Tag Archives: organised crime

Bulgaria abandons passport for investment practice

Bulgaria plans to end practice offering wealthy foreigners to obtain citizenship against investment, the justice ministry said on the 22 of January,  adding the scheme had failed to bring any significant economic benefits.

The legal changes come a day after the media reports about the European Commission plans to warn against such an application schemes, which could be used by foreign organized crime groups to infiltrate the EU. It also increases the risk of money laundering, emblazonment, corruption and tax evasion.

Bulgaria is one of three EU countries, along with Cyprus and Malta, that currently grant citizenship against investment. The other 20 member states, including these three, also offer the resident permits on similar conditions.

Europol tracks wildlife crime

 

Europol Director Rob Wainwright met with Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague today to discuss further cooperation in fighting environmental crime, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two parties in 2016.

The scope of the MoU is to facilitate the exchange of information and support, as well as to improve coordination between the two organisations to fight environmental crime, particularly the illegal trafficking of endangered animal and plant species.

“Europol is pleased to extend its partnerships in this area as a means by which to help protect the environment and our economies. Countering environmental crime also supports broader efforts to combat other crimes such as corruption, money laundering, counterfeiting, fraud, forgery, and sometimes even terrorism or drugs trafficking,” – Europol Director Rob Wainwright highlighted.

“Wildlife trafficking is a global issue that must be addressed through international collaborations: TRAFFIC looks forward to supporting Europol to fulfil its challenging role in addressing wildlife crime through providing strategic assessments and operational support to EU Member States”,- said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC.

Environmental crimes represent a highly lucrative business, especially for organised crime groups, as these offences are harder to detect and sanctions are lower in comparison with other crime areas. The transnational nature of environmental crimes has led to the need for enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations, making strategic agreements crucial in the fight against the trafficking of endangered animal and plant species.

In addition, the EU is a key transit point for illegal trade in wildlife, notably between Africa and Asia. Given TRAFFIC’s presence on five continents, the MoU enables Europol to reinforce its position in dealing with this emerging threat.

This initiative is also in line with the EU Action Plan aimed at combating wildefaire trafficing  in which Europol plays an important part.

Georgian food toursim to EU

 

Zurab Matcharadze, Georgian journalist, correspondent of ‘Rezonansi’ newspaper

OPINION

Today the European Parliament voted in favor of granting the citizens of Georgia the right to 90 days visa to Schengen zone. I do not know about the European Union, but for Georgia it is a  historic decision, being the only tangible result for a regular citizen of the country to the  Euro-Atlantic integration.
This road was long. In June 2005 Georgia unilaterally abolished visa requirements for EU citizens, but the dialogue with the EU on visa liberalization started only in June 2012.
Today the Georgians  support the government’s course towards European integration, but unfortunately the economic situation does not leave much space for enthusiasm. Despite the economic growth, the rate of the national currency – lari to euro has fallen by 40%, subsequently the tourist trip will no longer be an affordable leisure. Having in mind that between Georgia and the EU there is already a functioning Association Agreement, and a comprehensive and free trade agreements, for the representatives of business the visa-free will be an asset in reaching out to potential partners. Having in mind the thousands of Georgians citizens living  in the EU for their relatives it will be an enormous relieve to visit family freely.

However in short-term the visa-free will not have a decisive influence on the mood in society, perhaps, it will not even strengthen the pro-Western sentiment. Moldova is an example, where a visa-free regime with the EU is already in force, but the country has chosen the election of a pro-Russian president.

From the other hand  the visa-free will neutralise expanding anti-Western propaganda, which represents European values as hostile to the Georgian identity. From now onwards, everyone will be able to travel and to see the “decadent West.”

The decision of visa-free removed a huge problem that could harm relations between Georgians and European. Europeans ought  to understand that to a large extent the public opinion is shaped by the presence or absence of sense of injustice.

Georgia believes that the visa-free, although not associated  directly with the issues, but was honestly ‘earned’ by  Georgian peace-keeping in Afghanistan and Kosovo, with the assistance to EU crisis management in Africa. A regular Georgian citizen believes they have earned it.  But after all the agreed criteria for the visa-free, and the failure of some of the EU member-states to adopt a decision without referring to halt mechanism, linking Georgia to the migration crisis, although so far not one illegal migrant had claimed the asylum, or a  blown out of proportion problem of Georgian crime, these issues made a Georgian man in the street felt, that he is treated by Europe unfairly.

In Georgia, the older generation has some “bright” memories about the Soviet times, when they could fly to Moscow for 37 rubles just to dine. Today the price on flights to Europe starts from 19.99 euros, meaning that for pro-European-minded youth it opens a window of opportunities, and for more older, more skeptical and nostalgic public, reminiscent of their “Soviet Motherland” visa-free can mean a revival of a good old tradition of food tourism. Bon appétit!

Europol: Georgian gangs arrested in Spain

Catalan police officers stand guard outside a block of flats in Sabadell during an operation against Islamist militants

Depeche: Europol:  the Spanish National Police supported by Europol, French and Georgian authorities has arrested 61 members of a Georgian organised crime group specialised in burglaries. Overall, 26 house searches have been carried out and EUR 33 000, 8 vehicles, 7 100 tobacco packets and many stolen pieces of jewellery have been seized.

The 61 arrested individuals formed 9 different criminals cells, which were all located in Madrid. All the cells had links to different Spanish provinces such as Malaga, Seville, Sabadell, Barcelona and Bilbao. Among the detained persons are also five  supervisors, who took over key roles in the organized crime group. The supervisors were in charge of providing logistical support, monitoring the criminal cells and keeping the leaders of the criminal organisation updated.

Some of the arrested  had legal jobs in Spain, such as staff in a construction company in Seville, or a private security guard in Madrid, attempting to hide the profits illegally obtained and to avoid suspicions.

This operation is considered as the second phase of Operation AIKON, which was already conducted by the Spanish National Police and supported by Europol. In the first phase 50 people, all members of Georgian organised crime, were detained. Some of them have been arrested again in the second phase of AIKON.  The main target of the operation and leader of the organized crime gang has a vast criminal background (kidnapping, assassination, etc.) and headed the criminal group from Italy, supported by the 5 supervisors in Spain.

Europol has supported the investigations from the early phases by facilitating the exchange of information. During the action day, one Europol expert was deployed to Spain, equipped with a mobile office. This allowed for real–time exchange of information and cross-checks of the data gathered in the course of the action against Europol’s databases.

(Source: Europol)

Picture: illustration