INTERPOL recently published details on its largest coordinated firearms operation ever, called Trigger IX. The operation allowed local authorities in multiple countries to make thousands of arrests and firearm seizures. The operation lasted three weeks(March 12 to April 2)  throughout 15 countries across Central and South America, with the primary goal of locating illicit firearms.  

INTERPOL reports that it gathered firearms experts from participating countries at Foz do Iguaçu in the tri-border area, bordering Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, as an operational hub to support frontline actions and ensure the swift exchange and cross-checking of intelligence. 

Although Red Notices may seem irrelevant to this operation, Operation Trigger IX and those like it can lead to Red Notices and and affect Red Notice subjects. To fully understand the connection between this operation and Red Notice subjects, let’s first review Operation Trigger IX’s results. 

Operation results as reported by INTERPOL

  • Authorities seized 8,263 firearms.
  • Authorities made 14,260 arrests. 
  •  In Uruguay, 100,000 pieces of ammunition trafficked internationally by two European nationals were seized by authorities, marking the country’s largest-ever ammunition seizure.
  • Authorities in Brazil and Paraguay shut down several firearms dealerships following the identification of irregular transfers and unlicensed sales.

Operation Trigger IX was enormously effective in achieving its goal and the operation additionally garnered unforeseen results. 

Unforeseen results

  • INTERPOL’s coordinations led to authorities’ disruption of 20 organized criminal groups, including the arrest of members of Primeiro Comando da Capital, Mara Salvatrucha, and the Balkans Cartel, all involved in firearms trafficking.
  •  Authorities dismantled a human trafficking ring, from which 11 victims were rescued in Paraguay.
  • A 32-year-old woman was arrested at the land border between Paraguay and Brazil with eight pistols and 16 chargers taped to her body.
  • In cooperation with Venezuela, police in Colombia arrested a Venezuelan national INTERPOL Red Notice subject for terrorism and arms trafficking.

Operation’s effect on Red Notice subjects

As seen in the bullet point above highlighting the arrest of a Red Notice subject, Operation Trigger IX and similar operations affect Red Notice Subjects. Red Notice subjects, a percentage of whom are actually law-abiding citizens, are most commonly found during international travel, immigration proceedings requiring background checks, and contact with domestic law enforcement officials.

Operations like this one typically require an influx of law enforcement officials with the power to locate and identify a Red Notice subject through INTERPOL’s systems. While Operation Trigger IX had a positive effect making thousands of presumably legitimate arrests and seizures, it also caused a widespread increase in law enforcement officials’ interactions with people, which is typically the manner in which invalid Red Notices are issued or acted upon.

Not only can Operations like this aid in locating Red Notice subjects, but they can also produce Red Notices. If a suspected perpetrator’s location becomes unknown, law enforcement may request a Red Notice released in their name to help locate them.  

Looking ahead, INTERPOL states that some 30 investigations were opened as a result of actions on the ground, and authorities identified 15 new modus operandi for the illicit manufacturing, trafficking, and concealment of firearms, with INTERPOL’s Purple Notice* leveraged to help alert member countries.

Up next: the link between illicit firearms and drug trafficking. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

*A Purple Notice is used to seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices, and concealment methods used by criminals.

Join this conversation with my esteemed colleagues, Yuriy Nemets and Jago Russell, tomorrow at 12 pm EST, 6 pm CET. Many thanks to Yuriy Nemets for hosting this webinar series.

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INTERPOL released a Blue Notice following Japan’s Foreign Ministry ordering GaaSyy to return his passport after police obtained an arrest warrant over celebrity defamation and threat allegations.  GaaSyy, whose real name is Yoshikazu Higashitani, allegedly threatened three people, including actor Go Ayano, in his YouTube videos. In the videos, he is accused of suggesting he would defame the three and urged one of them, a company owner, to go out of business. 

Mr. Higashitani has lived in the United Arab Emirates since before he won his seat as a lawmaker in Japan’s Upper House election in July 2022.  Just one day before these charges, Mr. Higashitani was expelled from his position as a Japanese lawmaker for not appearing at any sessions since he was elected last year. His expulsion is the first in over seven decades and only the third ever, the last expulsion being in 1951. 

Purpose of Blue Notices

Unlike Red Notices, Blue Notices can be issued prior to criminal charges being filed and differ from Red Notices in their function and use.  As previously posted by the RNLJ, a Blue notice exists to assist with the following:

  • Seeking the location of someone connected with a criminal investigation
  • Identifying someone connected with a criminal investigation
  • Finding witnesses to a criminal act, and
  • Locating friends, relatives, or associates of offenders or suspected offenders

As Mr. Higashitani’s precise location is currently unknown, the Blue Notice is likely being used to help locate him. 

If Japanese authorities request a Red Notice against Mr. Higashitani, the principle of dual criminality may prevent one from being issued, and it may also protect him from being extradited. Dual criminality occurs when the crime alleged by the country seeking the individual is also a crime in the country where the individual is located. Dual criminality is a requirement in most extradition treaties in order for extradition proceedings to take place.

Why a defamation charge may not lead to a Red Notice

Defamation is normally a civil charge rather than a criminal one in most countries. Likewise, threats of a general or unspecified nature, or conditional threats, are often not sufficient to form the basis for criminal charges. Civil matters cannot form the basis for INTERPOL’s involvement unless a criminal element also exists. It appears that the current allegations may not support a Red Notice request.

As of now, without a Red Notice, and with the potential barrier of dual criminality, Mr. Higashitani may not be extradited from the United Arab Emirates. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Our last post addressed how the media often fuels the misconceptions regarding INTERPOL. Today, we look to the case of Biafran Dissident Simon Ekpa and how misinformation on INTERPOL presented in journalistic accounts of his situation. 

Simon Ekpa

Simon Ekpa, a Biafran dissident residing in Finland, was arrested by Finnish Police after threatening to disrupt the forthcoming elections in Nigeria. As reported by Ripples Nigeria here, Mr. Ekpa is a self-proclaimed disciple of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. IPOB is a separatist group seeking the renewed declaration of Nigeria’s South-East  region as the Republic of Biafra.  Mr. Ekpa has allegedly achieved a history of inciting destruction through social media, including declaring sit-at-home orders, meaning people must remain in their homes for whatever amount of time demanded, threatening disobedience with death.

Finnish investigation and arrest

As explained by Premium Times here, according to an official statement shared by the Finnish embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Ekpa was arrested as part of n investigation by Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation into a suspected money collection offense. 

Multiple early news reports such as those published here and here here inaccurately reported that Mr. Ekpa was arrested by INTERPOL when Finnish police were responsible for his apprehension. 

It is unclear why INTERPOL was reported to have arrested Mr. Ekpa, as INTERPOL does not make arrests; he resides in Finland; and the alleged crime was not committed internationally.

INTERPOL’s role in criminal cases

When INTERPOL is involved in a case, a member country’s NCB (National Central Bureau) will request a Red Notice in order to locate and return an individual to the requesting country when the wanted person is believed to be abroad.

When accepted, the Red Notice is circulated to all of INTERPOL’s member countries which gain access to an individual’s information. The Red Notice Subject, once located, is then provisionally arrested pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Over the past several decades, popular media has contributed to a widespread misunderstanding of INTERPOL and how it operates. The media often portrays INTERPOL as a body that sends out detectives or agents to arrest and apprehend criminals. This is not the case. As explained in a previous blog post here, INTERPOL receives information from law enforcement agencies in INTERPOL member countries around the world. The organization then shares that information with other member countries to aid in the suspect’s apprehension.  

Fictional films on INTERPOL

For example, in the 2011 film version of The Adventures of Tintin:  The Secret of the Unicorn, the plot concerned two detectives who were “INTERPOL agents” investigating a crime.  This portrayal of detectives investigating crimes further feeds the misunderstanding of INTERPOL, and it continues today. More recently, the 2021 Netflix film Red Notice depicts Dwayne Johnson as an INTERPOL agent tracking down an international art thief. These portrayals are often the only times people hear about INTERPOL or Red Notices with any context, so they often lead to unrealistic ideas about the law enforcement support organization.

How INTERPOL member countries contribute to the media-driven misconceptions

The media-driven confusion is sometimes compounded by INTERPOL’s member countries themselves. Some member countries refer to their National Central Bureau offices – which are their liaisons between the countries and INTERPOL – by the name of “INTERPOL, ” although they are not actually operated by INTERPOL. For example, the United States refers to its NCB, which is the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., as “INTERPOL Washington.” This often leads individuals to reach out directly to the NCB for assistance on Interpol matters that have nothing to do with the United States, only to be directed to INTERPOL in Lyon, France.

Tthe confusion around INTERPOL’s purpose and functioning occasionally affects media reporting on real individuals. The post referenced above addresses multiple media outlets reporting in 2013 that INTERPOL’s agents in Mexico had gone missing while conducting an investigation. Reports stated that INTERPOL’s investigating officials had left the city of Chihuahua on Monday and had not reached their destination of Ciudad Juárez when INTERPOL had no such officials. 

All of this background information provides some context to RNLJ’s next post, in which we will address the false or erroneous reports regarding INTERPOL-related arrests that continue today. 

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.

A reader recently sent in the following question:

I wanted to know how long is a red alert in effect? I mean, when does it expires?

  • This question arises often, and with reason. 
  • INTERPOL’s member countries circulate Red Notices for people who are wanted either to stand trial or to serve a sentence.  People who are the subjects of Red Notices naturally want to know when it is safe to travel without risking detention or extradition due to an old Red Notice
  • Red Notices typically expire after five years.  However, they are subject to renewal if the INTERPOL member country that originally made the request advises INTERPOL that the notice should remain outstanding.  If a subject has not been apprehended after five years from the time the notice was originally issued, she should not assume that the notice no longer exists; it very may well be in effect.
  • In fact, some notices that should have been cancelled (due to the charges having been dropped, or the sentence having been served already, etc.) still remain in effect months or years later because the requesting member country fails to advise INTERPOL that the notice should be removed.

So the whole answer is: a Red Notice should be removed when its purpose has been served or no longer exists, or after five years, or longer if it’s renewed.

In our last segment, I discussed the way that the Dual Criminality requirement of most extradition treaties affects Red Notice subjects who are possibly facing extradition.

We left off with the idea that, even if extradition is prevented by a lack of dual criminality, a Red Notice can still lead to a person’s removal from a country. How can that happen?

  • A person can be removed, or deported from a country even if they can’t be extradited from it
  • For example: Italian citizen is in Canada on non-extraditable charges, Canadian authorities could remove/deport him back to Italy if they became aware of a Red Notice in his name.
  • They don’t have to, but they can if they wish because a foreign national’s presence in a country is at the discretion of the immigration authorities

Another means of transferring a person from one country to another is through diplomatic efforts, when the sending country feels its best interests would be served by providing the fugitive to the requesting country

The possibility of extradition or removal is the reason that many Red Notice subjects seek assistance with Red Notices even when they are in a safe country.

The main purpose of an INTERPOL Red Notice is for INTERPOL’s member countries to help each other find and extradite fugitives and bring them to justice.

So why do we sometimes see a wanted person living openly in another country, without being extradited to the country where she is wanted by the authorities?

  • A common requirement in extradition treaties is dual criminality requirement, meaning that the crime for which one country seeks the extradition of an individual must also be a crime in the country where the individual is currently located.
  • For example, in some countries, the crime of criminal association alone is enough for prosecution. In other countries, that crime must be prosecuted along with another crime in order to be valid.
  • Without dual criminality, extradition proceedings normally will not occur.
  • BUT, removal from another country can happen without extradition. In our next segment, I’ll talk about other methods of removal.

Why doesn’t INTERPOL list all Red Notice subjects on its website?

A Red Notice Law Journal reader  recently asked a common question arises when one’s life is touched by INTERPOL.  The question:

“How can you check whether you have a red notice in your name? I checked the Interpol site but I feel information is not accurate or updated. Please advise.”

  • The answer is, of course, it depends.  A small percentage of INTERPOL’s Red Notices are actually published on INTERPOL’s website.  The reason for this is that many of INTERPOL’s member countries choose not to publish the majority of their Red notices.  Bear in mind that the member countries own the information, and INTERPOL is the temporary keeper of the information for purpose of providing assistance to law enforcement officials who are looking for the subject.
  • While some Red Notice subjects will find themselves on the website, the majority do not.  They learn of to the Red Notice when they travel or attempt to travel, apply for immigration benefits, or receive a notice of account closure from their financial institutions.
  • The reason for the non-publication of most notices is that a wanted person is less likely to travel if he is aware of a Red Notice, so the person is more difficult to apprehend.  When a Red Notice subject travels, it’s more likely that identification checks at ports of entry to member countries will result in a “hit” in INTERPOL’s databases, thereby alerting authorities to his presence and providing the opportunity for detention.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with fellow practitioners Yuriy Nemets of Nemets Law and Ben Keith of 5 Saint Andrew’s Hill in a segment of the Nemets Law-hosted webinar series, “Open Conversations about INTERPOL Abuse.” The recorded conversation includes examples of Red Notice abuse in multiple countries, such as Ecuador, India, Mozambique, Paraguay, Russia, and Venezuela; it can be accessed below.