An unprecedented law enforcement operation involving five countries has resulted in the takedown of one of the most active networks of cargo thieves operating across Europe. Composed of over 100 members, this organised crime group is believed to have committed over 150 acts of cargo theft for a total estimated damage worth in excess of €10 million. (Image: illustration).
The coordinated actions took place under the umbrella of a joint investigation, code-named ‘ARROW’, coordinated by Europol at the international level.
The latest phase of Operation ARROW has resulted in the arrest today in Romania of 37 members of this highly professional criminal syndicate. 73 house searches were carried out in the early hours of the morning across the country by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) with the support of Europol on-the-ground.
These arrests this week in Romania follow those in other European countries of other members of the same criminal group. 10 suspects were arrested in France earlier this year by the French National Gendarmerie as part of a parallel action. A further 10 suspects were arrested in Spain, 6 in the Netherlands and 5 in Sweden. European arrests warrants have been issued for the remaining members at large.
The arrested individuals, who are originally from Romania, are suspected of carrying out thefts from moving lorries, even as the drivers continued to drive – obvious to the crimes – at high speed on motorways.
Executing such thefts requires a high degree of sophistication. One car would start to drive slowly in front of the lorry while two other cars held up the other traffic. A fourth car would drive up close behind the lorry. One of the criminals would climb out of the car’s sunroof onto the bonnet and break open the lock on the lorry with an angle grinder. The valuable cargo would then either be transferred to their vehicle, or thrown on the side of the road to be picked up later. The driver of the lorry and other road-users were often completely unaware of what was going on.
Involved from the very onset of the investigation in December 2016, Europol brought together the different police forces involved to help them connect the dots between their own national investigations and provided analytical support before and during the action days.
The Dresden white diamond, one of the most precious jewels in the collection of former Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong has been listed among historic artefacts stolen during the night of a spectacular heist, assessed by police experts as ‘extremely well-prepared’.
Tobias Kormind, managing director of the diamond retailer 77 Diamonds, said that it could be worth up to £8m or £9m (between nine and 10 million euro), adding that thieves would have “hit the jackpot” if they did take it.
None of the diamonds would have been in themselves extra special except for the one large Dresden white,” he said. The rare diamond of 49 carat.
The huge cushion-cut gem was made in the early 18th century and bought at great expense by Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, in 1728.
Eleven pieces were removed completely, while individual parts of a further three items were also missing.
Publishing a list of the pieces taken in Monday’s brazen raid, the Green Vault museum at Dresden’s royal palace said the items stolen included a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a shoulderpiece containing the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond.
Dresden’s State Art Collections director, Marion Ackermann, said it was impossible to estimate the value of the items.
“We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell,” she said, appealing to the thieves not to break the ensembles into pieces.
An armed man stole an ambulance, drove away and hit some people. We got him now,” a police spokesperson said.
The largest national newspaper Aftenposten published a photo showing a man, wearing green trousers, lying next to the vehicle surrounded by police officers.
A witness told the newspaper that he saw “the ambulance driving at high speed toward me … and right behind a police car.”
The assaillant injured three people including two babies when he drove off and hit a family, Norwegian police and hospital officials have said.
Two babies were injured after the hijacked ambulance hit a family. They are twins, seven months old, and they are being treated,the University hospital spokesman said.
Police officers are searching for a second suspect, a woman, over the theft of the ambulance. They also underlined that nothing indicates it was a terrorist attack: an armed man stole an ambulance and attempted to drive away.
Some people who escaped the ambulance wheels were also taken to hospital for treatment from psychological trauma. There was elderly couple who run away, who also were hospitalised.
Oslo police did not reveal the identity and origin of the assimilant.
Police have seized 55 cars and identified car parts stolen from Germany in a joint operation between German and Polish law enforcement. Since 27 February 2018 nearly 200 police officers and technical and forensic experts have taken part in operations in western Poland to bring down one of the largest organised crime groups involved in vehicle theft in both Germany and Poland. The Polish prosecutor overseeing the case has asked for assistance from prosecutors in Germany to help identify an additional 150 stolen cars. (Image: illustration)
The investigation revealed that the Polish suspects had defined roles and responsibilities within the crime network, such as stealing vehicles, forging documents, dismantling stolen cars and laundering the criminal proceeds. The main suspects have been charged with money laundering, where they used a complex scheme to conceal the origin of illegally-gained proceeds.
German and Polish law enforcement worked closely together under the supervision of the Polish Prosecutor’s Office in the city of Gorzów Wielkopolski. The Polish Asset Recovery Office also launched a financial investigation in parallel and confiscated criminal assets estimated to be worth EUR 1.5 million.
In connection with the laundering activities which allowed the criminals to transform and turnover the proceeds of crime, Europol’s Analysis Project (AP) Sustrans provided support to the investigation and the Polish Asset Recovery Office. Europol will continue to offer analytical and technical assistance by examining and extracting data from the seized devices.