Operation TIN CAN Targets Rip-On/Rip-Off Concealment

April 4, 2023

Source: Australian Border Force
Source: Australian Border Force

A major joint operation organised by the Australian Border Force (ABF), World Customs Organization (WCO), the World Shipping Council and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has led to 43 arrests and more than 100 drug seizures, including 98,734 kilograms of cocaine and 314 kilograms of cannabis.

58 countries were involved, and the ABF worked alongside officers from German Customs, United Kingdom Border Force, US Customs and Border Protection and the Dutch Customs Administration to deliver a series of coordinated strikes on organised crime.

The operation, which ran in November and December last year, saw cooperation with the shipping industry and a combination of traditional law enforcement methods and new innovative data visualisation tools, tracking, and inspection technologies.

ABF officers deployed to Colombia and Panama as part of the operation worked alongside Colombian authorities during the seizure of around 100 kilograms of cocaine from inside a shipping container. Each block of cocaine was individually wrapped into one kilogram packages and hidden within the container's structure.

815 kilograms of cocaine was also seized by Costa Rica's Drug Control Police from a truck intending to enter the container terminal. A further 25 kilograms of cocaine was located by police in Ecuador concealed in a container's internal refrigeration and ventilation systems.

Increasingly, organised crime syndicates have been turning to the “rip-on/rip-off" concealment method which involves the exploitation of shipping containers to traffic illicit drugs around the world. As cargo moves from the country of origin to the country of destination, insiders at each port (such as corrupt port workers) tamper with legal shipments. The key to their success depends on access to the location of a specific container, insider knowledge of the port environment and the ability to coordinate insider threats at both ends of the transport supply chain.

The contamination of container cargo has become the most frequently used concealment method for organised crime groups to move cocaine and other illicit drugs around the world. The threat of the involvement of insiders is a major concern for law enforcement agencies, and they have now updated their cargo selection criteria and are targeting new trafficking trends that were observed during the operation.

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