Experts from EU Member States met on 2 and 3 December in The Hague to discuss and share knowledge on Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). The conference was jointly organised by Europol and Eurojust and hosted representatives from the EU Council Secretariat, European Commission, Frontex, OLAF, and LIBE Committee of the European Parliament. Participants focused on the exchange of best practices for running a JIT, JIT funding opportunities, profile requirements for successful JIT experts at a national level and how to further stimulate the use of the Joint Investigation Team tool.
A JIT is a time–limited investigation team set up between two or more EU countries (and/or third parties) to fight serious cross border crime. In particular, a JIT is appropriate for a demanding or difficult investigation requiring special coordination or concerted actions.
At the meeting, EU Member States were encouraged to adopt an integrated approach to JITs, involving national prosecutors and investigators together with representatives from Eurojust and Europol. This approach will ensure that Europol is in a position to assist with its analysis of criminal intelligence and Eurojust with coordination of judicial actions.
In recent years, Europol and Eurojust have supported several Joint Investigation Teams fighting organised crime activities such as drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings and euro counterfeiting. A JIT manual, to guide practitioners through setting up a JIT, has been produced and is available in 22 EU languages on the websites of Europol and Eurojust.
Europol and Eurojust officials can assist by supporting the activities of, and information exchange with, members of the Joint Investigation Team. Europol can also offer operational support by deploying the ‘mobile office’, to provide quick analytical feedback of criminal intelligence, as well as providing forensic expertise. Eurojust can also help with the drafting of JIT agreements and financial support of JITs.
The advantages of using a Joint Investigation Team are:
- the ability to share information directly between JIT members without the need for formal requests,
- team members can request investigative measures from other team members directly, dispensing with the need for Letters Rogatory. This also applies to requests for coercive measures,
- JIT members can be present at house searches, interviews, etc, in all jurisdictions covered, helping to overcome language barriers in interviews, etc,
- efforts can be coordinated on-the-spot and specialised knowledge can be informally exchanged,
- mutual trust is built between practitioners from different jurisdictions working together and deciding on investigative and prosecution strategies,
- Europol and Eurojust can be involved with direct support and assistance,
- the possibility to secure potentially available funding.
The legal basis for JITs is mainly set out in the 2000 EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and Council Decisions on Europol and Eurojust. A JIT Secretariat will be established at Eurojust early next year.