vu Quang Toan.
In the first three months of 2022, Vietnam Customs handled 67 drug cases with 50 suspects.
In addition, at the beginning of 2022, on the basis of effective information sharing from China Customs, the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department handled two cases of drug transportation by express delivery from Europe through China to Vietnam.
For wild animals and plants, Vietnam Customs handled four cases at the beginning of the year. Typically, Da Nang Customs seized 6.6 tons of ivory and pangolin scales smuggled from Nigeria to Vietnam. In February 2022, the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department and Tan Son Nhat International Airport Customs Branch discovered a shipment of 60kg of Totoaba Macdonaldi exported by air, originated from Mexico under CITES Appendix I, hidden in a shipment of dried halibut sent from the US to Vietnam.
Most recently, on March 31, the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department cooperated with Hai Phong Customs Department to seize a shipment of 350kg of seahorses under CITES Appendix II transported from Indonesia to Hai Phong.
“Through the above cases and figures, this shows that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, drug and wildlife traffickers are still very active and sophisticated with many new methods and tricks. This poses a great challenge for the management agency, requiring law enforcement forces such as Vietnam Customs, Police and Border Guard and international law enforcement agencies to actively coordinate with each other to achieve efficiency in control,” said Deputy Director Vu Quang Toan.
|Delegates attend the online meeting (screenshot).|
According to UNDOC representative Giovanni Broussard, the results of Operation Mekong Dragon, on the seizures of methamphetamine, drug precursors, rhino horn and pangolin scales, showed that the activity has not been disrupted. For example, more than 6 tons of smuggled ivory and pangolin scales were discovered in a container in Da Nang, or Australian police discovered meth and heroin worth AUD55 million in a shipment from Thailand in February 2022.
“These criminal activities must be prevented, investigated and prosecuted, so that the masterminds and middle-level operators must be charged for their acts,” said Giovanni Broussard.
In order to improve the efficiency of the anti-smuggling of phase 4 of Operation Mekong Dragon, Mr. Wang he (Vuong Hoa), Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling Department (China Customs) suggested that stakeholders should report cases and further strengthen cooperation in intelligence exchange, joint investigations, controlled deliveries across borders along with pandemic control measures; jointly analyze the latest trends in illegal drug and wildlife trafficking and share breaking news; strengthen control efficiency through capacity building programs with support from RILO AP and UNODC.
|Two tonnes and two million drug tablets seized in Operation Mekong Dragon phase 2|
VCN- Tons of drugs, precious wood and wildlife products were seized by members of Operation Mekong Dragon …
At the meeting, representatives of RILO AP, UNODC and 22 Customs administrations expressed their determination on coordination to fight transnational crimes related to drugs and wildlife.
By Thai Binh/ Huyen Trang