Operation DRAGON delivers major blow to organised crime

01 December 2017
Press Release
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This News/Press release is about Economic Crime

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Law enforcement authorities from more than 60 countries, coordinated and supported by Europol and Frontex, have joined forces to target organised crime groups and their infrastructures across the EU in a series of actions in hundreds of locations, with the cooperation of Eurojust, lNTERPOL, AMERIPOL, CLACIP, NCFTA, CCWP, UNODC and IATA.

Operation Dragon has been the fourth cooperative international law enforcement operation under the EU Policy Cycle targeting serious and organised crime in the EU and globally, and involved actions in hundreds of locations between 5 June and 20 October 2017.

EU Member States and their international partners came together to disrupt the activities of criminal groups involved in the following crime areas: payment card fraud, facilitation of illegal immigration, cybercrime, synthetic drugs/cocaine/heroin trafficking, firearms trafficking, euro counterfeiting, organised property crime, excise fraud and trafficking in human beings.

As part of Operation Dragon, law enforcement authorities assigned thousands of police, border and coast guard as well as customs officers to actions that focused on key hot spots in the EU, with the aim of having a lasting and significant impact on serious and organised crime, disrupting criminal groups and their activities for months or even years to come.

The operations at a glance:

Global Airport Action Day

Date: 5-9 June 2017 and 16-20 October 2017

Crime areas: Payment card fraud and facilitation of illegal immigration

Key operational outcome: 153 suspects detained/denied boarding and/or charged, 312 suspicious transactions reported, multiple links to other crimes identified.

Europol's contribution: Operational coordination, secure information exchange, cross-checking and operational analysis, command post, on-the-spot support.

Operation: Worldwide operational action to fight fraudulent online purchases of flight tickets using compromised or stolen credit card data. This type of fraud is a facilitator for other serious and organised criminal activities, such as document fraud, facilitation of illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings and drugs trafficking.

Participants: AT, BE, BG, HR, CY, DE, DK, EE, EL, ES, FI, FR, HU, IE, IT, LT, LU, LV, NL, PL, PT, RO, SI, SK, SE, UK, AE, AU, BF, BJ, BO, BR, BF, CA, CH, CL, CM, CO, CR, CV, IS, NO, NZ,  DO, EC, GH, GM, GT, GW, HK, ID, ML, MX,  MY, NE, NG, PA, PE, PH, QA, SG, SN, TG, TH, US, Eurojust, Europol, Frontex, AMERIPOL, CLACIP, INTERPOL, NCFTA, UNODC, 84 airlines, 8 online travel agencies, 230 airports and IATA.

Cyber-patrolling Week

Date: 12-16 June 2017

Crime areas:  Cyber-attacks, payment card fraud, illicit online trade including: drugs (cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs), illicit trafficking in firearms, trafficking in human beings, virtual currencies, forged documents, money laundering and counterfeiting.

Key operational outcome: 272 targets listed, 73 of whom were prioritised for further investigation, and 42 cross-matches identified across the different areas. 

Europol's contribution: Operational coordination, operational strategy, secure information exchange, analytical and forensic expertise.

Operation: First-ever coordinated action week to counter the evolving criminality on the Darknet in a multi-disciplinary law enforcement manner by focusing on multiple crime areas. More than 40 investigators and experts mapped active targets in their specific crime areas and developed intelligence packages.

Participants: AT, BE, BG, CY, CZ, DE, ES, FI, FR, HR, HU, IE, IT, LV, NL, PL, PT, RO, SI, SK, SE, UK, CH, US, Eurojust and Europol.

Joint Action Day Danube II

Date: 19–30 June 2017

Crime Areas: Facilitation of illegal immigration, organised property crime

Key operational outcome: As a result, border police apprehended 7 people smugglers, detected 546 irregular migrants and 667 people without valid travel documents. 24 stolen vehicles were detected. In the course of this operation smuggled cigarettes, alcohol and drugs were detected along with illegal weapons and ammunition. The intelligence collected will help launch investigations into people suspected of involvement in migrant smuggling.

Europol's contribution: Deployment of one analyst to provide analytical on-the-spot support.

Operation: Coordinated by Frontex and co-led by Hungary, targeting illegal entries and smuggling activities along the Balkan route and at the Eastern external border of the EU performed in the clandestine way by various means of transportation.

Participants: BG, HU, HR, PL, RO, SI, SK, Europol, Frontex and INTERPOL.

Joint Action Day Aeolos

Date: 5-14 September 2017

Crime Areas: Facilitation of illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings

Key operational outcome: 13 people suspected of facilitating illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings and supplying false documents were arrested. During the action, 16 falsified and counterfeit documents were seized.

Europol's contribution: Deployment of Europol staff to provide analytical on-the-spot support at airports. Back office support 24/7 during the action.

Operation: Coordinated by Frontex and co-led Germany and implemented under the umbrella of tailored Frontex Air Border Sector Operations. The action took place at 39 European airports in and outside the European Union.

Participants: AT, BE, BG, CY, CZ, DE, DK, EL, ES, FI, FR, HU, IT, LT, LV, NL, PL, PT, RO, SI, SK, SE, CH, Europol, Frontex and INTERPOL.

Joint Action Day Dual

Date: 2-9 October 2017

Crime areas: Facilitation of illegal immigration, excise fraud

Key operational outcome: 24 suspected people smugglers were arrested, 761 irregular migrants were detected and 119 people were refused entry. Authorities also recovered 19 stolen vehicles. During the operation smuggled cigarettes, alcohol and drugs were also detected, along with weapons and ammunition. Cross-checks against the databases generated nearly 170 hits. The intelligence collected during JAD Dual allowed to initiate 11 new and support 13 on-going investigations into criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling.

Europol's contribution: Mobile Offices deployed in Austria and Germany; analytical on-the-spot support.

Operation: Coordinated by Frontex and co-led by Austria and Germany, focused on counteracting the facilitation of illegal immigration done by means of clandestine entries within trucks, cargo trains and containers, combined with smuggling of excise goods. A coordination centre was set up in Joint Operational Office Vienna to bring together liaison officers from EU Member States, Third Country and EU Agencies dealing with migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings and to support investigations. Customs authorities from 4 EU Member States joined efforts with police and border guards on national level.

Participants: AT, BG, CZ, DE, HU, HR, PL, RO, SI, SK, MK, RS, Frontex, Europol and INTERPOL.

Large-Scale Joint Action Day (LS-JAD)

Date: 9-13 October 2017

Crime areas: Facilitation of illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings (THB), synthetic drugs and cocaine trafficking, organised property crime (OPC).

Key operational outcome: In total 692 people were detained, arrested or apprehended. 267 kg of cocaine, 19 kg of amphetamines, 1.7 kg of MDMA, 327 tablets of XTC, 2.44 million individual cigarettes and 228 vehicles were seized. 594 new investigations have been initiated (2 in connection with cocaine trafficking, 373 in synthetic drugs trafficking/possession, 17 in facilitating illegal immigration, 81 in THB, 121 in OPC). 84 document fraud cases were detected. 94 suspects of facilitation of illegal immigration, plus 102 suspects and 1 074 victims of trafficking in human beings were identified, among which 36 were minors.

Europol's contribution: Europol prepared an overall action plan with the contributions of all EU Member States, the related Action Leaders, Drivers, Eurojust and Frontex. The draft plan was discussed during a planning meeting held at Europol, with the participation of the relevant Action Leaders.

Participants: All EU Member States, CH, CO, IS, NO, US, Eurojust, Europol, Frontex, CCWP, INTERPOL, MAOC-N.

Joint Action Day Calibre

Date: 17-18 November 2017

Crime areas: illicit trafficking in firearms

Key operational outcome: 136 firearms and over 7 000 rounds of ammunition were seized. 18 individuals were arrested in the Western Balkan states in relation to weapons and explosives offences and 153 individuals were prevented from entering the EU illegally. In addition, law enforcement identified a further 37 instances of overstay. 1 stolen vehicle was recovered and 4 counterfeit/forged documents were detected.

Europol’s contribution: 4 Mobile Offices deployed to the Western Balkan region and the UK; analytical on-the-spot support.

Operation:  Led by the UK and coordinated by Europol and Frontex, this two-day operation against firearms trafficking saw physical checks being carried out at border crossings, mainly in the Western Balkan region.

Participants: AL, BA, BG, CH, DE, ES, GR,  HR, HU, ME, MK, RO, RS, SE, SI, UK, US, Europol, Frontex

Operation Dragon was the fourth series of joint action days covered by the 2013 – 2017 EU Policy Cycle. Operation Dragon follows the successful operations Ciconia Alba (2016), Blue Amber (2015) and Archimedes (2014), which all targeted serious international and organised crime.

The Operation Dragon joint action days were carried out within the framework of the EU priorities tackling organised crime, and focusing on the following crime areas:

  • Trafficking in human beings;
  • Facilitated illegal immigration;
  • Synthetic drugs trafficking;
  • Cocaine and heroin trafficking;
  • Firearms trafficking;
  • Counterfeit goods;
  • Excise and carousel (MTIC) fraud;
  • Organised property crime;
  • Cybercrime.

The Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) of the Council of the EU provided strategic guidance.

See JAD 2017 infographic.