Europol Review 2015

Operational Hub:

Law enforcement from 60 countries join forces to disrupt criminal infrastructure

In 2014, the large-scale 10-day Operation Archimedes was organised. In 2015, the concept changed into a series of Joint Action Days, which were more intelligence-led and regionally focused. Operation Blue Amber was this series of international actions to target organised crime, led by EU Member States and supported by Europol. The operation focused on EMPACT 17 priority crime areas such as drugs trafficking, irregular immigration, organised property crime and counterfeit goods.

Operation Blue Amber was a unique operation that led to law enforcement officers from 28 EU Member States, 32 non-EU countries and other international partners joining forces to disrupt organised crime groups and their criminal infrastructures. In 2015, several simultaneous interventions and action weeks took place across the world. Coordinated interventions took place throughout 2015 at airports, border-crossing points, ports and specific crime hot spots in towns and cities.

900 suspects arrested

Just a few of the final results from Operation Blue Amber:

  • Nearly 900 arrests made relating to drugs trafficking (257), property crime (281), and facilitation of irregular immigration (60);
  • 263 arrests of fraudsters during the Global Airline Action days, which targeted criminals suspected of fraudulently purchasing plane tickets online using stolen or fake credit card data;
  • 5 tonnes of cocaine, 2.1 tonnes of cannabis, 280 kg of synthetic drugs and 82 kg of heroin seized;
  • 254 vehicles, 190 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides, and almost EUR 140 000 in cash confiscated;
  • 1400 tonnes of stolen metal seized.

24/7 Operational coordination centre

Liaison officers from the EU Member States and colleagues representing other international partners coordinated the exchange of information and intelligence between national law enforcement authorities from a 24/7 operational coordination centre at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. Europol specialists and analysts provided support from its headquarters and also on the spot in EU Member States. Europol also facilitated the information flow between EU Member States, third states, various cooperation networks, international organisations and representatives of the private sector. Moreover, Europol supported Operation Blue Amber operations by deploying its officers on the spot in various locations, with mobile offices allowing for direct, secure access to Europol's centralised databases and analysis tools.

Two week focus on drugs trafficking yields seizure of 300 kg synthetics Two week focus on drugs trafficking yields seizure of 300 kg synthetics

Two week focus on drugs trafficking yields seizure of 300 kg synthetics

Operation Blue Amber also included two drugs action weeks. Synthetic drugs trafficking and the use of small postal parcels to traffic the drugs is a key issue for many European countries. “During the Blue Amber drugs action weeks, the focus was specifically on this modus operandi of trafficking. In total, nearly 300 kg of synthetics were seized in and outside the European Union,” says Johan Nooijens, Chief Inspector of the Netherlands’ National Police Agency, and co-driver for ‘Empact Synthetic Drugs’. “The joint action days (JADs) on drugs were successful for us. The international information exchange and coordination is the key to success against these types of international organised crimes. Under the upcoming Dutch Presidency, joint action days on drugs will be organised and strongly supported again.”

250 stolen vehicles seized in operation Luxcar 250 stolen vehicles seized in operation Luxcar

250 stolen vehicles seized in operation Luxcar

The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU organised Operation Luxcar, focusing on vehicle theft. “More than 250 stolen vehicles were seized in a two-day international coordinated action, several new investigations were initiated with the support of many police officers in the EU and the support of Europol’s experts,” says Steve Schmitz, the coordinator of Luxcar for the Luxembourg Police. Property crime, and more specifically vehicle crime, continues to affect EU citizens.

Property crime in the EU Property crime in the EU

Property crime in the EU

Organised crime groups commit property crime across the entire EU which includes organised vehicle theft, burglaries, armed robberies, metal and cargo theft. Relatively low punishments for most property crimes, their diversity and the fact that these crimes are often only investigated on a local level, make them attractive to criminal groups.

Property crime targeted in 80 000 checks on the Baltic Sea ferries Property crime targeted in 80 000 checks on the Baltic Sea ferries

Property crime targeted in 80 000 checks on the Baltic Sea ferries

Operation Turnstone, carried out in May 2015, targeted serious cross-border organised property crime18 in the Baltic Sea region. Nearly 80 000 entities from passenger and vehicle lists of ferries operating across the Baltic Sea were checked both in the national and Europol databases, which triggered 325 hits on high-value targets. Four Estonian nationals were caught red-handed while attempting to break into a jewellery store in Norway. The offenders were arrested after an intensive surveillance operation which monitored the suspects from their initial arrival in Stockholm, by ferry from Tallinn, across more than 1000 km through Sweden to the city of Bodø in Norway.


  • 10 operational action weeks (one financed by Europol), 7 days a week;
  • Participating states: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden;
  • EUR 2.5 million worth of items seized;
  • 200 suspects arrested;
  • 2000 intelligence hits.

Lennart Ericsson, Operational Leader, Stockholm Border Police: “We coordinated an intense surveillance operation over 1000 km, from Estonia, through Sweden to Norway. Norwegian police apprehended the four suspects when they attempted to break into a jewellery store. The whole operation was led from Europol's coordination centre. The cooperation with Europol has been the absolute key to success for the operation Turnstone. Together we have created a common intelligence picture of the current situation in the Baltic Sea region. The continuous support from Europol has generated a large number of apprehended criminals within the framework of the project.”

  1. Targets suspects in property crime, e.g. warehouse and shop burglaries (equipment, electronics, jewellery), vehicle and boat thefts, organised pickpocketing, credit card skimming, metal theft. 18
1400 tonnes of metal seized 1400 tonnes of metal seized

1400 tonnes of metal seized

Also in May 2015, 17 EU Member States and Norway engaged in operational actions targeting key hotspots for metal theft and fencing of stolen metal. Overall more than 100 000 people and 30 000 vehicles were checked throughout the participating countries.


  • 1400 tonnes of metal were seized (copper, iron, aluminium and non-ferrous metals);
  • 191 people were arrested;
  • 235 vehicles confiscated.

Cyprus: Two containers with illegally obtained cables were intercepted, which were from the UK and on their way to Pakistan.

Spain: A Romanian organised crime group involved in copper theft was dismantled, with eight suspects arrested and three tonnes of copper seized.

Ireland: 400 000 beer kegs with a replacement value of approximately EUR 40 million had been stolen since 2007; numerous house searches were conducted, six suspects arrested and 282 beer kegs seized.

190 tonnes of pesticides seized 190 tonnes of pesticides seized

190 tonnes of pesticides seized

Law enforcement officers from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain supported by private industry, joined efforts to target the illegal import of pesticides. As a result, 350 inspections were carried out in the seven countries and irregularities were found in 100 cases. In total, 190 tonnes of illegal or fake pesticides were seized. Such products may involve risks and hazards for humans, animals and the environment. Investigations are still on-going in seven cases.

24 facilitators of illegal immigration arrested 24 facilitators of illegal immigration arrested

24 facilitators of illegal immigration arrested

The Western-Balkan route plays an important role in the activities of people smuggling networks spread all over Europe. A targeted operation involving law enforcement officers from 11 countries, and Police Cooperation Convention for Southeast Europe Secretariat (PCC SEE) was launched against international organised crime groups involved in facilitation of illegal immigration in Southeast Europe. The two-day operation Sirocco led to the discovery of a safe house and the arrest of 24 facilitators. The operation also contributed to obstructing the secondary movements of irregular migrants from Central Asia to the European Union.

Long-term commitment to fighting organised criminal networks

Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, summed up operation Blue Amber by saying that “criminals do not take borders into account and they need to know that they are no longer safe anywhere. It is our duty as law enforcement agencies to continue this international cooperation to tackle organised crime. Europol is committed to supporting national law enforcement agencies with its unique intelligence and technical capabilities.”

Joint action days (JADs) are cross-border law enforcement operations focusing on horizontal key crime hot spots and criminal infrastructures across the EU. JADs are a Member States-led initiative, supported by Europol, and take place within the EU policy cycle for organised and serious international crime.

Juan Miguel Thiriat Tovar, Colombian Liaison Bureau at Europol Juan Miguel Thiriat Tovar, Colombian Liaison Bureau at Europol

No hiding place for criminals

Juan Miguel Thiriat Tovar, Head of the Colombian Liaison Bureau at Europol, said that operation Blue Amber was a clear demonstration of successful teamwork, where law enforcement from different countries could work together to coordinate operations in Europe, Oceania and America. “The results were more than just obtaining good statistics, it was to exert a lasting impact on the different structures of transnational organised crime groups. It was to send a clear signal to the criminals: there is no hiding place for you.”

  1. European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats (EMPACT): 17