By Foster Obi
The World Customs Organization (WCO) said it concluded additional agreements in the month of September, with the U.S. Department of State, to expand its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-terrorism Financing (AML-CTF), Customs Operational Practices for Enforcement and Seizures (COPES) and Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) Programmes.
A statement by the world Customs body said a new agreement was also signed to bring the expertise developed by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), in relation to the canine detection of Fentanyl, to the wider Customs community.
WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya welcomed these agreements and stated that “the reiterated engagement and additional support of the US CBP will allow the WCO to bolster its activities and efforts in the enforcement area.” He added that “our Members have showed their reactivity and agility during the global pandemic and the WCO will continue to raise the profile of Customs and demonstrate the relevance of Customs with the strong support of its donors”.
According to the statement, The new funding expands the AML/CTF Programme capacity building and operational effort, Project TENTACLE, through to September 2022 with a possible expansion through to September 2023. Project TENTACLE is an AML/CTF capacity building effort that is designed to raise both the awareness of the WCO membership of money laundering activities that occur in the Customs arena and raise Customs services’ capabilities to combat them. Project TENTACLE is a WCO-led joint effort with the Egmont Group and INTERPOL to combat AML activities by transnational criminal groups and terrorist organizations. Project TENTACLE engages the Customs services to conduct operational efforts after the AML/CTF workshops in an effort to identify and detain/seize bulk cash and gems and precious metals that are being smuggled across international borders, with an added focus on trade-based money laundering.
Also, the new funding allows the AML/CTF Programme to expand the focus areas of Project TENTACLE to the Middle East and Eastern Europe from its initial focus in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. The additional funding will allow for two additional capacity building workshops and two additional operations in 2021 and 2022. It will also bolster the FinCRIME On-line Library, the development of financial intelligence and the joint training efforts between the Egmont Group and the WCO.
The statement noted that Since 2013, the US Department of State has provided strong support to the WCO to develop training materials and deliver capacity building with regards to the operational practices relating to seizures and the collection of evidence –COPES, and the identification and detection of dual use items and items integral to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes -STCE. The new funding aims to supplement those efforts, notably by way of activities designed to build Customs’ capacities when it comes to conducting investigations and instigating proceedings relating to strategic goods covered by the Strategic Trade Control Enforcement (STCE) Programme. This will include the development of new training material, some of which will be available on the WCO CLiKC online learning platform.
In addition, the funding supports a range of capacity building assistance which can support Customs Administration seeking to increase their competence in addressing the investigation and successful prosecution of attempts to evade international and national controls of strategic goods in accordance with commitment given under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540. There are three specific activities addressing the development of training and provision of specific materials for Indonesia, Jordan and Ukraine, while the other workshops will build on previously identified training needs.
Fentanyl Detection Project
The new K9 Fentanyl Detection Project will be rolled out by the end of 2020 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. The purpose of this initial phase is to define the beneficiary Members who meet the minimum requirements to receive fentanyl detection training for canines in the future. Scoping missions to the selected Member administrations will be jointly conducted by the experts of the WCO and CBP. They will conduct site visits to the physical locations of the canine facilities of the selected Administrations to make assessment, addressing the standard of kennels, hygienic conditions, training grounds and equipment for hosting the training sessions and veterinary facilities. Additionally, assessing the standard of the canine programme of the selected Members, including but not limited to, the strategic planning of the canine programme, the training courses provided to the canine teams, and the categories of contraband against which the detector dogs are deployed.
In view of the prevailing threat of new psychoactive substances coming onto the market at a sustained pace, in particular fentanyl and its variants, the WCO has partnered with the US Department of State with a view to building up a strong and coordinated network and border management. This project will address the growing risk involved with the physical handling of Fentanyl, considering the canine teams are one of the most reliable and powerful tools in detection of drugs, and are used nowadays to detect a wide range of commodities. Canine teams are a vital asset to Customs Administrations and through this project the WCO strives to foster a strong international network and raise the Members’ capacity in this field.
WCO affirmed that each programme will soon start recruiting staff with the intention to start planning activities with member administrations to be implemented in early 2021, adding, “ Further information on these and other compliance related programmes can be found on the Compliance and Enforcement webpage.”