JITs once faced numerous hurdles, but now, after considerable efforts at the legislative and operational levels, they regularly record operational successes in a whole range of crime areas.
A JIT is an investigative team that is set up for a fixed period and for a specific purpose, based on an agreement between or among two or more law enforcement authorities in EU Member States. Competent authorities from countries outside the EU may participate in a JIT with the agreement of all other participating parties.
Each JIT is set up to investigate a specific case. Once the investigation has concluded, the JIT is shut down: there are no permanent or ongoing JITs. The terms in accordance with which a JIT is to operate vary to a degree with each case, but they are based on a model agreement appended to) Council Resolution (2010/C 70/01), which encourages the competent authorities in Member States to use it “to agree upon the modalities for the joint investigation team.”
Europol and Eurojust have jointly produced a manual, which supplements a Guide to EU Member States‘ legislation on Joint Investigation Teams, and which:
- addresses the practical issues that can arise as a JIT is being set up;
- informs practitioners about the legal basis and requirements for setting up a JIT;
- offers advice on when a JIT is an appropriate option;
- encourages practitioners to make use of JITs where appropriate;
- encourages international cooperation in criminal matters in general;
- draws on practical experience as well as material from seminars and meetings.
Among the aforementioned meetings is the annual meeting of the Network of National Experts on JITs, which Europol and Eurojust take it in turns to host.
How JITs operate in practice
Here’s how JITs work: the competent authorities in one or more Member States, joined as noted above by authorities from outside the EU, may decide to set up a JIT for a specific purpose and for a limited period (which may be extended by mutual agreement). A JIT team can consist of:
- law enforcement officers;
- other relevant personnel.
The JIT is led by a member from the country in which the JIT is based. And it is the law of that country that governs the JIT’s activities.
Europol supports JITs in a number of ways, such as by:
- showing the big picture: identifying links between related cases and investigations;
- liaising directly with JIT members;
- providing members with information that Europol maintains;
- offering analytical and logistical support, and technical and forensic expertise;
- supporting the secure exchange of information.
Successes across a range of crime areas
JITs have contributed to successes in a range of crime areas. For instance, they have:
- dismantled migrant smuggling networks;
- carried out an operation resulting in the arrest of 12 members of an organised crime group who were running a voice-phishing scam that bilked bank-account holders of millions of euro;
- arrested members of a cybercrime group involving in distributing malware;
- dismantled a network of child-abuse photographers operating in six EU countries, arresting 10 individuals and seizing evidence.