Suspected illegal ivory trader targeted in INTERPOL operation arrested in Zambia
LYON, France – A public appeal as part of an INTERPOL operation focusing on individuals wanted for environmental crimes has led to the arrest of a fugitive in Zambia.
Ben Simasiku had fled from Botswana in 2012 after he and three other suspected illegal ivory traders were arrested in possession of 17 cut pieces of elephant tusks weighing approximately 115 kg. He is one of the targets highlighted by INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra (International Fugitive Round Up and Arrest) and featured in a public appeal for information.
Launched on 6 October, INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra brought together investigators from 21 of the participating countries at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters to directly share information on more than 130 suspects wanted by 36 countries for crimes including illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, illegal trade and disposal of waste, illegal logging and trading in illicit ivory.
Details of the wanted persons, their suspected locations and any other potentially identifying information was collated and analyzed, before being sent to involved countries for further action.
During the operation, investigators from Botswana and Zambia exchanged information on Simasiku – including his suspected location in Zambia – with the support of INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit.
In parallel, the Zambia Wildlife Authority received a tip from a member of the public regarding a person in possession of ivory in the city of Livingstone. Through collaboration with the Zambia Police, 32-year-old Simasiku was arrested on 2 December, when police also recovered jewellery made of ivory.
“Crimes that harm the environment are not always looked upon as ‘serious’ crimes, which is something INTERPOL hopes to change through actions such as Operation Infra Terra. This arrest demonstrates a change in attitude: that all fugitives will be sought to face justice, regardless of the crime they have committed,” said Stefano Carvelli, Head of INTERPOL’s FIS unit.
“This case also demonstrates how increasing public awareness of how people might encounter criminal activity in their daily lives is critical for police. The alert individual who provided the tip to the Zambian police played an important role in the arrest.
“I would like to congratulate all those involved, and encourage the public to remain vigilant to assist police worldwide in locating and arresting the remaining fugitives wanted as part of Operation Infra Terra,” concluded Mr Carvelli.
Simasiku is currently awaiting extradition to Botswana.