Fighting international drug cartels: European ministers and security authorities meet at the port of Hamburg

Fighting international drug cartels: European ministers and security authorities meet at the port of Hamburg

press release

, Date:
07 May 2024

Hamburg Declaration includes joint action

Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser in Hamburg today opened the ministerial meeting of the Coalition of European Countries against Serious and Organised Crime. This coalition brings together the national efforts of its members to fight organised crime and uses close operational cooperation to tackle organised drug trafficking.

Along with Germany, coalition members include Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The coalition today welcomed Sweden as a new member. Also attending the meeting were European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson; Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher; Senator Andy Grote, head of Hamburg’s Department of Interior Affairs; Holger Münch, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA); Tino Igelmann, head of the Customs Criminological Office (ZKA); and delegations from a number of South American countries. The meeting focused on port security and resilient logistical hubs with the aim of detecting and stopping the massive import of drugs – particularly cocaine – from South America and dismantling the drug cartels.

Federal Minister Faeser said: “We want to turn up the pressure on the international drug cartels even further. Our major international conference at the port of Hamburg today was very important for combining our efforts and ensuring that our law enforcement agencies together bring the greatest possible pressure to bear on the drug cartels.

“Drug crime creates a massive spiral of violence, as we have already seen in some countries, and we want to prevent that from happening in Germany at all costs. The volume of cocaine seized at the port of Hamburg has tripled in the last five years. That shows just how big this challenge is. But it also shows that our authorities are carrying out more inspections – and finding more drugs. And more than 1,700 people involved in organised crime have been arrested since our law enforcement agencies infiltrated the EncroChat encrypted messaging service.

“We need to make our seaports so secure that they are no longer gateways for tonnes of cocaine. This means frequent and intensive inspections, a high level of vigilance and effective measures to prevent corruption in the ports – as well as close cooperation among all stakeholders, from customs and the
police to shipping companies and port terminal operators.

“However, it is also clear that drug trafficking must be stopped at a much earlier stage, before the large volumes of cocaine ever reach our ports. We must take action against the criminals operating behind the scenes, identify the financial flows and dismantle the criminal networks. That is why we are
working with our European and South American partners. In the Hamburg Declaration that we adopted today, we agreed to take further important steps.”

Hamburg Declaration

At the ministerial conference, a joint declaration was adopted which provides for the following closely coordinated action in particular:

  • dismantling criminal networks through methods including intensive financial investigations (follow-the-money approach) in order to disrupt the flows of criminal funds, detect criminals operating behind the scenes and identify organised crime structures;
  • cooperating closely on investigations with the countries of origin and transit in South America in order to effectively curb and combat drug crime in those countries and along the entire logistical chain. This requires sharing information at an early stage and, if possible, carrying out joint investigations in compliance with the rule of law;
  • Sstrengthening logistical hubs through the European Ports Alliance, among other things, with strict inspection and security measures being implemented in order to effectively keep drugs from being imported into the European Union and to catch the criminals responsible. This includes stepping up efforts to prevent corruption within the companies operating at the ports. Cooperation is to be strengthened between the law enforcement and criminal prosecution authorities and all other public- and private-sector stakeholders, shipping companies and terminal operators at the ports.

Facts and figures

The volume of drugs, particularly cocaine, from South America seized in Europe has steadily increased in recent years. In 2023 alone, at least 43 tonnes of cocaine were seized in Germany (including some 34 tonnes at the port of Hamburg), 59.1 tonnes in the Netherlands and 116 tonnes in Belgium. The major ports in Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg serve as the gateways for illegal drugs to enter Europe.

The largest ongoing investigations are those resulting from the interception of communications by criminal organisations that used the EncroChat or Sky ECC encrypted messaging services. In connection with EncroChat, to date 3,964 investigations have been opened and 1,708 arrests made in Germany alone, and 11.3 tonnes of narcotics (cannabis, cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs) have been seized.

In connection with Sky ECC, to date 750 investigations have been opened and 482 arrests made in Germany alone, and 33.7 tonnes of narcotics (cannabis, cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs) have been seized.

Messages sent via EncroChat and Sky ECC have provided the security authorities with important information about the structures of organised crime, with an emphasis on drug trafficking and related crime such as money laundering, corruption, weapons offences and violent crimes.

Further measures taken by the security authorities

Cooperation with the source countries of narcotics will be significantly intensified. To this end, Federal Minister Faeser recently travelled to Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, where she agreed with all four countries to tighten operational police cooperation in order to fight drug trafficking even more

Germany became a partner of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) in late March 2024. It is based in Lisbon and staffed by liaison officers from EU law enforcement authorities and other partners. In 2023 alone, the Centre was instrumental in the interception of narcotics with a market value of €5.5 billion. The Centre’s main task is to coordinate the deployment and operation of vessels and aircraft during joint operations in the fight against drug trafficking. The country leading the investigation then decides whether a vessel is to be intercepted and how the operation is to be
carried out.

Originally published at;jsessionid=1FB32E982AFB15C14522404D7D2FE598.live861

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