Tag Archives: Europol

EUROPOL fight intellectual property crime

 

“At Europol, we are working hard to identify, disrupt and dismantle the transnational organised crime networks behind IP crime. However, the problem of illegal networks cannot be solved by law enforcement alone. A robust and multi-pronged response is needed involving all stakeholders from the public and private sector. This is even more important, given that the rapidly- evolving digital world presents a range of new challenges for enforcement officers tackling this type of economic crime”, said Rob Wainwright, Executive Director of Europol.

Recent innovations on intellectual property rights’ enforcement strategies is the focus of the first Europol Intellectual Property Crime Conference organised in Antwerp.

Some 400 senior law enforcement official, security and industry experts from 42 countries are attending this two-day conference (19-20 September), co-organised by Europol, the Belgian Customs Authority, UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC).  Participants will review emerging crime trends, as well as outline enforcement strategies and best practices on IP crime via operational case studies and industry perspectives.

According to a study conducted by the European Union Intellectual Property Office, infringements of intellectual property rights are a widespread and ever-increasing phenomenon worldwide. International trade in counterfeit products represents up to 2.5% of world trade, or as much as EUR 338 billion, based on the latest available data from 2013. This is the equivalent of the GDP of Austria, or the combined GDP of Ireland and the Czech Republic. The impact of counterfeiting is particularly high in the European Union, with counterfeit and pirated products amounting to up to 5% of imports, or as much as EUR 85 billion.

“Stopping counterfeits at the EU borders is an important mission of customs authorities. The best way to avoid their import is to prevent the export at the countries of origin. The Belgian Customs therefore invests a lot in cooperation with customs authorities in these countries. For instance, just last week we went to China to set up practical arrangements”, said Kristiaan Vanderwaeren, Administrator- General of Belgian Customs.

“The global, sophisticated nature of counterfeiting requires collaboration among all stakeholders and the sharing of resources, expertise and information to effectively combat the problem”, said Bob Barchiesi, President of IACC. “I am confident that government and industry attendees will come away from the conference with better tools and strategies to address counterfeiting.”

“We must have effective laws and enforcement of those laws for regulations to protect citizens and industrial innovation. UL is a strong supporter of public private partnerships to help law enforcement succeed. Our dedicated staff in Europe and around the globe partner with local customs and enforcement to identify counterfeits. Together, we carry out joint actions and prosecute counterfeiters, resulting in the search and seizure of counterfeit products bearing the UL Mark”, said Gitte Schøtz, President of UL Software.

Due to the potential for high profit margins and the relatively low risk of serious legal ramifications, the manufacturing and distribution processes of counterfeits continues to evolve and become more sophisticated. It is for this reason that the conference is bringing together participants from different sectors, backgrounds and countries to deliver new insights and develop tangible action in the fight against international counterfeiting.

Egmont Group and Europol a new strong cooperation

During the 24th Egmont Group Plenary Meetings that took place in Macau, the European Commissionand Europol were awarded Observer Status of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units(FIUs).

The decision will lead to increased cooperation not only between , but other competent authorities tasked with combating money laundering, terrorist financing and organised crime, facilitated by Europol’s role as an European hub in support of Member States on ongoing operations.

The Egmont Group is a united body of over 150 FIUs that provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. At the meeting, Ms Hennie Verbeek-Kusters (FIU Netherlands) was appointed as Chair of the Egmont Group for the coming two years.

The European Commission and Europol strongly support the objectives of the Egmont Group by encouraging cooperation between FIUs at an EU level.

Together with EU FIUs, the European Commission and Europol are actively involved in ensuring the integrity of European markets through work with the EU FIU PlatformFIU.net, the recently implemented Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive and the implementation of the EU Action Plan against terrorist financing.

New EU rules that strengthen the role of and cooperation between FIUs came into force across Europe on 26 June.

Europol, dismantled illegal horse meat trading

The Spanish Guardia Civil, in coordination with Europol, has dismantled an organised crime group that was trading horsemeat in Europe that was unfit for human consumption. The operation was carried out in coordination with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In Spain, 65 people were arrested and charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation.

Beefburgers in 2013

In 2013, Irish authorities detected beefburgers containing horsemeat. This marked the start of an investigation to find out the origin of the contamination; the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone was found in the meat. Meat companies, frozen food companies and fast-food companies were affected by the investigation, which led to the identification of a Dutch citizen known in the horsemeat world, although his whereabouts were unknown at that moment.

In the summer of 2016, Guardia Civil’s Environmental Protection Service initiated Operation Gazel after unusual behaviour was detected in horsemeat markets. They detected a scam whereby horses in bad shape, too old or simply labelled as “not suitable for consumption” were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses. The animals came from Portugal and several places in northern Spain, their meat was processed in a specific facility and from there sent to Belgium, which is one of the biggest horsemeat exporters in the European Union. The criminal organisation forged the animals’ identification by modifying theirs microchips and documentation.

Main suspect arrested in Belgium

During the investigation, Guardia Civil was able to locate the Dutch businessman related to the Irish case of the beefburgers containing horse meat, in Calpe, Alicante. From there he led the activities of the organisation, putting his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam.

Investigators concluded that the Spanish element of this organisation was a small part of the whole European structure controlled by the Dutch suspect. The arrest of the leader of the criminal group was carried out in Belgium. This action was coordinated by the Federal Police, the Federal Food Agency in Belgium and Guardia Civil. Different police actions were simultaneously carried out in France, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

In total 66 individuals were arrested or investigated. Three officers from Europol supported the Spanish actions in Alicante and León. As a result of all of these actions, several bank accounts and properties were blocked or seized, and five luxury cars seized.

Because of the international nature of this case, Guardia Civil asked Europol for its support in the operation. Europol has worked actively in all necessary actions, including coordination, first contact with other affected countries in order to initiate investigations, and summoning and supporting all involved agencies for coordination and analysis meetings in The Hague, where all the information was studied and processed.

During the searches at the slaughterhouses and facilities, several samples were taken. The results concluded that the destination of the horsemeat was mainly outside of Spain, due to the fact that the samples in Spain matched those found abroad.

Europol tracks wildlife crime

wildefare-crime

Europol Director Rob Wainwright met with Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague today to discuss further cooperation in fighting environmental crime, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two parties in 2016.

The scope of the MoU is to facilitate the exchange of information and support, as well as to improve coordination between the two organisations to fight environmental crime, particularly the illegal trafficking of endangered animal and plant species.

“Europol is pleased to extend its partnerships in this area as a means by which to help protect the environment and our economies. Countering environmental crime also supports broader efforts to combat other crimes such as corruption, money laundering, counterfeiting, fraud, forgery, and sometimes even terrorism or drugs trafficking,” – Europol Director Rob Wainwright highlighted.

“Wildlife trafficking is a global issue that must be addressed through international collaborations: TRAFFIC looks forward to supporting Europol to fulfil its challenging role in addressing wildlife crime through providing strategic assessments and operational support to EU Member States”,- said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC.

Environmental crimes represent a highly lucrative business, especially for organised crime groups, as these offences are harder to detect and sanctions are lower in comparison with other crime areas. The transnational nature of environmental crimes has led to the need for enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations, making strategic agreements crucial in the fight against the trafficking of endangered animal and plant species.

In addition, the EU is a key transit point for illegal trade in wildlife, notably between Africa and Asia. Given TRAFFIC’s presence on five continents, the MoU enables Europol to reinforce its position in dealing with this emerging threat.

This initiative is also in line with the EU Action Plan aimed at combating wildefaire trafficing  in which Europol plays an important part.