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19th Jan 2019

EU home to over 5,000 criminal groups

  • Migrant smuggling remains a lucrative business in the EU (Photo: Reuters)

More than 5,000 international organised crime groups are operating throughout the EU, up from 3,600 in 2013.

Europol, the EU police agency, said in a report on Thursday (9 March) that the latest figure is more a reflection of an improved intelligence picture rather than an absolute increase in the number of gangs.

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"It is also an indication of shifts in criminal markets and the emergence of smaller groups and individual criminal entrepreneurs," said Europol's director Rob Wainwright.

Around 60 percent of those involved in the groups are EU nationals, according to Europol’s latest serious organised crime threat assessment (Socta) report.

The document states that "document fraud, money laundering and the online trade in illicit goods and services are the engines of organised crime in the EU".

Many of the gangs are also involved in more than one form of crime with things like document fraud emerging as a key criminal activity linked to migration.

Migrant smuggling networks in 2015 earned up to €5.7 billion in profits during the height of the refugee crisis.

Those profits dropped to around €2 billion last year following the sharp drop in the number of people entering the EU.

But despite the fall, the industry still remains comparable to Europe's illicit drugs market.

Many are offering tailored services that include fraudulent travel and identify documents.

Europol notes that "the distinction between legal and illegal activities is increasingly blurred" in an area that may see taxi or lorry drivers implicated in smuggling.

Document fraud linked to migrant smuggling has also increased in both terms of quality and quantity.

While most use genuine passports by people who resemble the passport holder, others resort to forged, counterfeited, or stolen blanks.

Last year, Greek and Czech police arrested people in an Athens-based network that were charging anywhere from €100 to €3,000 per forged document.

The gang was producing passports, national ID cards, visas, residence cards, asylum seeker registration cards, and driving licenses.

Migrant smugglers mostly Turks, says Europol

Figures published by the EU police agency suggest that Turks are now prime movers in the migrant smuggling industry. But it is still difficult to get a real picture of the situation.

Investigation

How the Italian mafia found a Dutch home

One of the biggest mafia trials in Europe in recent years is about to end. Members of the Crupi clan are accused of smuggling vast amounts of cocaine from South America to Italy, using the Netherlands as their main hub.

Germany led way on EU human rights protection

Germany led the way on protection of human rights this year, but Hungary, Italy, and Poland "undermined the EU's moral standing" on the world stage, a leading NGO said.

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