Europol has supported an international investigation led by France and Spain to dismantle a criminal network involved in metal theft in France. The operation has led to the arrest of seven individuals.
Operation Cuproso – METO 23 began when the French National Gendarmerie learnt of an alleged criminal gang suspected of stealing significant amounts of copper from recycling centres in the south of France. Investigations revealed that the suspects might be based in Girona (Spain) so a European Arrest Warrant was therefore issued by French authorities.
On 1 December, officers from the Spanish Guardia Civil, together with the French Gendarmerie and local police in Girona, carried out four house searches in Girona. As a result, four suspects were arrested and a variety of evidence was seized, including documents. Simultaneously, three other individuals linked to the thefts were arrested by Gendarmerie in France.
Europol supported the investigation with data analysis, information exchange and by facilitating two operational meetings. On the action day, a dedicated Europol analyst was deployed to Girona (Spain), equipped with a mobile office. Information gathered during the operation was analysed and exchanged in real time and immediately cross-matched against Europol's databases.
According to investigations, the total estimated losses for the recycling centres could amount to EUR 900 000.
Metal theft can have a devastating impact on businesses, communities and individuals. This includes the loss of key services such as telecommunications and power, disruption of rail networks and the desecration of religious buildings and memorials. In most cases, the overall damage caused by metal theft far exceeds the value of the stolen metal itself - experts estimate it to be 50 times the value of the stolen metal.
Intelligence shows that the stolen metal is often transported across several borders and sold as scrap, or for recycling, far away from the scene of the crime.