Tag Archives: Eurojust

Europol dismantles smugglers network

Brussels 30.09.2020 A major operation involving law enforcement authorities from Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, supported by Europol and Eurojust, led to the dismantling of a large network of criminals smuggling migrants in life-threatening conditions through the English Channel.

The action spanned over two days, 28 and 29 September. Law enforcement officers from the Belgian Federal Police (Federale Politie, Police Fédérale), British Immigration Enforcement, the Dutch Royal Marechaussée (Koninklijke Marechaussee) and the French Border Police (OCRIEST/BMR62, Police Aux Frontières) within the French National Police (Police Nationale) worked together and 12 suspects were arrested (seven in France, two in the Netherlands and three in the UK). The overall seizures during the two action days included 12 vehicles, 10 rubber boats and engines, 158 life jackets, a caravan, a boat trailer, jewellery, about €48 000 in cash, documents and mobile devices. This investigation targeted a developing trend of migrant smuggling involving small boats across the English Channel, a criminal activity which has escalated exponentially in recent months with increased interceptions in France and the UK.

Overloaded boats and rough weather
This organised crime group consists mainly of Iranian nationals living in France, the Netherlands and the UK. The network was smuggling migrants with small boats from the north coasts of France to the UK. The suspects had connections in different countries to organise their criminal activity. Members of the criminal group purchased inflatable boats and engines from Germany and the Netherlands and transported them to the departure points. There, they taught the migrants how to operate the boats while charging an average of €3 000 per person for the crossings.

The various elements gathered during the investigations confirmed that this criminal organisation would have facilitated the illegal sea crossing of a large number of migrants. This transportation in overloaded boats, and often in very difficult weather conditions on one of the busiest commercial shipping lanes in the world, endangered both the lives of the migrants and the law enforcement officers involved in rescue operations at sea.

Europol supported the operation by facilitating the information exchange, organising operational meetings and providing analytical support with two intelligence analysts dedicated to this high-priority case. On the action day, Europol set-up a virtual command post to facilitate the operational coordination and exchange of information between law enforcement officers on the ground in real time.

To support national authorities in this high priority investigation, Eurojust set up in June 2020 a Joint Investigation Team with Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Europol. Eurojust further facilitated the successful cooperation of the judicial authorities of the countries involved.

In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 – 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector where relevant. Facilitation of illegal immigration is one of the priorities for the Policy Cycle.

Europol: diamonds forever!

 

audrey

Hosted at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague, the event brought together more than 70 experts from almost all EU Member States, as well as third parties from Europe, Asia, the Americas, Eurojust and private jewellery/watch companies.

‘Diamond’ was initially composed as a follow-up project to Interpol’s ‘Pink Panther’ project, which ended in 2016. The ‘Pink Panther’ project focussed only on robberies committed by perpetrators from the Western Balkans. Diamond, however, will even extend its focus, which will not only include criminal networks involved in jewellery robberies, including burglaries, from Europe but also from the Baltic Sea and Western Black Sea areas.

Europol’s Head of Serious and Organised Crime, Michael Rauschenbach, highlighted: “Criminals are becoming more inventive, as well as using technology to their advantage to carry out the most daring robberies and burglaries, as we have seen in the case of the ‘Pink Panther thieves’. Europol is committed to staying one step ahead of them by capitalising on our resources to ensure that their deeds do not go unpunished. Our success also depends on inter-agency cooperation and we are pleased that we could bring together so many experts from Europe and beyond to serve one common purpose – making Europe a safer place for the benefit of our citizens.”

Currently, the EU is facing a returning trend in jewellery robbery and burglary. Individuals from South America, in particular, have been travelling to Europe to rob jewellery stores. The new trend in this area is that criminals are becoming more violent and using heavy vehicles to drive into jewellery stores. This modus operandi is of great concern for Europol, as it could endanger the life of customers and staff members present in the stores.

Therefore, one of the objectives of the conference was to expand the existing network of experts created by the ‘Pink Panther’ Project. In addition, conference participants exchanged views on the necessary tools required to fight jewellery robbery and burglary.

Europol already holds a series of state-of-the-art information gathering and exchange tools that can be used to fight the criminal rings involved.

To this end, Europol intends to establish an early warning system, as well as a single point of information gathering dedicated to tracking stolen watches and jewellery. In addition, Europol plans to increase the number of strategic analysis and situational reports it produces, and expects to further implement operational data systems in this particular area. Another development relates to the fact that there will be closer cooperation with the private sector to tackle this criminal activity.

 

Project ‘Pink Panther’ was initiated by Interpol in 2007 to help law enforcement across the globe apprehend members of the Pink Panthers international network of jewellery thieves, originating from the Western Balkans. Between 1999 and 2015 the criminals are thought to have carried out approximately 380 armed robberies, valued at EUR 334 million, targeting high-end jewellery stores. The project facilitated information gathering, exchange and analysis, and founded a network of investigators, all of which proved to be crucial in identifying this highly-skilled criminal network.