INTERPOL Captures Terrorist Suspects, Money, Drugs at Maritime Borders

Interpol Maritime border operation
Italian officials captured €250,000 in undeclared cash at the port of Genoa (file photo)

Published Dec 5, 2022 3:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two terrorist suspects wanted internationally were arrested as part of an ongoing Operation Neptune being spearheaded by INTERPOL working with local law enforcement agencies. The inter-governmental organization that coordinates law enforcement activities around the world reports these and other arrests and seizures all came during a three-month time period while efforts were targeting terrorist suspects and other criminals involved in serious organized crime traveling via maritime routes between North Africa and Southern Europe.

The intelligence-led operation was supported by an INTERPOL team on the ground, and also targeted criminal networks involved in the drugs trade, firearms trafficking, human trafficking, and people smuggling. The operation also targeted illicit migrant flows, with authorities in France, Italy, and Spain arresting suspected human traffickers and people smugglers.

Between July 1 and September 3, officials at seaports and airports in eight countries – Algeria, Cyprus, France, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Spain, and Tunisia – carried out more than 2.6 million checks. They were using INTERPOL’s databases to look for stolen and lost travel documents, nominal data, and stolen vehicles via its I-24/7 secure global police communications network.

INTERPOL reports in addition to the two terrorism suspects arrested, another eight investigative leads linked to terrorism were generated during Operation Neptune IV. In total, the checks generated 140 hits, resulting in 14 additional arrests. They also executed following seizures worth $3.6 million, including 33 kg of cocaine, some 39,400 ecstasy pills, 133 kg of cannabis, and ten stolen cars. Ten firearms were also seized. 

The operation also targeted illicit migrant flows, with authorities in France, Italy, and Spain arresting suspected human traffickers and people smugglers. They reported intercepting 13 irregular migrants.

Italian authorities in the port of Genoa also seized some EUR 250,000 in undeclared cash. The investigators suspect it was part of illicit money flows towards the Middle East and North Africa region as part of terrorist financing.

“Operation Neptune ensures that we are coordinating law enforcement efforts at a national, regional, and global level,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “It provides a tangible response to security threats by better targeting the illicit movement of goods and people and serious organized crime activities. “We know that the threat landscape continues to evolve and so too must law enforcement responses to terrorism and transnational organized crime.”

INTERPOL’s databases currently hold details of more than 87,000 foreign terrorist fighters and some 1.6 million pieces of terrorist-related information. With thousands of vehicles and passengers crossing international borders via maritime routes every year, INTERPOL said that cross-border initiatives such as Operation Neptune demonstrate how concerted law enforcement action can disrupt terrorist threats and criminals on the move.