TWELVE arrests – six in Spain – in a massive international operation against the illegal trade in reptiles.
Operation Blizzard, coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL, involved agencies from 22 countries and led to seizures ranging from live animals to high-end fashion products. The operational activities targeted aircraft passengers, commercial cargo, pet shops and those legally allowed to keep reptiles.
Almost 1,500 live snakes, lizards and geckos were seized from right across Europe. The inspections led to the arrests, with the other six held in Italy.
Globally, operation Blizzard resulted in the seizure of 4,419 live animals including 2,703 turtles and tortoises, 1,059 snakes, 512 lizards and geckos and 20 crocodiles and alligators. Investigators also seized 152 handbags, wallets, watchstraps, medicines and taxidermies derived from reptiles.
Europol supported participating countries to exchange information and intelligence ahead of the operation. This information was used to build the profiles of offenders and their associates and track their activity.
Countries which took part in operation Blizzard include Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the USA.
Pedro Felício, head of Europol’s Economic and Property Crime Unit, said: “Wildlife trafficking has increased significantly in recent years to the point where we have now thousands of reptiles, worth millions of euros, being seized every year by EU law enforcement agencies with the support of Europol. Globally coordinated police operations like operation Blizzard are now at the forefront of environmental preservation. Nevertheless, despite the various efforts made, the threat of environmental crime remains high.”