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Interpol-led LatAm swoop seizes thousands of weapons, $7.6b in drugs

Interpol-led LatAm swoop seizes thousands of weapons, $7.6b in drugs
A man passes an Interpol logo during the handing over ceremony of the new premises for Interpol's Global Complex for Innovation, a research and development facility, in Singapore on Sept 30, 2014.
PHOTO: Reuters

MEXICO CITY - Interpol said on Tuesday (April 18) its largest-ever fire arms swoop across Central and South America resulted in the seizure of thousands of illegal weapons and US$5.7 billion (S$7.6 billion) worth of drugs after unprecedented cooperation by 15 countries.

The international police organization added Central and South American authorities had made 14,260 arrests during "Operation Trigger IX", conducted between March 12 and April 2.

"The fact that an operation targeting illicit firearms resulted in such massive drugs seizures is further proof, if needed, that these crimes are intertwined," Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said in a statement.

The operation found 8,263 illicit firearms and nearly 306,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as 203 tonnes of drugs and 372 tonnes of drug precursors. 11 people were rescued in Paraguay when authorities dismantled a human trafficking ring, Interpol said.

It said law enforcement had reported a spike in drug-related violence over the past year, fueled by trafficking of illegal firearms. Its operation also uncovered corruption, fraud, environmental crime and terrorist activities.

The swoop saw participation from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

The operation comes as Mexico, backed by 16 US states and some Caribbean countries, appeals in a civil lawsuit against US gun manufacturers, seeking to hold them responsible for facilitating the trafficking of weapons across the border.

More than half of "crime guns" recovered and traced in Central America are sourced from the United States, according to US gun control agency ATF. This level nears 70 per cent for Mexico and is around 80 per cent across the Caribbean.

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