BRUSSELS : From 30 April 2021 to 4 May 2022, the World Customs Organization (WCO) ran the largest-ever Customs-led global operation involving 160 Member Customs administrations, with the support of a number of international organizations, to crack down on the illicit trade in medicines, vaccines and medical devices related to COVID-19. The operation, called STOP II, consisted of three phases. On 9 June 2022, the final results of Operation STOP II were announced during a Global Webinar.
During the three phases, a total of 2,769 cases of trafficking were reported by 90 Members and some 4,034 cases of seizures were recorded. Of the 501.5 million units seized, 273.6 million were medicines related to COVID-19 (ivermectin, doxycycline, pregabalin, etc.), 214.4 million were medical devices (COVID-19 test kits, face masks, used gloves, sanitizer gel, oxygen cylinders, etc.) and around 13.5 million were doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
In his opening speech at the Global Webinar, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the WCO, reported on the success of the operation and reaffirmed the important role played by Customs in protecting society. He thanked WCO Members for their unfailing commitment and continuous efforts towards that goal. He also extended his gratitude to the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs), participating pharmaceutical companies and partner international organizations, namely Europol, INTERPOL, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), for their cooperation. He emphasized that the key to the success of STOP II was enhanced data analysis, including the development of trend and risk indicators, and concluded by confirming the value of this approach.
During the Global Webinar, Ms. Maryse Patricia NKOMA, Deputy Director General of the Gabon Customs Administration, congratulated the WCO on the success of Operation STOP II and reiterated the importance of the Organization’s ongoing support with a view to strengthening controls to detect illicit medicines, vaccines and medical devices.
In his keynote address, Mr. W. Sakata, Director General of Japan’s Customs and Tariff Bureau, expressed his pride in his country’s timely financial assistance for this operation. He applauded the excellent results achieved by Members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when Customs’ role in protecting citizens’ health and safety was becoming increasingly important.
The IPR CENcomm Group secure communication tool was used during STOP II for data exchange on counterfeit medical supplies and fake medicines, enabling real-time sharing of information between Members. The WCO analysed Members’ seizure reports straightaway and promptly provided them with up-to-date trend reports, enabling Customs administrations to boost their enforcement capabilities.
Prior to the operational phases, training was dispensed to participating Members in close collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and partner international organizations. A total of 95 webinars and training sessions were conducted, attended by some 5,100 participants who gained the knowledge required to make the operation a success.