On 24 June, an international police operation coordinated by Europol led to the simultaneous seizure of two consignments of hashish worth EUR 300 000 and the arrest of two suspects.
The action – led by Moldova, working with Europol, Italian and Slovakian law enforcement authorities (LEAs) – was initiated last night, based on high quality intelligence provided by Moldovan officers.
According to the information, a Moldovan organised crime group had arranged two shipments of drugs across the EU: one using a ferry with Italy as the final destination, the other one using a vehicle which was being sent to Poland.
The intelligence was immediately exchanged via Europol's Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA). Thus, law enforcement authorities from Italy and Slovakia were notified accordingly.
The intelligence operation had been prompted by the request of the Moldovan LEAs following the arrest of two other members of the same group and the seizure of an additional 46 kg of hashish by the German authorities that had occurred two weeks earlier.
Consequently, officers from the two countries managed to simultaneously intercept and stop the two shipments in Rome, Italy, and at the Slovak-Polish border. Nearly 60 kg of hashish were seized and two individuals were arrested (three Moldovan nationals and one German national).
The investigation has revealed that the drug shipments are connected to previous criminal activities of the same group in Spain, Germany and other EU Member States. Moreover, it was discovered that the traffickers were regularly trafficking drugs to Moldova, Ukraine and Russia.
The challenges encountered so far resided in the skills and competences of the traffickers, who were constantly applying counter-surveillance measures. The smugglers used a wide range of routes to transport the drugs (by air, land and sea ferry). Furthermore, they were disciplined when communicating with each other, thus giving law enforcement limited interception opportunities.
This specific investigation will continue and will by all means be broadened. However, the arrests and seizures are noteworthy and important benchmarks as they are indicative of the high degree of readiness and inter-operability reached by Europol and the law enforcement colleagues in the Member States. This sort of operational results are proof of the swift reaction and fitting support provided currently by Europol to live trans-national operations.
Such a success also marks a confident step forward taken in the operational cooperation with law enforcement authorities in the Republic of Moldova, the initiators and main contributors to the investigation.