A recurring client question these days is whether INTERPOL is working during this pandemic. The answer is a resounding “yes.” We’ve noticed that the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files is responding to simple requests for access even more quickly than before. We are also noticing that INTERPOL’s member countries are still searching for Red Notice subjects and using INTERPOL’s tools in their extradition efforts.

A recent example concerns the coordinated efforts of Brazil and Argentina to capture Gonzalo Sanchez, a former Argentine Navy officer, in the coastal municipality of Angra dos Reis. Mr. Sanchez is alleged to have been a part of the notorious Task Group 3.3 charged with combating ‘subversives’, and is accused of participating in dozens of ‘forced disappearances’ and killings during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military regime. In 2009, an INTERPOL Red Notice was issued at Argentina’s request against Sanchez.

INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit had been following the case as part of Project BASIC – a coordinated effort to crack down on outstanding war criminals. Earlier this year, upon receiving information that Mr. Sanchez was likely to attend a family reunion in Brazil, local officers coordinated with Argentinian officials to locate and arrest him. INTERPOL reports that the pandemic made the search more difficult:

Complicating the surveillance effort, however, was the arrival of the global COVID-19 pandemic to Brazil’s shores. The pandemic meant street circulation was down, making the presence of police harder to disguise, and restrictions on public gatherings meant that Sanchez would not be attending religious gatherings any time soon.

On the day after Mother’s day in Brazil (10 May), the police task force received intelligence indicating that a core group of people close to Sanchez, including his seven-year-old son, were travelling up the coast to the “Taquari hinterland”. Bordering a vast mountainous nature reserve, the area was exposed with few houses, meaning a discreet police approach would be practically impossible. When the team arrived as close as they could without raising suspicion, they conferred with locals who indicated that Sanchez was hiding in a house on the outskirts of the village, closest to the nature reserve.

Police entered the house to find Gonzalo Sanchez with his family and close friends, confirming the thesis of a family reunion. None of those present offered any resistance and Sanchez was taken into custody.

INTERPOL’s report on the manhunt is here.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.