Drug traffickers, money launderers in trouble
March 24, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Paolo Conteh (left) crime scene operation skit demonstrated by Operation Support Division (OSD) (right)
Drug traffickers, money launderers and other transnational organised criminals, would now be in trouble as the headquarters of the Transnational Organised Crimes Unit (TOCU) of the Sierra Leone Police force has yesterday been commissioned at the Police Training School in Hastings.
The construction of the TOCU headquarters was funded by the United States’ Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy, Laurie Meininger, said a critical part of the U.S partnership involves collaborating with the government of Sierra Leone to enhance and strengthen law enforcement and security.
She added that they have been helping Sierra Leone’s law enforcement to keep the country safe from external threats, in particular the scourge of transnational organised crime networks, which has eroded the rule of law in countries around the world, including the United States and Sierra Leone.
“The U.S. government has leveraged $1.7 million to train, equip, and operationalise TOCU, so that it will carry out its important mandate. We have provided a wide variety of basic and advanced law enforcement trainings, mentorship by subject-matter experts, donation of vehicles and a boat, the substantial costs for the construction and furnishings for this new building before us,” she said.
She said a major reason for being so proud of U.S. involvement in the construction of TOCU’s headquarters was that it has already demonstrated results which included TOCU’s Management Board meeting regularly to discuss crime trends, seeking input on current investigations, and developing investigative training priorities.
She disclosed last year, TOCU investigated 54 transnational crime cases, including fraudulent travel documents, human trafficking, illicit drug sales, money laundering, and conspiracy, adding that a significant number of those cases resulted in convictions.
“I hope this new headquarters will be a key gathering point for law enforcement agencies to work together for Sierra Leone’s continued peace, security and prosperity,” she wished.
Minister of Internal Affairs, Rtd. Maj. Paolo Conteh, in his keynote address, said before the construction of the TOCU headquarters, it operation was cumbersome because its officials were housed at various offices of the Sierra Leone Police, but would now work effectively and efficiently, because they were now housed in one building.
He said there was a need for adequate logistics and training support in order to enhance TOCU’s operations.
“Government is cognizance of the threat posed by transnational organised crimes. We want to appreciate the government of U.S.A. for providing funding for the construction of this building,” he said.
He appealed for stronger cooperation to fight drug traffickers, money launderers, and terrorists, among other criminals.
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Richard Moigbe, disclosed that they would soon open a forensic laboratory, a science supported investigation and a mortuary at the newly commissioned TOCU headquarters.
“As frontline officials to fighting crimes, we are ready to cooperate with all institutions in a bid to fight transnational crimes in this country,” he said.
National Security Coordinator, Office of National Security (ONS), Ishmael Tarawallie, said threat posed by transnational and organised crime was serious, adding that Sierra Leone remains prepared to fight money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism, among other crimes.
He said the collaboration with many sectors in the country will help TOCU to investigate and prosecute transnational organised crimes, adding that TOCU now has a place in the national security architecture, and would be provided with the necessary budget that will enhance its efficient and effective operations.