The international law enforcement agency Interpol is cracking down on the sale of stolen luxury cars in Central Africa.
Interpol says thousands of luxury cars stolen in Belgium, France, and Japan enter Cameroon's port of Douala each year, many bound for buyers in neighboring Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
From its new regional bureau in Yaounde, Interpol is moving to break-up the syndicates behind this organized crime by working with law enforcement officials in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon as well as officials from the other countries it covers: Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Ronald Noble is Interpol's Secretary General.
"We agreed that we would create here in Cameroon, at our regional bureau, the first ever unit dedicated to tracing assets that were taken from a country in a corrupt fashion," said Ronald Noble.
Part of Interpol's approach is making consumers more aware that they might be buying stolen vehicles.
Commissioner Dominique Mpaya heads Interpol's national bureau in Yaounde.
Mpaya says people who are buying used cars should first check with Interpol authorities to ensure that those vehicles are not stolen. That saves them from losing their money if the car is eventually impounded by authorities as part of the ongoing crackdown on stolen vehicles called Operation Gbanda.
It is part of broader cooperation between Interpol and Central African governments since the opening of the agency's regional bureau earlier this year. Cameroon no longer requires visas for agents traveling on Interpol passports. Noble says it is one of many changes that have improved law enforcement during the past seven years.
"There were hundreds of millions of people traveling the world without having their documents checked by Interpol," he said. "Now they are checked by Interpol. Before we did not have a communications system that allowed information to be exchanged rapidly around the world with all of our countries. Now we do. Before we did not have a regional bureau here in Cameroon. Now we do. So in many ways, the cooperation and work with Interpol has been really, really strengthened over the last seven years."
The regional Interpol office is also focusing on increasing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, illegal drug trafficking, arms smuggling, cross-border highway banditry, computer-based crimes, and the poaching and trade of protected animals.