On 16 November 2023, COLIBRI hosted its Steering Committee at the World Customs Organization (WCO) headquarters in Brussels and online to discuss and outline the roadmap for the project’s second phase. As part of the GIFP, COLIBRI II will aim to enable law enforcement agencies and criminal justice institutions with enhanced capacities for conducting regular and effective control operations in General Aviation (GA) in an effort to combat customs fraud and illicit trafficking.
The event was opened by the Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the WCO, Mr. Pranab Kumar Das, who emphasised COLIBRI’s commitment to supporting partner countries’ administrations including customs, police, and the military, in enhancing controls on general aviation (GA). Isabel Candela Deputy Head of Unit at FPI.1 from the European Commission, emphasised the alignment of COLIBRI activities with EMPACT priorities.
Sylvain Raymond, Drug Programme Manager at the WCO, highlighted achievements from the first phase of COLIRBI despite COVID-19 barriers, including the launch of an E-Learning platform, several regional training workshops, the development of the Geoportal tool, and the organisation and implementation of the impactful Operation Rutilant. The operation was an excellent opportunity to test the training, tools and the international relationships that were developed throughout phase I and it resulted in 1,435 controls over a period of 9 days which led to two seizures of cocaine, totalling approximately 948 kgs, in addition to 23 immobilised aircraft due to administrative infractions and the localisation of various illegal/clandestine runways.
COLIBRI Phase II will build on lessons learned from the previous phase, aiming to ensure and maintain partner engagement, ownership, and efficient implementation, with particular emphasis on operational collaboration with MAOC-N. Key areas of focus will also include developing a monitoring system, enhancing political buy in efforts, and promoting the use of resources like the Geoportal for improved monitoring capacities related to GA. COLIBRI’s Regional Coordinator for Latin America, Lorenzo Martínez Fernández, presented plans to expand COLIBRI’s reach into two new countries in Latin America, namely Bolivia and Ecuador, whereas the Regional Coordinator for Africa, Valentin Chirica, shared plans to expand into Benin and Togo.
COLIBRI’s focal point in Ghana, Prince AK Wiafe from the Ghana Revenue Authority, provided insight into COLIBRI’s impact in Ghana, outlining the concrete support provided both in terms of training, access to tools but also increased awareness on the use of GA for trafficking. COLIBRI’s focal point in Argentina, Daniel Pazos from the Argentinian customs, emphasised the expanded reach of criminal networks like the Brazilian Comando Vermelho who have stretched their operations outside of Brazil and into neighbouring countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Emphasising Argentina’s commitment to facing this growing threat Mr. Pazos flagged the signature of the memorandum of cooperation with COLIBRI by various Argentinian agencies in the hope of streamlining law enforcement cooperation at both national and international level.
Stakeholders highlighted the value of collaboration, operational cooperation, and the integration of human rights considerations into training activities. The meeting emphasised the importance of innovation, flexibility, and strategic partnerships in COLIBRI’s mission to counter organised crime through enhanced control measures of GA.