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DEA Participates in Europe-Wide Operation Against High-Risk Criminal Network

Highly flexible, the criminals would quickly adapt to new drug trafficking methods to try to evade law enforcement. Drug shipments have been found in vessels and trucks amongst others, often concealed in sophisticated hidden compartments. 

An unprecedented international operation, involving judicial and law enforcement authorities from 11 countries, has resulted in the arrest of 44 individuals. The arrested individuals were suspected of belonging to a high-risk criminal network considered one of the most dangerous in the European Union.

The investigations in eight countries uncovered that several criminal organizations were working together to carry out large-scale poly-criminal activities in and outside the European Union. These include drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal enrichment among others.

On November 22, a total of 94 searches were executed across Europe, targeting both the leaders of these criminal organizations and their associates. The criminal network operated in Lithuania, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Poland, France, Germany and the Slovak Republic.

This international sweep follows complex investigations led by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office together and the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau, together with their partners in the Czech Republic, Latvia, France, Germany, Poland, Norway, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Spain and the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States, all under the coordination of Eurojust and Europol. 

The scale of drugs trafficking alone attributed to this criminal network is massive, with activities reported across three continents. Large quantities of various illicit drugs, such as cocaine, hashish and cannabis and methamphetamine were seized during the investigations. The criminal network is believed to be linked to major drug trafficking organizations outside the European Union. 

Highly flexible, the criminals would quickly adapt to new drug trafficking methods to try to evade law enforcement. Drug shipments have been found in vessels and trucks amongst others, often concealed in sophisticated hidden compartments. 

The criminal network was structured like a business, with different criminal groups and brokers working together across borders to control the whole chain of drug trafficking – from arranging huge shipments of drugs to the distribution throughout Europe and beyond. 

International cooperation coordinated by Europol and Eurojust was central in bringing the perpetrators to justice who were all located in different geographical locations across the world. 

From an early stage in the investigation, an Operational Taskforce was set-up at Europol, with Eurojust setting up and financing two joint investigation teams (JITs), which served as a joint hub for criminal intelligence. The participating countries were able to combine and analyze all the information and evidence obtained on these criminal networks at a national level, together with the information held in databases of the participating law enforcement authorities. 

Based on this pool of information and evidence, the different authorities agreed on a common strategy to prepare for the final phase of the investigations and bring down the whole network.

Eurojust not only assisted with setting up and financing the JITS, but organized 15 coordination meetings to prepare for the action day and set up a coordination center to provide cross-border judicial assistance. 

From the onset, Europol has provided continuous intelligence development and analysis which allowed for the identification of the targets and the mapping of their criminal activities. During the action day, four of its officers were deployed on the ground in France, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Spain, ensuring the swift analysis of data as it was being collected and adjusting the strategy as required.

Read more at Europol

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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