Almost half a million people, vehicles and premises were checked during last week’s Joint Action Days (JADs) , coordinated by EMPACT Firearms and Europol, in the fight against crime originating from the Western Balkans. For four days 8 300 officers from 28 countries, parties, Frontex and INTERPOL, were active at Europol’s headquarters and on the ground to fight against the illegal trafficking of firearms and drugs, facilitated illegal migration and document fraud.
From 5 to 9 September 2018, a coordination centre was set up at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. It was attended by 44 officers from the majority of the participating countries, Frontex, Interpol. Fifty-six representatives from Frontex accompanied officers on the ground. The preparatory phase began in early 2018 with several operational meetings and intelligence-gathering activities. During this phase, several hundred pieces of information (persons, phone numbers, documents, etc.) were exchanged between all partners, 32 suspects were arrested, 102 firearms seized and 60 houses searched.
The results from 5 to 9 September:
- migrant smugglers: 13
- illegal migrants: 71
- drug traffickers: 36
- firearms traffickers: 3
- firearms and drug traffickers: 5
- document fraudsters: 16
- others: 4
- 159 firearms, explosives and other weapons seized (and 1462 pieces of ammunition)
- 286 kg of drugs seized
Identified cases of:
- visa fraud/misuse: 22
- falsified documents: 40
- clandestine entries: 612
- refused entries: 178
The EMPACT Firearms (lead by Spain) and Europol coordinated the operation. All the Western Balkan countries participated in the operation, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo1, Montenegro and Serbia. Alongside them, 20 EU Member States were also involved (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These joint action days were also supported by Switzerland, the United States, INTERPOL and Frontex so as to facilitate information flow and cross-check data against existing databases. Europol deployed one expert to Bosnia and Herzegovina for on-the-spot analytical and technical forensic support.
The operation in detail
A total of 482 014 people, vehicles, premises and parcels were checked against existing databases. The operation saw 180 people arrested; 32 in the preliminary intelligence phase and 148 during the operational phase. On 6 September, thanks to valuable intelligence, a Turkish lorry with 34 migrants on board was stopped in Hungary near the Romanian border.
Since last week, law enforcement have initiated 21 new investigations and more are accepted, so the total number of arrests will most probably further increase. These successes are due to the considerable amount of information exchanged between the operational centres and partners.
1 This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
In 2010 the European Union set up a four-year Policy Cycle to ensure greater continuity in the fight against serious international and organised crime. In 2017 the Council of the EU decided to continue the EU Policy Cycle for the 2018 - 2021 period. It aims to tackle the most significant threats posed by organised and serious international crime to the EU. This is achieved by improving and strengthening cooperation between the relevant services of EU Member States, institutions and agencies, as well as non-EU countries and organisations, including the private sector, where relevant. Joint Action Days (JADs) are cross-border law enforcement operations focusing on key crime priorities. These particular JADs required expertise from several EMPACT priorities: illicit firearms trafficking, facilitation of illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and document fraud as a cross-cutting activity