A Ukrainian woman arrested during an INTERPOL operation for smuggling 116 live tortoises into Thailand has been extradited to Tanzania to face prosecution.
Travelling to Bangkok from Dar es Salaam in July 2022, the suspect was first arrested during Operation Golden Strike 2022 when Thai Customs at Suvarnabhumi International Airport detected CITES-protected tortoise species concealed in her luggage.
Although the suspect fled Thailand before she could be fully prosecuted, intense international police cooperation resulted in her location, identification and extradition from Bulgaria to Tanzania on 17 June 2023.
It has been established that the suspect was working in collaboration with Egyptian and Tanzanian partners who assisted her to commit the offences.
CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade.
When the fugitive fled Thailand, Tanzania requested the global publication of two INTERPOL Red Notices, one for the suspect and a second for another suspected tortoise trafficker.
Establishing that the Ukrainian fugitive was a prominent member of a large wildlife smuggling transnational network, the INTERPOL General Secretariat deployed an operational support team to Bangkok to help local authorities follow up on leads triggered by the arrest and seizure, and to support efforts in locating her.
The General Secretariat hosted a regional investigative analytical case meeting in Lyon (20-22 February) with investigators and prosecutors from Tanzania, Thailand and Egypt to concentrate on locating the two Red Notice subjects.
One week later the Ukrainian fugitive was detected and arrested as she crossed the Bulgaria-Turkey border.
It was the INTERPOL Red Notice which flagged the suspect’s wanted status to law enforcement authorities at the land border.
The fugitive faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years for offences listed under the Wildlife Conservation Act and Economic Organized Crime Control Act.
Operation Golden Strike
Operation Golden Strike took place July 2022 to tackle wildlife trafficking, resulting in significant wildlife seizures, more than 300 arrests, and the dismantling of networks behind wildlife smuggling between Asia and Africa.
Funded by the government of China, Operation Golden Strike 2022 brought together police, customs, financial intelligence units and wildlife enforcement agencies in 28 countries for the simultaneous regional inspection of parcels, suitcases, vehicles, boats and cargo transporters transiting between the two continents.
INTERPOL’s environmental security activities are all externally funded and dependent on sustainable partnerships.