Coordinated by INTERPOL and UNODC Operation Trigger VI targeting firearms trafficking across South America, resulted in the arrest of almost 4,000 suspects, with some 200,000 illicit firearms, parts, components, ammunition and explosives recovered. The joint operation enabled police, customs, border and prosecution services to work together, carrying out nearly 10,000 checks against INTERPOL databases to track illegal firearms and identify potential links with organised crime.
Officers across the 13 countries checked firearms against INTERPOL’s iARMS database to determine whether they had been reported as lost, stolen, trafficked or smuggled. With over a million records, the iARMS database allows the identification of firearms trafficking patterns and smuggling routes.
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock commended the success of the operation by saying: “Operation Trigger VI has seen thousands of illicit weapons taken out of the hands of criminals and is testimony to the commitment of South American law enforcement despite the challenges of a global pandemic,”
Furthermore, UNODC’s Executive Director Ghada Waly said that “By providing training and fostering cooperation as part of Operation Trigger VI, UNODC was pleased to support South America’s criminal justice systems’ responses to firearms trafficking and its links to organized crime” in line with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Firearms Protocol, the only legally binding instruments addressing transnational organized crime and illicit firearms trafficking.
Operation Trigger VI is funded under project DISRUPT part of the Global Illicit Flows Programme (GIFP) of the EU. The DISRUPT project emerged by incorporating the learning, knowledge and experiences gained from two components of the GIFP, namely the Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS) and the Countering Firearms Trafficking projects, both part of the INTERPOL and UNODC Firearms Programmes respectively.
Operation Trigger VI and the DISRUPT project demonstrate the importance of multi-agency transnational cooperation to support partner countries in developing capacity and tools to tackle firearms trafficking as well as to identify and dismantle the criminal groups involved.
Initial results and highlights include:
- Uruguay – arrest of members of a gang using social media to promote violence by posting photographs of themselves flaunting illegal guns.
- Peru -seizure of large amounts of ammunition arriving from the Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay tri-border area, and arrest of two fugitives subject of INTERPOL Red Notices for serious drug crime. In Lima, explosives experts intercepted and recovered undetonated grenades in a public square.
- Chile – arrest of a Colombian national wanted via an INTERPOL Red Notice for firearms trafficking and serious drug crime.
- Detection of the illegal sale of 90,000 pieces of ammunition, with investigations expected to lead to arrests.
With firearms trafficking linked to a wide range of other crimes, results also include:
- Brazil – Federal Police confirmed the clear link between firearms trafficking and fraud, including the sale of counterfeit guns between gangs. Seizure of more than 60 illegal firearms at a dealership suspected of using counterfeit documents to divert firearms and ammunition.
- Bolivia – destruction of 27 cocaine labs including one at a reserve in the Gran Chaco region on the Paraguayan border with a camouflaged runway for small planes and sophisticated telecommunications systems. Rescue of 33 suspected human trafficking victims thought to be from Haiti during a firearms raid at La Paz bus terminal.
- Seizure of more than 21 tonnes of cocaine, marijuana and precursor chemicals.