Tag Archives: traffic

Europol: Spain exotic birds traffickers arrests

Police have recovered 280 exotic birds, valued at over one million euros, among which featured macaws, parrots and cockatoos, all of which are endangered species protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). These birds were destined to be sold to North African countries ‚Äď Morocco in particular, where the demand for them is high.

Codenamed ‚ÄėORATIX‚Äô, this operation took place earlier this year in February and March in the Spanish cities of Malaga, Murcia, Granada, Alicante and Asturias.

The investigation initiated in 2019 uncovered how this criminal group would sell these endangered species to North African buyers using forged documents. The criminals would then arrange for the birds to be smuggled out of Spain hidden in buses heading to the African continent. The traffickers were supported by a Moroccan citizen who worked in a travel agency and arranged the logistics. They also developed their illegal business online, where they would sell birds but never deliver them, despite the buyers having paid for them. In addition, over 400 marijuana plants were discovered during the house searches, indicating that this group of traffickers was involved in a variety of criminal activities.

Europol supported this investigation from its on-set, providing operational and strategic analysis and piecing together evidence to identify the route used by the smugglers. One of its experts was also deployed on-the-spot in Spain to assist the law enforcement authorities with the cross-checking of information against Europol’s databases.

It is believed that parrot smuggling worldwide is on the rise. Some species can reach several hundreds of thousands of euros on the black market. The demand driving this illicit trade comes from collectors and breeders, but also citizens who want them as pets. However, this desire to own such exotic birds is killing them off.

A number of parrot species are threatened with extinction due in part to pressures from collecting for the pet trade. There is however legal protection in place. All but two parrot species are protected under CITES, as a result of which their commercial trade is either prohibited or strictly regulated with export permits.

With dedicated staff working on environmental crime, Europol supports EU Member States in their investigations to stop criminals damaging our ecosystems beyond repair.

Japan city bans smartphones use in motion

Yamato City is prohibiting pedestrians from using smartphones while preambulaing the vicinity public roads, squares and parks, according to a July 1 report from NDTV. It’s first publically announced ban of its kind to be imposed in Japan.

There’s no punishment foreseen in case pedasrians don’t abide by the prohibition. The ban’s supporter so all ages said they hope that the action will help to warn about the dangers of being distracted by phones, according to the report.

The city Council said it hopes people will recognize that ‚Äúsmartphones should not be used while in motion.‚ÄĚ

According to the ordinance, pedestrians should stop at a place where they are not obstructing traffic if they want to use their smartphones in public spaces, such as on streets and in parks.

In January, the city conducted a study at two locations, observing a total of about 6,000 pedestrians, and found that roughly 12% of them were using their smartphones while walking. Following the survey, the draft ordinance was submitted to the city’s Council on June 1.

The city has an estimated population of 235 thousand (2017), with more than 100 thousand households.

Image: illustration

Art traffic arrests in Paris

French police special unit have arrested five art experts this week as part of an investigation into trafficking of looted antiquities from the Middle East. According to Art Newspaper legal source, those arrested include a retired curator from the Mus√©e du Louvre in Paris and an employee of the prominent Pierre Berg√© & Associ√©s auction house. The same source says the case concerns “the sale of hundreds of pieces for tens of millions of euros”, which were allegedly looted from Egypt, and conflict zones of Syria, Yemen and Libya. The initial criminal investigation into gang fraud, concealment of stolen goods, and money laundering was launched in 2018. (Image: illustration)

Without charges, the police can only hold the suspects in custody until Friday morning. Their names cannot be disclosed for legal reasons.
Pierre Berg√© & Associ√©s declined to comment on this week’s arrests and the Louvre says it does not have any reliable information on the arrest of the former head of its Near Eastern antiquities department.

The Art Newspaper can also reveal that the French criminal investigation may be related to inquiries over the past eight years in New York, Belgium and Switzerland, which led to a raid last year at Brussels-based Phoenix Ancient Art.

Hundreds of pieces were seized from storage in Brussels and thousands were frozen in Geneva to be checked for provenance; they have now partly been released to the gallery owners.

Hicham Aboutaam, the co-founder of Phoenix Ancient Art, says his gallery has consigned some objects to Pierre Berg√© in the past, but “all were fully documented before the troubles erupted in the Middle East”. He adds: “It is a disgrace for the historically active Parisian market and I hope it will be an opportunity to establish clear legal guidelines, with a global database and a repatriation mechanism, which would allow us to have a more transparent licit antiquities market.”

Europol strikes traffic of minors

Europol supported a pan-European operation against trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation, forced begging and labour exploitation. The operation, led by the United Kingdom, involved law enforcement authorities from 15 EU member states, Iceland and Switzerland*. Between 17 and 23 June 2019, over 127 000 individuals, 63 800 vehicles and 1 100 locations were checked. Law enforcement authorities searched private properties, commercial establishments, hotels, buses and train stations, ferry ports, airports and border crossings.

Prevention campaigns in schools to inform minors of the risks of human trafficking were also part of the operational activities. The overall results include 34 arrests for trafficking of human beings and 36 arrests for other offences such as robbery, dissemination of child sexual exploitation material and facilitation of illegal immigration. During the action days, 206 potential victims were identified, 53 of which were confirmed to be minors. These activities enabled the initiation of 31 new cases of human trafficking across the different participating countries.  

During the operation, experts in trafficking of human beings from law enforcement agencies, child protection officers, social workers, representatives of municipalities and non-governmental organisations joined efforts to identify potential victims and investigate cases of child trafficking. Europol facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries and analysed operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators. 

 *The following countries participated to the Joint Action Days: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Google and eBay aim to defeat wildlife traffic

Leading websites Google and eBay are fighting the sale of rare creatures and their body parts over the internet in an illicit market worth millions of pounds. Illicit wildlife trade is the fourth largest black market in the world, worth $20 billion annually, impacting more than 7,000 species of animals and plants.

A recent investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare discovered online ads for ivory, rhino horn, live big cats, orangutans and gorillas as well as the skins from tigers, lions, cheetahs and leopards. Parrots, owls and birds of prey are also being sold in high numbers along with turtles and tortoises.

Nowadays the fight against using cyber technologies for profits of illegal wildlife is bringing together government bodies, conservation campaigning organisations and the major internet names in increased efforts to stop to systemic damages to spices.

The leading players of the among IT companies expressed their confidence that the way e-commerce, technology and social media companies are working together will end the global criminal network.

 

EU laudits Spain for reception of migrant vessel

The EU Commissioner on Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos welcomed the decision of Spanish government to accept the vessel #Aquarius with 629 migrants on board transported from Libyan coasts to Italy.¬† The Italian and Maltese governments repelled #Aquarius, belonging to NGO, which is notorious for exercising the transportation of illegal African migrants to Europe,¬†abusing maritime law of saving lives in seas,¬†and is often dabbed as ‘migrant taxi service‘. Both EU member states – Italy and Malta – have been overwhelmed with migrants flows after the destruction of Libyan state, and have exhausted their capacity of offering shelter. The¬†Spanish Socialist government, profiling itself as Eurocentric, came to rescue of the EU reputation in a gesture of solidarity to relieve the burden from Italy and Malta.

Meanwhile the new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini declared his victory over the EU, imposing respect of the international obligations towards the refugees, but unable to resolve the issue of illegal migrants flooding Italy. The Dublin system application hits hard the Mediterranean members of the bloc, namely Italy,  in vain calling for the EU solidarity in relocation of migrants.

“I am not a racist, I am not a fascist…but Italy cannot take it anymore. This is a new beginning – Salvini said at his press-conference, commenting on an international raw after the¬† repelling of #Aquarius from Italian coasts. Maltese Prime minister Joseph Muscat thanked Madrid for resolving the problem, however he underlined that a discussion is needed to avoid the repetition of the similar situations in the future.

During the stand off between Italy and Malta both rejecting #Aquarius,¬† there were reports from MSF about the migrants on the board¬†becoming ‘anxious’ about the impossibility to reach Italian coasts. A man blackmailed the crew to drown himself in the sea, if the vessel returns to Libya. Sadly, many of the illegal migrants¬† arriving to Europe refer to the phenomenon as ‘migrant business‘, while experts confirm that nowadays in Africa¬†‘you are never further than two conversations away from a trafficker, ready to bring you to European coasts’.

Africa migrant map

 

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.

‚ÄúEuropol 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,‚ÄĚ –¬†Europol Director Rob Wainwright highlighted.

‚ÄúWildlife 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‚ÄĚ,- 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.

Migrant's missing children

Young migrants make soap bubbles in a muddy field at a camp of makeshift shelters called the Grande Synthe jungle, near Calais

The ‘deep concern’ about the growing numbers of child refugees and about the situation of unaccompanied, missing or separated children is expressed in European Parliament Annual Report on human rights and democracy ¬†in the world (2015), presented by¬†Josef WEIDENHOLZER (S&D,AT).
Urging the Member States to make it an absolute priority swiftly to reunite unaccompanied minors with family members, the report also  stresses the need of providing children with access to health care and education as part of EU programmes to address the root causes of migration.
MEP Weidenholzer calls on states to end the detention of children, as well as to take into account the best interest of the child in all procedures and ensure protection for children according to international law.
A special focus is on protection of refugee and migrant children from violence, exploitation and abuse.

Reported by Europol there is a tremendous amount of crossover between smugglers smuggling refugees across borders and gangs ensnaring people for forced sexual and labour exploitation.

According to the Europal sources the prime vicitms of the exploitation by criminal gangs are unaccompanied childern and young women. Unfortunately the unaccompanied migrant children disappearance is mainly underreported. For many of these children, the journey into exploitation and suffering does not end once they arrive on EU shores.

Europol underlines that¬†there is a ‚Äútremendous amount of crossover‚ÄĚ between smugglers smuggling refugees across borders and gangs ensnaring people for forced sexual and labour exploitation.

Actual figures on anaccompanied migrant/refugee child situation in Europe is depressing: according to various sources half of them by arriving to Europe went missing, according to different estimates there are between nine and 13 thousands missing migrant children in the EU.