On September 23, INTERPOL announced the recent success of its coordinated operation, Operation Tighten the Net, arresting 241 fugitives across Asia between June and August 2019. These fugitives were wanted for serious crimes including human trafficking, terrorism, and murder, and some of the fugitives had been on the run for decades.
The operation involved the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan, and Korea (ASEAN+3). Operation Tighten the Net targeted fugitives that these countries wanted for years, but only with a coordinated effort were they able to find success. The countries took a multilateral approach to share information about the fugitives’ cases, which serves as an example of the power and success that can arise with international cooperation.
In order to achieve the goals of the operation, the countries identified high-profile fugitives and shared intelligence with participating members. Equipped with new and crucial information, these countries could then target the fugitives to bring them to justice. Of the individuals arrested, 80 were subjects of INTERPOL Red Notices for crimes ranging from fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering, and crimes against children.
One particular case that stands out involves a Korean national who was wanted on fraud charges and had been on the run for 25 years. Through this operation, the national was finally discovered living in Thailand, their home for the last 20 years.
The results encompassed not only hundreds of arrests, but they also included the issuance of 248 Red Notices and 20 Blue Notices. A Blue Notice differs from a Red Notice in that it is used by member countries to collect additional information about an individual’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.
INTERPOL’s goal is to continue this cooperative crackdown and arrest more fugitives suspected of these serious crimes. INTERPOL’s Head of the Liaison Office in Thailand, Kitaek Kang, reaffirmed the organization’s intent to continue working with all ASEAN+3 partners to build on the momentum of the operation.
INTERPOL credits some of the operation’s success to a training it held in May for participating member states. The training workshop focused on INTERPOL’s fugitive investigation capabilities and criminal databases, as well as the organization’s support to mutual legal assistance matters. This educated participants on the organization’s resources and illustrated how they could then use these resources to capture the alleged criminals.
INTERPOL also claimed the operation’s success derived from the efforts of the participating National Central Bureaus (NCBs) as well as partner law enforcement organizations.
This operation is distinctive as it marks the first regional fugitive investigative action coordinated by the INTERPOL Liaison Office in Bangkok, Thailand, with support from the INTERPOL NCB in Korea.
As a result, the Commissioner General of the Korean National Police Agency, Min Gab Ryong, commented on the operation with the confirmation of Korea’s commitment to collaborate with INTERPOL against crime while securing the rule of law in the region by “synchronizing efforts with regional partners as a member of ASEAN+3.”
This positive reception was encouraging for INTERPOL since, in the past, the organization has experienced scrutiny over its true effectiveness due to its absence of police power and ability to make arrests. However, this action helps to demonstrate the impact that the organization can have on global policing. In this case, the organization facilitated international cooperation and policing while providing resources in order to complete these 241 arrests. It will be interesting to see if INTERPOL attempts to make similar efforts in other global regions.