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Major drug bust on Emirates flight from Brazil to Johannesburg

By Adriana Stuijt     Mar 18, 2009 in Crime
A combined Interpol/South African task force has scored a major victory against an international drug trafficking syndicate: $17million's worth of Ephedrine - used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs - was discovered on an Emirates flight from Brazil.
Ephedrine is used to manufacture amphetamines - the hugely popular township drugs "cat" and "tik" which have been flooding the country. Interpol spokesman Tummi Golding says the Johannesburg International Airport drug bust on flight EK761 of Emirates airlines was 'the country’s biggest airport drug haul in 10 years."
International Prague-based wildlife syndicate busted
Interpol has also had another major breakthrough this month. They also busted a huge international syndicate which was illegally hunting and trading in more than 430 species of protected wildlife and was based in Prague, in Europe. The gang specialized in trafficking blue macaws - one single macaw egg can fetch up to $3,000 on the illegal European wildlife trading market - especially in former East Block countries.see
In Johannesburg's drug-bust yesterday, the illegal consignment of ephedrine -- packed in twenty large boxes -- arrived on flight EK761 of Emirates airlines, which is a mixed cargo/passenger flight from Brazil, at around 2pm.
Agents at the local Interpol office and special police teams have all been on high alert around this international airport - the largest and most modern in Africa -- ever since South African Airways made international headlines when two flight crews were arrested at Heathrow airport in the UK in two major drug-busts over the past two months. see
During the first bust, on January 20, the United Kingdom's border control agency found 50kg of marijuana ('dagga') in three pieces of baggage on an SAA flight from Johannesburg allegedly belonging to flight crew members. And the following month, five kilograms of cocaine were also found by the same airport border control agency, and another SAA flight crew was arrested and quested in the UK.
Johannesburg Interpol spokesman sr.superintendent MsTummi Golding told The Sowetan newspaper on Tuesday that this bust at Johannesburg airport was due to "a routine intelligence-combined operation" conducted by Interpol, the airport police's anti-smuggling unit and its intelligence and forensic units.
"According to our information, this cargo was to be taken to a house in Johannesburg. We have already sent out investigators to check out the address."
Although no arrests had yet been made Golding said the crew of the EK 761 Emirates flight were being questioned.She said police were also investigating a possible link between yesterday’s and other airport drug busts.
"Brazilian authorities are very impressed and thankful at the kind of work we do. "As a result of the results we produce they (Brazilians and Americans) are now sending their investigators out here so that we can train them," she said.The drug consignment was wrapped in plastic bags and packed inside 20 large boxes.
Wildlife smuggling syndicate arrested
Brazil’s largest-ever nationwide operation against the illegal hunting and trade in wildlife, led by the Brazilian Federal Police in co-operation with INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme, has also had major breakthroughs this month, they report. They have to date arrested 72 alleged wildlife smugglers and seized thousands of illegally-held wildlife specimens.
Czech citizens also arrestedSpanning nine Brazilian states and involving 450 Federal Police Officers, with police teams still on the streets conducting arrests and seizures, Operation Oxossi – which was launched on 11 March – has so far resulted in 102 arrest warrants being issued and 140 search warrants served, as well as more than 3,500 wildlife specimens seized.
At the request of Brazilian authorities, Red Notices for internationally wanted persons have also been issued by INTERPOL for six individuals.
INTERPOL’s secure I-24/7 global police communications system and its ability to facilitate multi-country law enforcement co-operation proved invaluable to the Brazilian officers conducting the investigation. The co-operation between the Brazilian Federal Police and the Czech Environmental Inspectorate - which was an important part of the Operation following the reported involvement of Czech nationals in the illegal trade - was facilitated by the INTERPOL General Secretariat and its National Central Bureau (NCB) in Prague.
An agent from the Czech Environmental Inspectorate was also assigned to work with the Brazilian Federal Police and played a vital role in transcribing and evaluating evidence.
“Operation Oxossi has helped turn the hunters into the hunted, and this is down to close police co-operation between Brazilian police authorities, INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Prague and the INTERPOL General Secretariat,” said Brazilian Federal Police Commissioner Jorge Barbosa Pontes, the head of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Brasilia.
Wildlife endangered by large smuggling syndicates
With current investigations unveiling an international smuggling network transporting wildlife from Brazil to a number of European countries, David Higgins of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme said that the Operation demonstrated that the fight against environmental and wildlife crime was not just a national concern but an international issue.
“Environmental crime is clearly an international problem which calls for international law enforcement co-operation. The success of Operation Oxossi in Brazil demonstrates the results that can be obtained when the fight against wildlife and environmental crime is taken to the front-line as part of concerted international action using global law enforcement networks and resources,” he said.
“We must all strive to ensure that any failure to act today does not result in the loss of a species or an environment tomorrow,” Mr Higgins warned.
Police said that the gang specialized in trafficking blue macaws, a critically endangered species that might have disappeared from the wild in a short time, had the group’s activities continued. Profits from this illegal trade are high, with a single egg of a blue macaw fetching up to EUR 3,000 on the European market.
INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme was launched in 1992 and has grown significantly since, expanding areas of co-operation with many national, international and non-governmental agencies across its 187 member countries. see
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