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101 people arrested and 19,000 artefacts recovered in international crackdown

More than 19,000 archaeological artefacts and other artworks have been recovered as part of a global operation spanning 103 countries and focusing on the dismantlement of international networks of art and antiquities traffickers.

101 suspects have been arrested, and 300 investigations opened as part of this coordinated crackdown. The criminal networks handled archaeological goods and artwork looted from war-stricken countries, as well as works stolen from museums and archaeological sites.

Seizures include coins from different periods, archaeological objects, ceramics, historical weapons, paintings and fossils. Facilitating objects, such as metal detectors were also seized.

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Operation ALAMBA 2020 was managed by an Operational Coordination Unit (OCU) established in Dakar, Senegal. 14 participating Customs administrations as well as the Security and Intervention Forces (SIF) and the Regional Liaison Offices Intelligence Offices (RILO) were involved in the Operation and deployed their officials to the OCU.

The operation was the culmination of a two year capacity building project conducted by the WCO with funding from the Government of Japan, in which the 14 WCO Member Customs administrations received chemical identification equipment and extensive training in the detection of the precursor chemicals and components used by terrorist to manufacture IEDs.

“The outstanding results achieved during Operation ALAMBA 2020 demonstrate what can be achieved by committed and skilled Customs officers, working collaboratively across national borders,” said WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya. He added that “these seizures will have a significant impact on the activities of terrorist and criminal organizations and will contribute to greater security and stability in the West and Central African region. I am confident that this operation has further strengthened relations between participants and that the counter-terrorism capability of Customs in the region will continue to grow”.

Dr. Mikuriya went on to thank the 14 Customs administration for their strong commitment that led to the success of this operation and in particular the Senegalese Customs for generously hosting the OCU in Dakar.

Background information:

The operation code-name “ALAMBA”, comes from the Marba language of Southern Chad and describes a collective fight managed by skilled men and represents cooperation, strategy, intelligence and common willingness.

The 14 participating Customs administrations were from: Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chad; Central African Republic; Côte d’Ivoire; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Guinea; Liberia; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; and Togo.

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