For more than two years, Europol has been supporting the German-led ISEC 2012 project on "Strengthening cross-border operational cooperation in the fight against mobile organised crime groups (MOCGs) from the Baltic Sea Region, including Russian speaking MOCGs".
This project was set up in the response to the need of filling a series of intelligence gaps which emerged in relation to MOCGs, as well as an endorsement of the mutual trust and high level of operational cooperation between the EU Member States and Europol.
The objective of the ISEC project on MOCGs was to dismantle at least 12 Baltic or Russian-speaking MOCGs and networks by applying special law enforcement tactics on a cross-border scale.
In particular, the European Commission-funded project provided financial support to more than a 100 law enforcement agencies to purchase GPS devices, perform informant reward operations and organise operational meetings for a large number of operational experts involved in tackling particular international criminal groups or networks.
The decision-making process on all operational support requests was carried out by an established Operative Committee, consisting of Germany – as the lead Member State, France, Lithuania, Poland and Europol, in an advisory capacity.
"The project was a great success, the operational support was widely accepted throughout Europe and many of the desired results were achieved in the large scale operational meetings: identifying the structures of the criminal networks, linking offences to the targeted MOCGs, operating across borders", said Mr Peter Henzler, the Vice President of the German Federal Criminal Police Office Bundeskriminalamt. "The established trustful police networks allow organising the vivid exchange of information and led to the arrests of a large number of suspects and dismantle of several Baltic and Russian speaking MOCGs. We are proud to be able to counter the activities of the well-organised criminal groups by our operational EU project", he added.
The synergies developed in the project with the support of Europol led to the dismantling of 72 MOCGs and partial dismantling of another 15. 1890 suspects were identified, 382 individuals were arrested. A total number of 575 arrest warrants were issued. The total damage caused by the networks' illegal activities rises up to nearly EUR 65 million.
This was achieved through improving the exchange of operational knowledge, organising cross-border operations against MOCGs, using new tools and techniques, identifying new MOCGs, common targets and their activities (modi operandi) and promoting early warnings on MOCGs and their activities. A special emphasis was also placed on the seizure and confiscation of illegally obtained assets and the illegal money flows.
Moreover, several new investigations have been launched.
Europol's secure information exchange network SIENA was used as the primary information and intelligence exchange tool.
Mr Michael Rauschenbach, Business Manager of Europol's Serious Organised Crime Area, emphasised the unique operational character of the project and impressive results achieved so far: "The experience of the implementation the current project revealed that additional operational possibilities available to the Member States within the framework of the given project, in particular Europol's support function, are highly demanded and appreciated by our partners. This is recognition of the need of new tools to efficiently tackle MOCGs".
This project has been a unique opportunity for Europol to provide more efficient support to the involved Member States by delivering expertise, analytical and on-the-spot support for on-going operations; moreover, Europol acted as the primary platform for information and intelligence exchange within the project, as well as hosting and facilitating operational meetings.
Furthermore, this ISEC project on MOCGs could serve as a good practical example for replication within all EMPACT priorities with regards to the application of similar operational possibilities.