Launched in September 2018, Project CARGO – an EU-financed project targeting mobile organised crime groups specialised in cargo theft – has yielded its first results.
In January, some 200 hundred police and customs officials from Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany swooped on suspects believed to be part of an organised crime group responsible for over 40 acts of cargo theft throughout Europe. Six suspects were arrested in Warsaw and Gorzow (Poland) while caught in the act of unloading stolen truckloads worth some €100 000, while four other suspects were arrested as a result of house searches. The Polish authorities were also able to seize criminal assets worth in excess of EUR 600 000.
The sting follows a lengthy and complex investigation looking into the activities of this criminal network believed to be operating in Poland, Denmark, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The organisation was well structured: the so-called ‘sliders’ were responsible for the selection of goods. For this to happen, they cut open the tarpaulin sides of the lorries at night in parking lots. If the goods were of interest, the so-called ‘transporters’ would load the stolen goods on other lorries with forged licence plates that they would need then drive back to Poland. The stolen goods were then stored and sold in Poland.
Background on Project CARGO
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 high-jacking and robberies are occurring more often.
To tackle this criminal phenomenon, Project CARGO was launched in September 2018 under the initiative of the German State Office of Investigation of Saxony-Anhalt. Supported by Europol, Project CARGO targets Europe’s most active mobile organised crime groups specialised in cargo theft and will run for an initial period of two years.
This project is implemented in the framework of EMPACT. In 2017, the European Union set up a four-year policy cycle to tackle the most pressing threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. Organised property crime is one of the EMPACT priorities for the 2018-2021 period, under which cargo theft falls under as a European-wide priority action.