An international operation against the illegal trade in reptiles has seen hundreds of seizures and 12 arrests in the EU. Europol coordinated information sharing between EU members States which led to the identification of almost 200 suspects worldwide.
Operation Blizzard, carried out between 12 April and 22 May 2019, targeted the criminal networks behind the illegal global trade of reptiles.
The operation, 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 reptile.
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.
Europol supported the operation and provided technical support, coordinated information exchange, seizures and inspections in the EU.
Almost 1 500 live snakes, lizards and geckos were seized from right across Europe. The inspections lead also to 12 arrests, six in Italy and six in Spain.
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. Competent authorities 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.
Europol and INTERPOL worked together to enhance international efforts in tackling the illegal trade of reptiles. Partners of Europol’s project Naultinus and member countries of the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group developed the operation based on the growing need to share and collaborate on organised crime groups trading in live reptiles and reptile products.