A joint operation between the French Gendarmerie (SR Limoges – OCLDI), Spanish Guardia Civil and Romanian National Police to stop the theft of tractors, coordinated by the judicial authorities of the involved countries and supported by Eurojust and Europol, was successfully carried out over the last two days in France, Spain and Romania.
An operational coordination centre (CC) was set up at Eurojust and run by the French National Desk with the assistance of the Hungarian, Spanish and Romanian National Desks and the Case Analysis Unit, which provided analytical support prior to and during the joint operation. The operation was also supported by Europol, which deployed staff to Spain and the CC, for real-time analysis and cross-checking of data.
The investigation began in France in November 2012 following the theft of three new John Deere tractors, and was led by an investigating magistrate of the Juridiction interrégionale spécialisée(JIRS) of Bordeaux. A link was subsequently discovered with ten other tractor thefts committed between November 2012 and March 2013 in various regions of France.
An organised criminal group (OCG), consisting of Romanian nationals living in Spain, travelled to France to commit the thefts. The stolen tractors, each of which is valued at approximately EUR 80 000, were loaded onto Romanian trucks heading to Eastern European countries, mainly Hungary and Romania. The financial damage caused by this OCG between April 2012 and October 2013 is estimated at approximately EUR 3 200 000. The main members of the OCG appear to be Romanians living and operating in a number of Member States, including Romania and Spain.
Since the beginning of the investigation, the French investigating magistrate sent six International Letters of Request and 10 European Arrest Warrants to the involved judicial authorities. The joint operation resulted in the arrest of nine suspects.
Additionally, several private premises were searched and significant seizures were made, including a large amount of mobile telephones and SIM cards, as well as cash, handguns and ammunition, GPS devices and forged identity cards.
Eurojust and Europol contributed significant added value by providing coordination and operational meetings during the investigation.
Eurojust facilitated the exchange of information on the targeted criminal organisation, scheduled an action day for the joint operation, held a coordination meeting in December 2013, and transmitted and executed mutual legal assistance requests and European Arrest Warrants.
Europol has just issued an Early Warning Notification (2014/2) to law enforcement authorities to increase awareness of the theft of agricultural machinery, including tractors. Although not a new phenomenon, the number of such thefts and the countries affected has increased, and two distinct modi operandi have been identified.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Leen DE ZUTTER, Media and PR
Press & PR Service
Tel: +31 70 412 5507
Mr Søren PEDERSEN, Chief of Media and PR
Tel: +31 70 302 5001