Examination of Witness (Questions 22-55)
Department, Serious Organised Crime Agency, gave
Chair: I welcome colleagues back from
the Division. Welcome, Mr Bishop. I apologise for the fact that
we are running a bit late.
Q22 Mike Gapes: Mr Bishop, can
you tell us something about crime in Brazil? How serious is crime
in Brazil, and how does it compare with other countries in Latin
Mark Bishop: We can comment only
on the organised crime aspect, because that is primarily what
we focus on. We collaborate with Brazilian partners to combat
a range of mutually important organised crime threats, including
cocaine-trafficking, cybercrime, financial crime, people-exploitation
and people-trafficking. Brazil is not a significant drug producer.
However, it shares borders with key cocaine-producing countries.
The 40 large container ports on its coast have contributed to
it becoming a major transit route for cocaine from South America
to mainland Europe and Africa. There is limited intelligence to
suggest that it is a direct cocaine threat to the United Kingdom.
There is some evidence of commercial consignments going directly
to the UK, but primarily, the key nexus points are from Brazil
into Europe and Brazil into West Africa, which in turn relates
to indirect supply on to the UK from there.
Q23 Mike Gapes: You have talked
about the cocaine issue, but I am initially interested in talking
about crime overall in Brazil. I understand that it has a high
murder rate and that there is a serious problem with areas of
the country where the security level is very low. Can you comment
Mark Bishop: There are, for example,
600-odd favelas-shanty towns-in Rio de Janeiro. The State Secretary
for public security in Brazil aims to pacify some of those areas
before events such as the World Cup in 2014. What the Brazilian
police do is drive out the leaders of the criminal gangs through
sustained action, which they follow with a phase of stabilisation,
including education, public health projects and community policing
to gain the trust of the area. There is some evidence of success
in how they do that.
Q24 Mike Gapes: Does that include
an active crime prevention strategy?
Mark Bishop: As part of the community
policing aspect, there will be a crime prevention angle. One other
additional problem that we have to touch on is Brazil's domestic
cocaine problem. They have quite a significant one, second in
size only to that of the US. That is growing, and it is a particular
focus for our partners in the Brazilian federal police.
Q25 Mike Gapes: Is that mainly
based on imported cocaine?
Mark Bishop: It's cocaine that
is routed through the country, but a percentage of that is for
the internal market.
Q26 Mike Gapes: You have referred
to the favelas. There have been, as I understand it, attempts
in the last six months or so to have a co-ordinated clearance,
including shoot-outs, and the figure that I saw was that 37 people
died in the operations. Is that popular with the public? Is there
a public perception that you need to take a "no holds barred"
policy and just get the places cleaned up?
Mark Bishop: This is one that,
following Baroness Neville-Jones' visit, the Home Office examined
in some depth, and it will be able to comment in much more detail
on the particular favela policy.
Q27 Mike Gapes: You'd rather not
comment on that.
Mark Bishop: I'd rather not go
there. I don't think that that is my particular area of expertise.
That's about internal Brazilian activities.
Q28 Mike Gapes: Can I ask you
about prisons in Brazil? Do you have any knowledge of them?
Mark Bishop: I don't.
Q29 Mike Gapes: Okay. I was recently
at an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting where we had a discussion
with people dealing with prison policy in certain countries in
Latin America, and comparisons were made between different countries,
and I would be interested to know what the perception is of what
happens to people when they are locked up. Is there a rehabilitation
programme? Is there a diversion programme? Or do the prison estate
and the prison policy contribute to long-term difficulties?
Mark Bishop: As it is not an area
of SOCA's competence, it would not be right for me to comment,
but I am sure that the Home Office would be willing to participate
in this, if it has not already been asked to do so.
Q30 Mike Gapes: A final question
from me: what is being done to combat this problem of cocaine
from Brazil's neighbours-Colombia, Bolivia, Peru or wherever?
Is there co-operation between the Brazilian authorities and the
Governments in those neighbouring states, or is it very much a
Mark Bishop: It is a mixture of
a number of different things: it is a domestic effort and it is
Brazil engaging regionally with its partners, particularly Bolivia.
One of the things that we are trying to get Brazil to engage more
on is engagement further afield in locations such as Africa, where
we think that it can have a real impact. Certainly, as the Brazilian
internal cocaine problem mounts up or increases, a lot of the
Brazilian federal police's focus has gone towards that. As part
of that focus, they realise that they must engage upstream with
their partners, which are Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela-a transit
country to a certain extent-and Peru.
Q31 Mike Gapes: When you say working
in Africa, do you mean that the Brazilian authorities will actually
send people from their government organisations to work in African
countries on a permanent basis?
Mark Bishop: Yes, basically. We
are looking to encourage them-through things such as EU projects,
SEACOP, Ameripol and others that I can go into in more depth-to
get much more involved in Africa, primarily through the Portuguese-speaking
Q32 Mike Gapes: Angola, perhaps.
Mark Bishop: Guinea-Bissau is
also fairly key, and Brazil has done some police training, for
example, in Guinea-Bissau. There's an organisation called the
Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa which
is the mechanism largely by which Brazil shifts aid, and there's
about $4 billion of it every year to Africa. We think that there
is scope for that to be much more involved in issues that really
affect Africa, such as drug trafficking. In that CPLP, you have
Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, which is an observer, Angola,
Senegal, which is also an observer, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Brazil
and Portugal. They are all key areas for us when it comes to tackling
class A drugs.
Mike Gapes: Thank you. That is very helpful.
Q33 Mr Ainsworth: You have given
us a flavour of why we are involved in Brazil, and that almost
seems to be mainly drugs and associated activities. In big handfuls,
what is that? Is it 80% of our interest there? Is it 50%? Is it
the majority? How much of it is drugs?
Mark Bishop: If we were to break
it down into crime types as they affect the United Kingdom, our
primary interest in Brazil is the trafficking of class-A drugs.
To break it down into percentages is always difficult, but certainly
it is the largest percentage of the number of parts that I mentioned
at the start, which includes things like organised immigration
crime and money laundering. Cybercrime is a particular area of
rising concern-Brazil is in the top ten list of areas of concern
for cybercrime. Yes, if you have to break it down into rough proportions,
tackling cocaine is certainly the largest proportion.
Q34 Mr Ainsworth: It is the majority
of our interest. How would you know? Do you have an office there?
How many people have you got there?
Mark Bishop: We have two offices
within Brazil and we have a relationship with the Brazilian police
that goes back the best part of 20 years, both during SOCA's time
and previously as Her Majesty's Customs and Excise. They are a
key partner for us, not just in tackling the cocaine that moves
to West Africa and Europe, but in the influence that they can
have regionally and globally. We have engaged with them on Project
SEACOP and Project Ameripol, two EU-funded initiatives, to try
to tie together intelligence flows in relation to South America
and West Africa. There is a lot of work going on to really strengthen
that co-operation. We are hopeful of signing a further memorandum
of understanding this year with the Justice Minister José
Cardozo, about which the Home Office can provide further detail.
We have also undertaken a period of upskilling
and capacity building. This isn't just about our assets on the
ground; it is about what we can bring to the Brazilian police
force. We have facilitated various training courses and rummage
courses for vessels, which have shown immediate results. We have
got them focused on container profiling and port searches by both
federal police and the Brazilian customs service, with our support.
There are undoubtedly issues coming up-the Brazilian federal police's
budget has been cut by some 20%, they have fairly small numbers,
and they are obviously facing considerable pressure to tackle
the domestic issues in the run-up to the World Cup and the Olympics.
Q35 Mr Ainsworth: Why is Brazil
not a producer country, when several of its neighbours are?
Mark Bishop: I am not an expert
coca grower, I think it is just not the right climate or the right
location for it. There are much more conducive atmospheres. Drug
trafficking, certainly the production side, as we well know from
our experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere, moves towards the
area of least resistance when it comes to the level of policing
activity. The most productive outturn you can have in relation
Q36 Mr Ainsworth: Brazil is surely
not well policed is it? It is a huge country, with massive areas
of frontier land.
Mark Bishop: There is certainly
a very large area to police. I think when you look at Brazilian
police, you have to look at capacity to undertake investigations,
capability to undertake those investigations, and willingness.
Those are the criteria that we normally look at when talking to
and engaging with partners. In comparison with other partners
around the world, the Brazilian police force is certainly a key
partner and is well equipped. For example, very few other of our
partners invest in pilotless drones for law enforcement activity,
as they have done. They have taken possession of three pilotless
drones for use in border drug operations, so there is certainly
a willingness to undertake these things. Certainly geography is
going to play its part, because of the sheer size and scale of
the country they have to police.
Q37 Mr Ainsworth:
The Bolivians threw the Americans out, and I understand that we
are trying to encourage the Brazilians to give some help to the
Bolivians. Why would Brazil be more acceptable to Bolivia than
Mark Bishop: There is a certain
element of shared borders and shared interests, and the understanding
that neighbours develop over time. I do not know whether one
is necessarily more palatable than the other, but when it comes
to relationship building, the Bolivians appear to have expressed
a preference at the moment and the Brazilians should be encouraged
to develop that as much as they can.
Q38 Mr Ainsworth: What is their
attitude towards drugs? Do they have the same regime as there
is here and in America? Do they believe that the law enforcement
stream is the most important element in suppressing the drug trade
and that that field needs to be chased into the production fields
in the way that Britain certainly buys into?
Mark Bishop: I could not comment
on how Brazil approaches its public health issues or anything
else. That is not for me. As for law enforcement activity, it
is certainly very active, very co-operative and very effective,
and that works for us.
Q39 Ann Clwyd: You said that you
were not an expert on the favela policy, but I understand that
parts of the urban pacification programme are good and parts of
it have been criticised by outside bodies. Would it be important
for us to visit one of those programmes to see how the police
deal with law and order and crack down on drugs?
Mark Bishop: I understand that
a visit is scheduled for June, in which case I certainly urge
you to see what our SLO is doing with its respective partners.
I am sure that that can be arranged for you.
Q40 Ann Clwyd: On the point that
you were making about the police, is there any conflict-as there
is in Peru-between the police and the military over cracking down
on drugs? In Peru, for example, the military seem to have all
the resources, while the police do not have enough resources so
there is a bit of conflict between them. Have you detected that
Mark Bishop: Nothing has been
commented on in any way, shape or form by our liaison team there.
Q41 Ann Clwyd: Do the police co-operate
with the military?
Mark Bishop: As far as I am aware,
the police in Brazil have a number of partners, ranging from the
environmental police right the way through. Police and customs
work together. I assume that the military are on the list of
partners, but I cannot say for sure. I know that the Brazilian
police engage with a number of partners in their activities.
Q42 Ann Clwyd: Have you had any
experience of the cracking down on child trafficking, which we
know goes on in Brazil?
Mark Bishop: Yes. As part of
the work that has been undertaken, we can touch on two areas.
One is the sexual exploitation of children and the work that
has been done by CEOP-the Child Exploitation and Online Protection
team-which probably takes us into the realms of cybercrime activity.
As for the sexual exploitation of children, our liaison teams
regularly receive intelligence from the Brazilian federal police
on internet child pornography, which has been paid for and accessed
in the United Kingdom. We are the bridge between the CEOP investigators
and the Brazilian police force to take it forward.
CEOP has said that the relationship works from
its point of view. What would be useful for us is for CEOP and
the UK police forces to provide feedback on the intelligence from
the Brazilians. We are working towards that to demonstrate to
the Brazilian federal police-its paedophile unit, in particular-that
the UK is serious about tackling the online threat to children,
and there have been outcomes from the intelligence that it has
worked so hard to obtain.
One of the things on which our liaison team
has been working with CEOP and the Brazilian police is considering
how best to tackle the emerging threat from the growing numbers
of European child-sex offenders who will travel to Brazil in the
run-up to the Olympic Games and the World Cup. We have to have
a plan in place with the Brazilians to manage that properly.
Q43 Rory Stewart: How do your
resources compare with those of the United States, or any of the
other major players, in engaging Brazil?
Mark Bishop: Clearly, our resources
are considerably less than some of our counterpart agencies. The
FBI's budget last year, for example, was some $7 billion for its
14,000 agents. For our 4,000 agents it was considerably less.
Q44 Rory Stewart: What does that
mean in terms of working out how you divvy up work in Brazil with
other international partners and how you determine how best to
punch above your weight?
Mark Bishop: It means that there
is, as with all of our South American offices and a great number
of our offices worldwide, a lot of engagement with agencies such
as the Drug Enforcement Administration to determine how best we
can come together to share some of the burden. It means that we
are trying to encourage more and more of our European partners,
such as the Bundeskriminalamt and the Spanish national police,
to take some of the burden and contribute financially. It is also
largely about how well we can access EU funding to try to corral
some of those nations together. The two projects I mentioned earlier
have gone some way towards that.
Equally, there is a considerable element of
working with partner agencies here in the United Kingdom. The
UK Border Agency and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs both have
overseas networks, and we have been very effective in getting
together and ensuring that things are deconflicted properly and
that we are getting the best bang for our buck.
Q45 Rory Stewart: Will you give
us just one example of an area that you might not touch, that
might not make sense in terms of your resources and that you might
leave to a better resourced partner such as the United States?
Mark Bishop: Certainly when it
comes to the provision of extensive material support or contributions,
the United States is much better resourced. We tend to focus on
the provision of specialist training that can be cascaded outwards
and specific smaller projects, rather than some of the bigger
plans. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, for example, the United States
trained the entire border police force. We certainly wouldn't
do that. We would rely on the United States to commit such resources.
In the United Kingdom, particularly when it
comes to things such as organised immigration crime, we have engaged
with UKBA,555 which
is very much focused on issues related to overstayers here in
the United Kingdom, rather than an organised immigration threat.
So there is that dialogue and interchange.
Q46 Mr Roy: It is unprecedented
for a country to be given both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic
Games in a two-year period. Presumably the chances for organised
crime will be greatly increased with the many thousands of people
from this country who will go to the World Cup. There probably
won't be too many from my country, actually, but the chances are
that there will be many thousands of people going across for the
World Cup. From an organised crime point of view, it is a dry
run for the Olympic Games two years later. How have our authorities
affected the debate on what will happen during that two-year period?
Mark Bishop: We have already contributed
to the UK's assistance to Brazil's preparations for both those
events. Cyber-security is part of the Olympic security strategy.
There are lessons that we can impart to the Brazilians on the
issues that we've picked up on the Olympic Games. We've been able
to facilitate contact between the Brazilian federal police and
its Metropolitan police counterpart, which is in charge of policing
our Olympics, to try to ensure that as many lessons are being
learned as possible. I am sure that the Metropolitan police will
be delighted to provide further information on Olympic preparations
that it has undertaken.
Q47 Mr Roy: So do we expect large
numbers of Brazilian authorities to be in London during the Olympic
Mark Bishop: I understand so,
Q48 Mike Gapes: In your answer
to Rory Stewart you referred to a figure of 4,000 personnel. Can
you clarify that that is your total SOCA employees?
Mark Bishop: It is.
Q49 Mike Gapes: How many of those
are in Brazil and how many are in Latin America?
Mark Bishop: We have two in Brazil.
I would have to come back to you with the total number in Latin
America, unless we can do a quick bit of maths behind me. I wouldn't
imagine it is more than 20, but we can certainly write to you
with the exact number.666
Q50 Mike Gapes: In addition, presumably,
from time to time you have people going backwards and forwards.
Mark Bishop: Yes, absolutely.
Q51 Mike Gapes: In your priority
countries-if you have such a thing-in the region, is Brazil the
No. 1 country that you work with or does Colombia come up the
Mark Bishop: Certainly, Colombia
comes up the scale. I don't think we can ever really clarify it
just in terms of a league table, if you like, because as I've
said for cybercrime, Brazil would be at the top.777
For cocaine trafficking, Colombia would be at the top, probably
followed by Peru and Bolivia, where certainly we are starting
to see much more production taking place.
Q52 Mike Gapes: What about for
things such as money laundering and financial crime? Is that more
concentrated in some of the countries in Central America and the
Mark Bishop: Certainly, we are
getting more concentration of that in locations such as Panama.
There is a threat to the United Kingdom from money laundering
in Brazil but it is currently assessed to be low. We are seeing
some evidence of organised crime groups buying property in the
north-east of Brazil, in order to launder the proceeds of their
crimes, but Brazil has become less attractive to money launderers
than it was two to three years ago. As the value of the pound,
the euro and the dollar has diminished, the Brazilian real has
increased; I think it is about 2.5:1 now.
Q53 Mr Watts: You seemed to indicate
that Brazil was perhaps at the forefront in Latin America of trying
to defeat or frustrate the drug traffickers. Is that motivated
by its own self-interest? Is there a growing drug problem in Brazil
that is leading it to be so forthright in its opposition to the
Mark Bishop: There is certainly
a growing internal consumption problem of cocaine within Brazil.
A lot of Brazilian federal police resources, as they will no doubt
tell you when you go, have been focused towards tackling this.
Indeed, they have their own version of what we tried to do, namely
to tackle it upstream, hence the engagement with Bolivia and others
to try and get more towards the source of the problem.
So yes, as with our relationships worldwide,
there is always that element of self-interest, and this is perhaps
where we get into the realms of this phrase that seems to be doing
the rounds about law enforcement diplomacy. We may not agree with
a lot of countries on territorial, nuclear or other issues, but
if you turn up as a law enforcement officer and say to just about
any nation, "Would you like to work together on drugs and
crime?" the answer will be yes. It is one of those uncontentious
areas, if you like.
Q54 Mr Roy: Isn't there a danger
that the more we tackle the drugs and the cartels in Colombia,
Peru and Bolivia, as we get more success we are actually moving
the problem? The problem then moves to a bigger country, such
Mark Bishop: There has been, for
example, notable displacement of the key parts of the cocaine
trade from Colombia, and indeed some of the key traffickers have
found the going so hard in Colombia they have moved away to other
locations. The production of cocaine we've seen increase in Peru
and Bolivia as a result of this. This, in turn, increases the
risk of domestic trade within Brazil.
Success in tackling the drugs trade upstream
has made it more difficult for criminals to operate overall. That's
one of the central principles on which we operate. As far as the
UK goes, for example, this has been evidenced by a sustained low
availability for high-purity cocaine in the United Kingdom since
early 2009, with wholesale per kg prices at an unprecedented high.
So yes, it does displace it, but we see real effect, certainly
from the UK's efforts. Certainly we see real effect with other
partners where we have invested a lot of time, money and effort,
such as Colombia. Inevitably there is that element of squeezing
a balloon, but it is about being ready for where it pops up next.
Q55 Mr Roy: But isn't there a
chance that the displacement goes east towards Brazil instead
of the western side of South America? Therefore you are opening
up the UK as a market.
Mark Bishop: As we said, there
is not really an element of direct interaction between Brazil
and the UK. For us that has also been about building up what we
do in West Africa and Europe to tackle that market. Thus, for
example, we have been able to have a real impact against Serbian
organised criminals, who were bringing cocaine from Brazil into
mainland Europe. From there, some of the points on mainland Europe
were clearly a hub for onward distribution to the United Kingdom.
So if we can have an impact there, clearly, as the figures show,
we are having an impact on the United Kingdom.
Chair: Mr Bishop, thank you very much
indeed. We are going to draw stumps there, and we really appreciate
your taking the time to come to talk to us. It was very helpful.
UK Border Agency. Back
6 See Ev 53. Back
7 Note by witness: SOCA
does not have a league table or list of countries in priority
order. Brazil is one of a group of 10 countries of concern in
relation to cybercrime. Back