By Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter
Most of the cocaine landing in Qatar comes from Latin American countries such as Argentina and Brazil, which criminal groups see as a potentially lucrative drug route, a senior narco-terrorism expert said yesterday.
Johan Obdola, executive director of an NGO International Organisation for Security and Intelligence, said despite extremely strict laws and best efforts of law enforcement agencies, Latin American drug cartels continue to see GCC countries as a potential market for expanding their illicit trade.
The expert was a guest speaker at the Middle East Homeland Security Summit taking place in Doha.
Obdola is an international expert on narco-terrorism and a former chief of The International Association of Airport and Seaport Police, Canada’s Latin American bureau. He has over 25 years of international experience in security and law enforcement.
“We have some information that there are some Latin American criminal groups operating from the UAE. Also, most of the cocaine that is being seized here in Qatar is coming from Brazil or Argentina,” he said while speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the summit.
“Latin American officials are already saying that there is a new drug route from Argentina or Brazil to Qatar. So it’s just the tip of the iceberg that we are looking at,” he said.
Obdola said it was interesting to note that even though there were strict laws and security measures in place, drug trafficking takes place in the GCC region, including seizure of cocaine in Qatar.
Local authorities had said the contraband seized in Doha were meant for other markets and Qatar was being used only as transit point.
Obdola said the authorities in the region had been very effective. But he cautioned them to be aware of emerging threats.
“There is an immediate need for GCC states to develop new regional and international initiatives on intelligence and security operational coordination not only with major industrialised countries, but in a truly global perspective,” he said.
Terrorists and criminals are converging and establishing new co-operations, bases, support and ventures on a global scale.
There are Latin America drug cartels, and narco-terrorist members and cells operating in Africa, Europe and Asia in close association with local and other international criminal and terrorist associates.
At the same time, there are terrorist groups, cells and representatives from the Middle East, Europe and Asia working independently or in association with local criminal and narco-terrorist groups in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The objectives and orientation of these groups may vary, but the source of finances are global, and the GCC members should consider this as a very possible threat with a great need for immediate action.”
Another expert, Dr Theodore Karasik, director of Research and Development of UAE’s Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said homeland security in the GCC and Middle East was becoming a key issue of interest in terms of threat perception.
“Since the Arab Spring began, the GCC and Middle East states are thinking about what modifications they need, if any, in protecting their infrastructure, cyber defences, ports, both land and sea and other critical nodes that help make their countries function in a complex environment,” he said.
He added that not all states were facing the same threat potential but the similarities and differences could be both revealing and important about future defensive measures being taken in the GCC and Middle East, as a new order emerged where states were divided over sectarianism, secularism and tribalism.
Omar Sherin, manager (Critical Infrastructure Information Protection) from Qatar Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), Supreme Council of Information & Communications Technology, said the oil and gas sectors that were of monumental value to the economy of the Gulf countries had witnessed several high profile and alarming incidents in the past two years.
“The industry right now depends on commercial off the shelf products and open standards that are being scrutinised for lacking the basic security controls and defence mechanisms,” he said.
Johan Obdola, executive director of an NGO, International Organisation for Security and Intelligence, speaks at the Homeland Security Summit yesterday