TAPA EMEA JOINS FORCES WITH EUROPOL, EUROJUST AND EU MEMBER STATE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TO TARGET ORGANISED CRIME GANGS SPECIALISING IN CARGO THEFT
The project kicked-off this month with its first meeting in The Hague, attended by law enforcement investigators from right EU Member States - Germany, France, Czech Republic, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria - together with specialists from Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, and Eurojust, the EU agency dealing with judicial co-operation in criminal matters among agencies of the Member States. TAPA EMEA was represented by Chairman, Thorsten Neumann, who gave a presentation on the Association’s work, and Executive Director, Laurence Brown.
The first gathering at Eurojust’s headquarters was convened to agree on ways to tackle this criminal phenomenon in the framework of this new project.
In a press release announcing the start of the project, Europol stated: “Cargo theft in Europe is increasing in numbers of incidents and also in the cost of lost goods. The criminal groups, originating mainly from Eastern Europe, are becoming more organised and frequently target high-value products, such as electronics, tobacco and pharmaceutical products. Most of these crimes are thefts from trucks at unsecured parking sites, but violent crimes such as hijackings and robberies are occurring more often.”
Cargo thefts cost industries billions of euros each year, Europol added, citing losses in Germany alone of an estimated €2.2 billion in 2016, which were reported earlier this year by a working group of 12 business associations – including TAPA EMEA – which was created to determine the true cost of cargo crime in Germany and to collaborate on theft prevention.
Running for an initial period of two years, Project CARGO will target organised crime groups involved in cargo theft through regular operational meetings and joint investigations, with the full operational and analytical support of Europol’s Analysis Project FURTUM specialised in organised property crime.
Thorsten Neumann said: “We welcome this proactive initiative on the part of the EU, the German State Office of Investigation of Saxony-Anhalt, and law enforcement agencies of EU Member States, which clearly recognises the rising level of cargo crime in Europe and the threat it poses across business and society. It affects innocent individuals who are victims of violent attacks, damages the reputations and financial wellbeing of businesses of all sizes, impacts local and national economies, and its proceeds can be used to fuel many other severe types of crime. TAPA EMEA wholeheartedly supports Project CARGO and will use our intelligence and knowledge to help realise its objectives over the next two years. We hope more LEAs will sign up to participate in this initiative. TAPA remains committed to supporting Europol as well as individual police authorities in the growing fight against the perpetrators and causes of cargo crime.”
The effectiveness of the combined efforts of Europol and Eurojust, working alongside law enforcement agencies in EU Member States was clearly demonstrated earlier this month with confirmation that the two EU agencies has joined forces with French Gendarmerie and Polish Criminal Police to dismantle an organised crime group suspected of having committed at least 36 cargo thefts, resulting in total estimated losses of €1.5 million. 15 properties were searched simultaneously in Gorzow, Poland, and Nancy in France, and 3 suspects were arrested in each country.
This particular organised crime group under investigation targeted trucks at unsecured parking sites in Eastern France, although it is believed the criminals’ activities span across several other EU countries.
International police cooperation was central in bringing these six suspects to justice. Involved from the very onset of the investigation in March 2017, 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 day. A mobile office was deployed in Nancy to help with the cross checking of operational information against Europol’s databases. Intelligence gathered is now being analysed, and a number of parallel investigations have been opened. Eurojust ensured a coordinating role on a judiciary level.
Operation GRAND FRET EST was supported by the European International Security Fund SPECTRE, an EU-financed project led by France targeting Europe’s most active mobile organised crime groups specialising in property crime. Supported by Europol, and with a total budget of €800 000, Project SPECTRE comprises of 13 members: France, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Latvia, Moldova, Spain and Ukraine.