EU plagued by hundreds of dangerous crime gangs: Europol report

AFP - [email protected]
EU plagued by hundreds of dangerous crime gangs: Europol report
The headquarters of Europol in Brussels. Photo: Europol

The EU is confronted with 821 very dangerous criminal gangs, whose bosses issue orders from as far as Dubai or South America, Europol said Friday in a comprehensive report.


The organisations -- mostly dealing in drugs, especially cocaine -- have not only spread their tentacles into front businesses such as property, construction, trucking and nightclubs, but are also threatening or bribing prosecutors and judges, it said.

Authorities said they intend to crack down on the criminal web by mapping it out and enhancing law enforcement coordination across the 27-member bloc.

"The message to the most threatening criminal networks is you can't hide anymore," Europol chief Catherine De Bolle said as she presented the report in Brussels.

Belgium's interior minister, Annelies Verlinden, added: "We are not just sharing findings, we are signalling a new era in our fight against organised crime, an era marked by innovation, collaboration and steadfast commitment to ensuring the safety and security of the European Union and its citizens."

The 51-page report by the Hague-based law agency gives a first-ever in-depth analysis of the criminal challenge EU law enforcement faces.

The majority of Europe's most dangerous gangs focused on drug smuggling -- cocaine, cannabis, heroin and synthetic drugs -- and operations were most often located in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Other activities were extortion, racketeering and migrant- and gun-smuggling.

The organisations, which notably target workers in Europe's ports for corruption, "are agile, borderless, controlling and destructive," De Bolle said.


While they often conducted just a few core illicit activities in a geographic area, they usually had a mix of nationalities in their membership.

"No member state is immune. It is a multinational environment. Among the 25,000 suspects, we find 112 nationalities," she said.

Crime bosses were most often located in the country where their gangs operated, "but in six percent of cases the leaders are outside the EU," De Bolle said, with the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Morocco and South America cited as favoured places.

'Zombie drugs'

Belgian Justice Minister Paul Van Tigchelt -- whose country currently holds the EU presidency -- said the violent gangs attracted to Antwerp port as Europe's main drug smuggling hub were "mainly controlled" from elsewhere, also referencing the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, among others.

European Union countries need to exert "much more pressure as a diplomatic bloc on these third countries... We must stand united against these countries in order that they better collaborate with us," he said.

Van Tigchelt also raised the alarm about "zombie drugs" -- synthetic stimulants -- making inroads into Europe, after causing a spike in drug-related deaths in the United States.

"We are seeing synthetic drugs more and more in Europe, and we see even stronger and stronger synthetic drugs," he said, referencing one such drug known as Flakka, present in Belgium's Flanders region near the North Sea coast.

Europol warned that many of the most threatening crime networks have been around for years, with a third operating for over a decade -- and some criminals even able to continue operations from jail.


They were often not cowed by law enforcement measures taken against them.

"We are confronted with a stark reality, the pervasive threat posed by organised criminal networks capable of threatening both judges and prosecutors," EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said.

He said that menace was being levelled at the European Public Prosecutor's Office in Luxembourg, a two-year-old body created to go after cross-border crime and the networks behind them in the European Union.

European initiatives to counter the intimidation -- and risk of bribery -- of legal officials were being made, but the onus is on national authorities in EU countries, Reynders said.

"This troubling reality needs to be addressed," he said.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also