London, Nov 10 (PTI) A consignment of cocaine en route to India from Nigeria and thousands of tablets of illegal drugs en route from India to the UK are among some of the major seizures confirmed by the UK Border Force in London on Tuesday.
During a month-long Operation Thunder, Border Force said its officers at ports and airports made 178 seizures containing thousands of products regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
These included elephant tusks and other ivory goods, live corals and reptile skin products. Its non-CITES seizures involved heroin, cocaine, cannabis and cigarettes, including 500 gms cocaine from Nigeria to India and 174,400 sildenafil (Viagra) tablets from India to the UK.
The international operation was co-led by the World Customs Organisation (WCO) and the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and involved police, customs, environment, wildlife and forestry agencies from 111 countries.
The aim was to focus enforcement activities on criminal groups, leading to the disruption of organised wildlife trafficking, the Border Force said.
The worldwide Operation Thunder ran from September 14 to October 11, leading to the seizure of, among other items, 1.3 tonnes of ivory, more than one tonne of Pangolin scales, 1,400 live turtles and 1,800 reptiles.
“The trade in endangered species is driven by organised crime groups and the movement of banned animal products is key to how they operate,” Chris Philp, UK Minister for Immigration Compliance and Courts.
“This is why Border Force’s specialist officers will continue their vital work at the border to prevent the importation and exportation of endangered animals and plants, as well as working alongside enforcement partners such as the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and police from across the UK to eradicate this ruthless and exploitative trade,” he said.
The UK Border Force said its officers at ports and airports across the UK have intensified their enforcement activity to coincide with the international operation.
Some of the other Operation Thunder seizures included cacti Astrophytum asterias, queen Conch Pearl, Brazilian Rosewood furniture (Dalbergia nigra), mounted butterflies, live corals and health/ beauty supplements containing cactus, orchid and crocodile blood.
In the UK, the Border Force is responsible for frontline detection and seizure of items covered by the CITES convention, which tackles the illegal trade in endangered animals and plants. The Heathrow Airport based CITES team are specialist officers recognised as world leaders in their field, the Border Force said. PTI AK NSA NSA