LONDON (Reuters) - Seven European countries will sign an agreement on Sunday that officially launches a new centre to tackle cocaine smuggling in the Atlantic.
The Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre - Narcotics (MAOC-N), based in Lisbon, aims to gather intelligence about traffickers from across the European Union in order to deploy troops and police in the right place to catch them.
The agreement, to be signed by Portugal, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Britain and the Netherlands, will for the first time provide a coordination point for tackling drug smuggling by sea and air, mainly from South America and West Africa.
Even before the centre’s official launch, it had already played a leading role in coordinating 22 operations resulting in 10 seizures amounting to more than 10 tonnes of cocaine, Britain’s Home Office said in a statement.
In one operation 840 kg (1,850 lbs) of cocaine was recovered from a Brazilian-flag vessel which was intercepted by a French naval vessel acting on British intelligence.
“The last 10 years have seen a significant increase in the collaboration of EU member states to tackle drug trafficking from South America to Europe, resulting in some sizeable seizures,” the Home Office said.
“But even with this unprecedented level of cooperation, the amount of cocaine targeted at European markets continues to rise.”
The first director of the centre, which will also host officers from the EU police agency Europol, and the U.S. Joint Inter Agency Task Force, will be a senior officer from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).