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Artifacts seized in Interpol operation

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A marble head was among the seizures made during the first joint customs and police operation codenamed Athena organized by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL, and the Europe-focused Operation Pandora II coordinated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol. courtesy photo

 More than 41,000 objects including coins, furniture, paintings, musical instruments, archaeological pieces and sculptures were seized in a global operation targeting the trafficking of cultural artifacts between October and December 2017.

The seizures were made during the customs and police operation codenamed Athena organized by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL, and the Europe-focused Operation Pandora II coordinated by the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol.

It included checks at airports and border crossing points, searches at auction houses, museums and private homes and monitoring of online markets.

In just one investigation in Spain, the Guardia Civil seized more than 2,000 cultural objects, the majority of which were coins from the Roman and other Empires.

Officials also seized 88 pieces of ivory as well as weapons including swords, a crossbow and 39 historical firearms ranging from rifles to pistols.

Other highlights:

· Argentinean Federal Police recovered the shell of a Glyptodon, an extinct mammal. The shell, estimated to be more than one million years old, was on sale for $150,000.

· Brazilian Customs seized a marble head hidden in a passenger’s suitcase. Verification of the piece’s provenance is ongoing.

· A painting by Nicolas de Staël worth approximately € 500,000 was intercepted by French Customs at the Gare du Nord in Paris as it was being smuggled to London.

· Searches of a businessman’s two homes and two commercial properties by Greek Police resulted in the recovery of 41 archaeological objects which did not have the necessary license. 

Tens of thousands of checks were carried out at airports and border crossing points across 81 countries. Auction houses, museums and private houses were also searched, resulting in more than 300 investigations being opened and 101 people arrested. courtesy photo.

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Have you seen me: Red notice for suspected ivory trafficker

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Madi Conteh

 Courtesy of Interpol. March 2017

LYON, France – Interpol issued an internationally wanted persons Red Notice for a suspected ivory trafficker following the seizure of hundreds of pieces of elephant tusks in Thailand.

The Red Notice for Madi Conteh, a Gambian national, was published at the request of the Malawi authorities, where he is wanted on charges of ‘exporting government trophies without permit’. Conteh is suspected of concealing 330 kg of ivory pieces in a shipment falsely labeled as unprocessed gemstones sent from Malawi and seized in Bangkok in early March.

Due to heightened trafficking concerns following the recovery of illegal ivory in a similar shipment from Africa in 2016, customs authorities conducted additional checks of the cargo and discovered 442 pieces of ivory worth around USD 500,000 concealed in several containers.

Another Gambian national was arrested in Bangkok when he attempted to pick up the shipment containing the trafficked ivory. The two are suspected to be part of an ivory trafficking ring involved in smuggling elephant tusks from Africa to Asia.

Interpol’s Environmental Security unit is supporting the investigation through its Project Wisdom which assists member countries in combating the illegal trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn.

A new Interpol initiative launched in January targets traffickers in Asia sourcing wildlife from Africa, by providing a strengthened law enforcement response in source, transit and destination countries, particularly those linked to the illicit trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn and Asian big cat products.

Second ivory smuggler captured from Infra Terra list

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Feisal Ali. Photo courtesy Interpol

Feisal Ali. Photo courtesy Interpol

Police have nabbed a second person for alleged ivory smuggling in connection with an Interpol’s Infra Terra round-up. Feisal Ali was picked up in Tanzania just in time for the holidays.

Released in October, Infra Terra is essentially Interpol’s most wanted list of wildlife criminals. Ali joined eight others wanted for logging, poaching, pollution and fishing violations.

Ali’s arrest came weeks after another suspected ivory trader, Ben Simasiku, was arrested in Zambia. Simasiku, who was also on the Infra Terra list, had fled from Botswana in 2012 after he and three others were allegedly connected to 17 cut pieces of elephant tusks weighing approximately 115 kg.

Others on the list include: Adriano Giacobone of Italy, Ahmed Kamran of Pakistan, Bhekumusa Mawillis Shiba of South Africa, Ariel Bustamante Sanchez of Mexico, Nicolaas Antonius Duindam of the Netherlands, Sergey Darminov of Russia and Sudiman Sunoto of Indonesia.

Below is the Interpol release on Ali’s capture:

Tanzanian police hold suspected Kenyan ivory smuggling ring leader targeted in INTERPOL operation
Dec. 24, 2014

LYON, France – A Kenyan national suspected of leading an international ivory smuggling syndicate has been arrested in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, after he was targeted by an INTERPOL operation focusing on individuals wanted for environmental crimes.

Feisal Ali was highlighted by INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra (International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest) and featured in a worldwide INTERPOL public appeal for information in November. He is the second high-profile suspect to be arrested as part of Operation Infra Terra after Ben Simasiku was arrested in Zambia earlier this month.

Ali was the subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice for internationally wanted persons issued at the request of Kenyan authorities who suspect him of being behind an international ivory smuggling ring. In June authorities in Mombasa allegedly found him in possession of 314 pieces of ivory weighing more than 2.1 tonnes, including 228 complete elephant tusks.

Launched on 6 October, INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra gathered investigators from 21 of the participating countries to directly share information on more than 130 suspects wanted by 36 countries for crimes including illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, illegal trade and disposal of waste, illegal logging and trading in illicit ivory.

During the operation, with the support of INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit, investigators from Kenya and Tanzania exchanged information on Ali and his suspected location in Dar Es Salaam, via INTERPOL’s global tools, its National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi as well as the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Feisal Ali now awaits repatriation to Kenya to stand trial for the offences he is charged with.

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