International Narcotics Control Board and partners disrupt trafficking networks in Operation Knockout 


VIENNA, 26 May 2023 - A special operation led by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), in collaboration with over 100 national law enforcement and regulatory enforcement agencies and international partner organizations, has identified illicit global sources and disrupted trafficking networks for new psychoactive substances (NPS) used to facilitate sexual assault and resulted in the seizure of over one metric ton of drugs.

Operation Knockout targeted 1,4-butanediol (1,4-BD), carisoprodol, flubromazepam, gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and ketamine, and led to 671 seizures, amounting to more than 785 kg and 225 litres of drugs. Ketamine accounted for half of the substances seized, totalling over 500 kg. Ketamine is a non-controlled substance used in anaesthesia and which is included in the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines, but which is also used to commit drug-facilitated sexual assault.

The operation was conducted under the framework of the INCB's Global Rapid Interdiction of Dangerous Substances (GRIDS) Programme Project Ion and OPIOIDS Project, along with the INCB's Precursors Control Programme Project PRISM. Support was received from international and regional partners, including Interpol, the Universal Postal Union, the World Customs Organization, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, the Gulf Criminal Information Centre to Combat Drugs, and the Oceania Customs Organization.

Intelligence sharing among the 160 participating law and regulatory enforcement officers was facilitated through the INCB Project Ion Incident Communication System (IONICS). As a result, 43 countries and territories were identified as points of origin, transit or destination. To enhance national targeting efforts, participating agencies accessed real-time actionable intelligence from the GRIDS Intelligence HD targeting platform. The new Scanning of Novel Opioids on Online Platforms (SNOOP) tool, developed under the OPIOIDS Project, provided details of suspicious online vendors and marketplaces that appeared to be exploiting global e-commerce platforms for trafficking in the target substances. The operation also benefitted from the use of INCB's PEN Online Light system, an online tool facilitating the exchange of pre-export notifications of legitimate shipments of internationally non-scheduled chemicals, including GBL. Operation Knockout also provided crucial information for ongoing investigations in several countries.

INCB commends the efforts of the agencies and partners involved in Operation Knockout. Through activities such as these that combine intelligence sharing, state-of-the-art platforms and strategic partnerships, INCB is supporting Member States in countering illicit drug trafficking and protecting the health and wellbeing of communities worldwide from the misuse of these substances.

The International Narcotics Control Board is the independent United Nations body responsible for promoting and monitoring compliance with the three international drug control conventions. It cooperates with governments and international organizations to prevent non-medical drug use and trafficking while ensuring the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes.

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