Seychelles plays key role in major drug bust


On Tuesday last week, the Rappicc received an urgent request for assistance from the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon, Portugal, to obtain permission from the Union of Comoros for naval forces to board a freighter in the Mediterranean Sea.
The freighter was suspected of carrying a significant amount of drugs from Morocco, a major transit country for cannabis resin, to an undisclosed destination in Western Europe.
The swift intervention of the Rappicc supported by colleagues from the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and EU Naval Force (Atalanta), enabled permission to be obtained from the flag state, the Union of Comoros, for the vessel to be boarded and searched and the large quantity of drugs was discovered on-board.

It is to be noted that under Article 17 of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the permission of the flag state is required before a vessel can be boarded on the high seas.

The vessel is now under the custody of the Italian authorities and an investigation has started.
“This is an excellent example of how timely intelligence coordination between the law enforcement agencies and forces of different States can be used to thwart drug-trafficking,” says a communiqué from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Transport. 

“The commissioning of the Seychelles-based Rappicc as a regional coordination point for countering maritime crime in the Indian Ocean is a strong indication of the value nation states place on Seychelles in the international fight against transnational organised crime and is an excellent result for the new Rappicc centre based here in Seychelles,” adds the communiqué.

The new Rappicc centre was officially opened in Seychelles on February 25, 2013 by President James Alix Michel and British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Alistair Burt MP. 

In his opening speech the Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joël Morgan said: “The establishment of the Rappicc today by the Republic of Seychelles and the United Kingdom, in conjunction with our partners from the international community, is a clear and unambiguous signal of our collective political will to proactively answer the challenge of transnational crime with an effective transnational response.”

The Rappic is run jointly by the Seychelles and the United Kingdom. Former Seychelles Police Officer Joseph Bibi is currently pursuing development studies to become the Seychelles director of Rappicc in 2014.

Seychelles President James Michel and British Prime Minister David Cameron signed a memorandum of understanding for the setting up in Seychelles of the Rappicc at a meeting at Number 10, Downing Street on February 22, 2012. At the time of the signing of the agreement the UK pledged financial assistance of £550,000 for the centre.

Rappicc’s raison d’être is to gather intelligence for the use of law enforcement agencies, in order to provide necessary evidence for prosecutions related to piracy activity in both the region and around the world.

Minister Morgan chairs the steering committee of Rappicc. Many nations of the region as well as international partners and law enforcements agencies of the world will be coordinating and working in the Rappicc, which is a multi-national centre.