Brussels, 17 November 2005
THE EUROPEAN UNION
Multidisciplinary Group on Organised Crime
13788/05 CRIMORG 117
2005 EU Organised Crime Report
- Public version
13788/1/05 REV 1
DG H 2B
2005 EU Organised Crime
The Hague, 25 October 2005
Foreword by the Director
I am delighted to present to you the public version of the 2005 Organised Crime Report
(OCR). The public version shows the most important findings in relation to the
development of organised crime during the last year. The report will provide you with a
better understanding of organised crime activities in a European Union of now twenty-five
The enlargement of the European Union has not led to a complete change of the organised
crime landscape. Rather the opposite, although there are slight changes due to specific
geographical, historical and social differences within an enlarged Union, the trends
observed in organised crime for the last couple of years remain. Organised crime is
exploiting their opportunities in an enlarged European Union with less internal border
control by further taking advantage of cross-border activities. At the same time, the
tendency to use loose network structures rather than fixed monolithic ones is confirmed.
In the area of crime types, when it comes to drugs trafficking it is worth noting that
organised crime groups are getting more involved in multi-drug-trafficking as a response to
an increasing poly-drug consumer profile. Drugs trafficking together with illegal migration
stay at the top with regard to their overall impact. In addition the trend of organised crime
groups to get more involved in so-called ‘high profit - low risk’ criminal activities also
The need for enhanced co-operation amongst twenty-five Member States with a multitude
of different law enforcement agencies involved in the fight against organised crime remains
one of the most valid requirements. Nevertheless co-operation needs to be accompanied
by a closer co-ordination, as the most effective use of resources will be key to turn strategic
decisions into efficient operational activities. This also includes other bodies at European
The public version of the OCR in front of you represents the end of a period of twelve
years describing the European perspective on organised crime, taking into account the
ever-growing international dimension of this phenomenon.
The Organised Crime Report has been a valuable tool to provide with an overview about
the current situation in relation to organised crime activities. Nevertheless, changing
demands and the need to take a more pro-active approach in fighting Organised Crime has
also led to a new approach. By 2006 the Organised Crime Report will be replaced by an
Organised Crime Threat Assessment. The change from ‘report’ to ‘threat assessment’
indicates the major challenge for the new document to be produced: to move away from a
more descriptive report towards a more far-reaching predictive assessment, which will allow
for a forward-looking strategic and, in a second step, operational priority setting.
This is the last issue of the OCR. Let’s look from now on into the future.
Max Peter Ratzel
Director of Europol
CRIME CATEGORIES .............................................................................................. 9
Cocaine ..................................................................................................... 9
Heroin ...................................................................................................... 10
Synthetic Drugs ....................................................................................... 11
Cannabis ................................................................................................. 13
Pharmaceuticals, classified as drugs ...................................................... 13
Anabolic and Doping Substances ........................................................... 13
Crimes against persons................................................................................... 14
Immigration ................................................................................... 14
Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) ......................................................... 15
Exploitation of children ............................................................................ 16
Financial Crime and other crimes against property......................................... 17
Swindling and Fraud................................................................................ 18
Counterfeiting and Forgery...................................................................... 20
Organised Robberies, Burglaries and Theft ............................................ 21
Theft of cultural goods ............................................................................. 22
Illicit trafficking ................................................................................................. 22
Trafficking in Stolen Vehicles .................................................................. 22
Illicit Firearms Trafficking......................................................................... 24
Illegal waste trafficking ............................................................................ 24
OTHER KEY OC FEATURES................................................................................. 26
Use of Influence .............................................................................................. 26
Use of Violence ............................................................................................... 26
Intra Group Violence ............................................................................... 27
Inter Groups Violence.............................................................................. 27
Extra Groups Violence ............................................................................ 27
Resources ....................................................................................................... 29
Use of Business Structures ..................................................................... 29
OC Groups ...................................................................................................... 30
Types of Crime ................................................................................................ 31
Other Key OC Features................................................................................... 32
The Threat of OC ............................................................................................ 33
Organised Crime (OC) groups are expanding their fields of activity across crime types and
international borders, and continue to grow and adapt to their environment. They make use
of expertise in specialised fields, exploit commercial structures to operate in the legitimate
business world and employ the latest communication technologies to maintain and expand
their national and international links. OC groups are more likely to be loose associations of
cells held together by key individuals, but the traditional hierarchical structure is still present
in many cases. There is improved and increasing communication, cooperation and
coordination with other OC groups. Ethnically, the groups are increasingly heterogeneous.
Indigenous OC groups from the European Union (EU), particularly those with extensive
international networks, continue to represent the main threat to the EU.
Mafia-type Italian OC groups remain a major concern for their proclivity for penetrating the
public, economic and financial markets.
Lithuanian OC groups are constantly expanding across the EU, establishing close contacts
with local and international OC groups.
Dutch OC groups are primarily involved in the production or trafficking of various types of
drugs, with a specific focus on the production of synthetic drugs and exploiting the fact that
the Netherlands is one of the main entry points in the EU for cocaine.
Polish OC groups are expanding rapidly all over Europe, where they cooperate with a
significant number of international OC groups in virtually all criminal fields.
German OC groups are not often reported as active outside Germany, but their areas of
interest (mainly drug trafficking, fraud and stolen vehicle trafficking), their enormous profits
and the central position, both geographical and economic, of Germany within the EU are
clear indicators of their wide array of international criminal activities and connections.
Ethnically homogeneous OC groups, in particular ethnic Albanian and Turkish, are a major
problem to a growing number of Member States.
Ethnic Albanian groups have escalated from being simple service providers to other OC
groups to reaching the highest echelons of international OC. They are hierarchical and
homogeneous, but cooperate willingly and proficiently with other OC groups. They are
mainly involved in drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings (THB; often with
disproportionate use of violence), exploitation of prostitution, facilitating illegal immigration
and all kinds of property crime.
Russian OC groups have a major impact on the EU, where they are present in all Member
States and involved in every type of crime, showing a particular skill in exploiting new
opportunities in the economic and financial sectors.
Romanian OC groups can be either hierarchical or cellular, and are implicated in a variety
of crimes ranging from credit or debit card skimming, in which they are very skilled, to THB,
exploitation of prostitution, drug trafficking, document counterfeiting and all types of
property crime, often resorting to violence.
Bulgarian OC groups tend to have a cell-like structure and are ethnically homogeneous.
They are heavily involved in currency and document counterfeiting, payment fraud, THB,
exploitation of prostitution and property crime, including car jacking and home jacking.
Turkish OC groups, usually hierarchical and homogeneous, continue to be important actors
especially within the field of drug trafficking to the EU. Many Turks involved in OC in the EU
are long-term residents within their host country, which assists them in developing links with
non-Turkish OC groups and in their move towards other areas of crime.
Chinese OC groups are mainly involved in THB and facilitating illegal immigration, drugs
and drug precursors trafficking, and extortion, robbery, kidnapping and forced prostitution
within their own ethnic communities. Homogenous and insular, they are known to easily
cooperate only with Vietnamese communities.
Most of the cannabis resin destined to the EU drug market originates from Morocco, and
this has put the homogeneous Moroccan OC groups in the most prominent position in the
production and trafficking of hashish. In the last few years Moroccan OC groups, which
have good links with Colombian and EU criminal groups, have also been trafficking
cocaine, and are further involved in facilitating illegal immigration and property crime.
Colombian OC groups control the production of cocaine and its large-scale importation from
South America to Europe. Hierarchical and homogeneous but tightly compartmentalised,
they are divided in small cells specialised in different aspects of the drug business such as
smuggling, distribution and money laundering. In the EU Colombian OC groups interact
with high-level indigenous OC groups.
The outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCG) have a wide global dissemination. Throughout
Europe they are dominated by three main organisations: the Hells Angels
, the Bandidos
and the Outlaws
. Members from OMCG are increasingly involved in drugs (cocaine,
synthetic drugs and cannabis) and stolen vehicles trafficking, and exploitation of
prostitution. Extremely hierarchical, recently they have been allowing more and more
exceptions with regards to their previously uncompromising homogeneity. They are bound
to make extreme use of violence.
Types of Crime
Drug trafficking remains the most common type of crime among OC groups, which are
increasingly oriented towards poly-drugs consignments. Drug trafficking involves both
indigenous and non-indigenous OC groups, which show a high degree of cooperation.
Control of production and overall strategic primacy is held by Turkish OC groups for heroin,
made with Afghan opium and mainly imported through the numerous variants of the Balkan
route; by Colombian OC groups for cocaine, which primarily enters the EU through Spain
(often via Morocco), the Netherlands, Belgium and Albania; and by Dutch OC groups for
synthetic drugs. Criminal groups in Morocco are the main suppliers of cannabis for the EU
but Albanian domestic cultivation and export of herbal cannabis is increasing.
Transportation and distribution is dealt with by OC groups of the destination and transit
The global spread of drug abuse seems to be slightly losing momentum but the
consumption of cannabis herb and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), especially ecstasy,
is increasing. A rising availability of and demand for cocaine is also reported.
Illegal immigration saw no real change in volume, but certainly an even more consolidated
involvement of OC groups, which control the whole process from the source to the
destination countries. With increased security and enhanced border controls, the only
possibility for most illegal immigrants to reach their destination country is through OC.
Whilst less profitable than drug trafficking, facilitating illegal immigration is nevertheless far
less risky for OC groups. Most illegal immigrants reach their destination after a multi-stage
journey, during which they are passed from OC cell to OC cell along a chain of territory-
bound criminal networks cooperating with smooth efficiency.
THB is a related but even more ruthless crime, as the illegal migrants are exploited during
the journey to the country of destination and within that country, where they have to work in
slave-like conditions in the sex market or in sweat shops. The most active traffickers or
trafficking networks operating in the EU have very good links with source countries. A
recent trend is an increasing involvement of female perpetrators, who can win the trust of
the potential victims with more ease.
OC groups have no scruples in exploiting children in any possible way, from selling them for
illegal adoption to forcing them to beg or steal, to exploiting them through child labour or
paedophilia. It appears that Bulgarian gangs have become eminent in this field, as have
members of the itinerant community.
Money laundering is an offence committed by all OC groups in order to hide the origin of
the proceeds of crime and to finally legitimate the illegal funds within the legal economic
system. It is therefore an inherent characteristic of OC, being the end phase of virtually all
other crimes. A very wide range of modi operandi has been reported, from the simple
purchase of goods to sophisticated financial schemes.
Fraud is the archetypal low-risk high-profit crime, and comprises a wide variety of criminal
activities which make profits by exploiting weaknesses in systems and controls. Logistically
complex frauds, such as excise frauds that involve the smuggling of goods, require skill,
competence and a solid infrastructure in order to function effectively, and can only be
perpetrated by OC groups. Indigenous OC groups are involved in VAT frauds and
intellectual and property rights frauds, Romanian and Bulgarian OC groups in payment card
frauds, West Africans in advanced payment frauds, even if the reporting of that specific
scam has dropped noticeably.
The number of counterfeit euros is constantly high. The necessary technology becomes
cheaper and more easily available so the cost for the OC groups decreases. The strength
of the euro and its broad acceptance as a means of payment makes it now more attractive
for counterfeiters than the US Dollar. Counterfeiting is considered to be a low-risk high-
profit activity and, at the same time, a means to finance other types of crime. Every
valuable item that bears security features such as traveller cheques, passports, concert
tickets and all kinds of documents can be counterfeited.
OC groups resort to robberies, burglaries and theft in order to finance and facilitate their
main money-making criminal activities. In some cases OC groups steal goods that they do
not wish to buy legitimately since this might be traceable. OC groups originating
predominantly from Eastern Europe, the Former Soviet Union (FSU) and Former
Yugoslavia remain active in organised robberies, burglaries and theft. Itinerant groups,
particularly from the Balkans but also from Albania, Romania and Bulgaria are involved in
this type of crime in the EU and beyond, as far as Japan. Chinese and Turkish OC groups
are also linked to robberies although they often commission these high-risk criminal acts to
low-level criminals outside the group
Approximately 1.3 million vehicles are stolen every year in the EU. Sixty to seventy per cent
of these vehicles are recovered. In the last few years the percentage of missing vehicles of
the total has increased in several Member States. Non-recovery is generally regarded as a
strong indicator of OC involvement. Most OC groups involved in vehicle theft originate from
Poland and Lithuania, challenged by Dutch, Moroccan and Former Yugoslav OC groups. In
addition to these established groups Russian, Estonian, Bulgarian and ethnic Albanian OC
groups are increasingly expanding their criminal activities into this crime area.
The smuggling of tobacco and cigarettes is flourishing in Europe. Tobacco and cigarettes
smuggled into the EU come from China and other countries in Asia, Russia, Ukraine, the
Baltic States, the Middle East and Africa. The cigarettes that are smuggled into the EU are
in most cases destined for the North Europe market and the UK.
The scale and nature of illicit firearms trafficking is varied and includes for instance firearms
originating from outside the EU, firearms originating from EU Member States, re-activation
of firearms, conversion of blank-firing or gas cartridge weapons, links between arms
collectors and OC groups, and weapon parts being purchased via the Internet and
delivered by post for assembly at a later stage. Criminal groups active in Bulgaria are
heavily involved in illicit firearms trafficking. The cheap Bulgarian hand-made weapons can
be sold in Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey with an enormous profit.
The illegal business of waste dumping generates high profits and generally penalties
related to these offences are relatively low. Furthermore, in most countries there is a lack of
enforcement in this field. That situation renders illegal waste disposal, especially hazardous
waste, particularly valuable for OC groups.
Other Key OC Features
Corruption used by OC groups to infiltrate the state, legal economies, law enforcement
bodies and politics is a powerful tool for organised crime and at the same time a possible
indicator of the potential threat posed by OC groups.
The use of corruption is often hard to detect and classify and the disruptive impact of it
difficult to measure. In fact, measurements of corruption are usually based on public
perceptions of the use of corruptive influence in different sectors of the society. This,
however, does not necessarily provide the whole picture of the level of corruption in each
The use of violence is inherent in many types of crime, but OC groups can exert violence
for several different reasons other than committing a violent crime. Violence can be
adopted as an offensive or defensive tactic, it can be planned or based on reaction, it can
be brought to the extreme or limited to the necessary degree, and it can be publicly
exposed or kept hidden.
Violence may be used within the group to maintain internal discipline and cohesion, against
other groups to manage the balance of power within the criminal environment, and against
law enforcement as well as private individuals or companies outside the criminal world.
The use of commercial structures by OC to assist in their criminal activities is continuing
throughout the EU. Legal commercial structures are mainly used by OC groups to launder
illicit proceeds, to cover and facilitate their illegal activities, to hinder criminal investigations,
to gain profits in order to finance criminal activities or to conduct a legitimate business in an
The Threat of OC
OC takes advantage from the increasing mobility, urbanisation, anonymity and diminishing
social control which are characteristic of modern society. Economic, social and political
conditions act as pull factors for migration, and OC exploits that situation facilitating illegal
immigration and trafficking human beings.
With its increasing professionalism, logistics and efficiency, OC can satisfy an increasing
demand for goods and services created by globalisation and economic development. All
forms of trafficking are included, the object of which can be people, drugs, waste, cultural
objects, stolen vehicles, tobacco, alcohol, high technology items, counterfeited goods.
OC exploits the discrepancies between EU laws and national legislations in committing
among others environmental crime and high technology crime, and, on the other hand, the
gaps in EU procedures for example in VAT and other fraud.
One of the objectives of OC is to penetrate businesses and other legal structures in the EU,
trying to access to positions of power and resources.
OC is exploiting technological developments, used both as a facilitator for traditional types
of crime and to create new crime opportunities.
This chapter focuses on crime types that have an overall EU-wide impact. Crimes that only
affect one or two Member States are not reflected in this chapter.
The EU is a major consumer market for illicit drugs. The continuous demand for drugs has
created a need for large-scale production and trafficking in these substances, thus
remaining the most common type of crime
among OC groups that target the EU.
In 2004, Member States’ law enforcement agencies made significant seizures
drugs and a considerable number of OC groups were successfully disrupted. However, this
is not reflected in a substantial decrease in drug abuse or a major disruption of supply lines.
Whilst amphetamine and heroin use may have stabilised or even declined in some Member
States, the abuse of cannabis and cocaine and ecstasy is rising in others.
While cocaine, amphetamine, benzodiazepine tranquillisers (such as Diazepam and
Temazepam) and cannabis are not often identified as the main drugs of misuse, they are
frequently reported as subsidiary drugs, reinforcing the picture of increasing poly-drug use.
The pattern of poly-drug use provides an obvious incentive for traffickers to engage in multi-drug trafficking.
The key concerns are opportunity, capability, and profit. Some
traffickers will readily smuggle cannabis, amphetamine or pharmaceuticals, importing the
drugs in ‘cocktail’ loads or one after the other.
This trend strengthens the cooperation
between OC groups, which should push law
enforcement agencies to step up their efforts in international cooperation. Groups may also
be involved in several other illicit activities. Turkish and ethnic Albanian networks may
handle a consignment of heroin one day and arrange the trafficking of human beings the
day after. Chinese OC groups are involved in the importation into the EU of precursor
chemicals, the production of synthetic drugs, the export of ecstasy to South-East Asia and
The principal trafficking routes
for the various types of illicit drugs have been in existence
for decades and whilst these routes remain prominent there is a growing diversification of
a two-way use of the Balkan route with an increased volume of
trafficking, including the trafficking of precursor chemicals, ecstasy and cocaine from
Western Europe into Central and Southern Europe and Turkey. A further development of
maritime cocaine trafficking from South America via Western Africa into Europe and an
increasing role of Albania as a source country of cannabis and a storage country for various
types of drugs have also been noted.
OC groups involved in international drug trafficking are often homogeneous and composed
of nationals from source or transit countries, for example Turkish, Albanian, Colombian,
Jamaican and Moroccan OC groups.
The Andean region remains the world’s major cocaine producer
, even though cultivation of
coca bush in 2004 has reached its lowest levels since 1985. Cocaine requires a number of
chemicals to transform it into its readily usable form, cocaine hydrochloride. S
shipments of potassium permanganate (PP) have been tracked by law enforcement
agencies cooperating worldwide, and in 2003 the total amount of PP stopped was enough
to process over 4,400 tonnes of pure cocaine.
Tracking PP shipments has revealed the existence, in a small number of cases, of cocaine
processing laboratories within the EU. At these laboratories, cocaine base has been
recovered together with the chemicals required for the final stage of purification into cocaine
hydrochloride. It is likely that this displacement has been due to a difficulty in diverting the
required precursor chemicals to illicit laboratories in South America.
The EU remains the largest cocaine consumer market in the world after the US. The main
routes used for cocaine transport to the EU are:
route, through Argentina, Paraguay, US, Canada and Europe;
route, from Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and the Caribbean countries towards
Africa, Europe (Spain is particularly important as a transit point), Asia and Oceania.
Large quantities of cocaine enter the EU via maritime shipments and air freight. For smaller
packages, couriers are used. The main point of entry is the South of Europe
. Although the
Spanish authorities seized less cocaine than in 2003, the amount seized in 2004, 33,000
kilos, is the third highest ever recorded in Spain. The Spanish authorities reported that
traffic routes for hashish are increasingly being used in the cocaine trafficking to Spain. The
cocaine is hidden in several countries of the African continent and is later transported to
Spain by using the traditional hashish trafficking routes from Morocco. Italian authorities
seized 3,570 kilos of cocaine, which reflects a constantly high consumption, which is
encouraged by a substantial price reduction.
A second important point of entry is represented by the airports and harbours of the
Netherlands and Belgium
, from where cocaine is smuggled mainly to the neighbouring
countries but also to Southern and Eastern Europe. Both countries report on a more
extensive use of postal parcels. Since the introduction of a container scan in the port of
Rotterdam, more drugs have been imported via other ports, for example Antwerp.
It has to be mentioned that Eastern Europe
is emerging as a third entry point for cocaine.
Latvia is a transit country for distribution in Russia and the Scandinavian countries, in
Hungary and the Czech Republic Nigerian criminal organisations are setting up cocaine
traffic towards the rest of the EU, and Polish groups are also becoming more involved in
this field. Information has also pointed to the trafficking of cocaine to Albania, for storage in
depots awaiting further distribution into the EU. Apparently, Eastern European countries do
not yet represent a major market for cocaine, but it can be assumed that this will change in
OC groups are still dominant in controlling the large-scale importation of
cocaine from South America into the EU. They maintain close contacts with local criminal
organisations for the wholesale distribution of cocaine.
OC groups still dominate the West African networks and have gained a strong
position in South, West and Eastern Europe.
groups seem to be particularly interested in the possibility of fully
entering into the cocaine trade. According to law enforcement information, each year some
30 tonnes find their way from Albania to Europe by air.
Most of the world’s illicit heroin, an estimated 485 tonnes in 2004, comes from three
countries only: Afghanistan, Myanmar and Laos, with Afghanistan accounting for 87 per
cent of the global production (it was 76 per cent in 2003). Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan
in 2004 produced 4,200 tonnes of opium, the second highest yield in the country so far,
equating to 420 tonnes of heroin. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and
Crime, the drug trade impacts upon 10 per cent of the Afghan population. Control measures
are hampered by security problems, political instability, corruption and a lack of institutional
The production of heroin can be divided into two main stages: the extraction of morphine
from opium, done mostly in Afghanistan, and the conversion of morphine into heroin. Some
of this is done in South West Asia, but most is transported overland via Iran to heroin
processing laboratories in Eastern Turkey. This stage needs the precursor chemical acetic
anhydride (AA), which is internationally controlled, although it is very widely used in a
number of legitimate industrial processes. The amount of AA seized in 2003 was enough to
process over 33 tonnes of pure heroin. A number of OC groups are involved in the supply
of AA to heroin producers.
The EU is estimated to consume 135 tonnes of heroin a year. Social and health problems
caused by the abuse of heroin are significant and put a high burden on authorities and local
communities. The largest consumer country in Western Europe is the UK with
approximately 260,000 heroin users. The majority of heroin destined for the UK also transits
through the Netherlands, which is the country in Europe where criminal groups are the most
active in the supply of hard drugs to the UK.
Most heroin reaches Western Europe via the Balkan route
. A good infrastructure of land,
sea and air connections provide ample opportunity for the trafficking of heroin to the EU in
which Turkey, due to its geographical position, plays a central role. In 2004, Turkish law
enforcement agencies seized more than 6.5 tonnes of heroin and 4.5 tonnes of morphine
base, in addition to over 100,000 litres of acetic anhydride, the principle chemical for heroin
Several transit countries along the Balkan route are being used for the stockpiling of heroin,
awaiting further transportation into Western Europe.
In addition, considerable amounts of heroin are smuggled into Europe along the Silk
, transiting the central Asian States.
In practice, heroin consignments very rarely travel the whole way from Afghanistan to
Europe in a single unbroken journey. Normally, they are bought and sold by different
groups along the route, the mode of transport is changed, and loads are split and merged
as they are moved westward. The detailed route will therefore vary according to the
capabilities and preferences of whoever has control over the movement of the drugs at any
Trafficking of heroin towards and within the EU continues to be dominated by Turkish OC
Ethnic Albanian OC groups
have increased their role in the trafficking of heroin. They are
reported to control up to 80 per cent of such trafficking in some of the Nordic countries and
40 per cent of heroin trafficking in other Western European countries, although they often
rely on Turkish criminal organisation to supply them with heroin. In Greece, ethnic Albanian
OC groups, in close cooperation with Greek nationals, dominate the trafficking of heroin
and cannabis and they are increasingly becoming involved in the trafficking of cocaine. Italy
reports that ethnic Albanians exchange heroin for cocaine and they are also involved in
trafficking heroin to the UK, although the extent of their involvement is not clear.
Synthetic drugs are, after cannabis, the most commonly used drugs in the EU with the
highest rates of use found amongst young people. In 2004, the EU reported the seizure of
28 amphetamine production sites and 33 ecstasy sites. In terms of the scale of production,
it is estimated that between 200 and 500 tonnes of PMK, an MDMA precursor, are
smuggled into the EU annually. This is enough to produce between 2000 million and 5000
million ecstasy tablets.
Production of synthetic drugs in the EU is largely controlled by indigenous OC groups from the Netherlands and Belgium
. The production process, from chemical synthesis to the
end product and packaging, takes place in separate locations. This division of tasks
reduces the risk of an all-inclusive production network being dismantled when one site is
discovered by law enforcement. OC groups increasingly establish mobile sites or facilities in
more rural areas.
Synthetic drugs production by criminal groups active in Belgium appears to be growing and
Belgium is now, for instance, the biggest provider for the French market.
In recent years, Chinese OC groups based in the Netherlands have become more
prominent in the synthetic drugs scene. They are now active not only in the acquisition of
precursors, but also in production and large scale global distribution of ecstasy. Other
ethnic groups active in synthetic drug trafficking include Turkish and Moroccan individuals.
Furthermore, criminals from Ireland and the UK base themselves temporarily or
permanently in the Netherlands and Spain, from where, in cooperation with Dutch and
Belgian OC groups, they control or influence the trafficking of synthetic drugs to the UK,
Ireland and other global destinations such as Australia.
Turkish OC groups domiciled in Germany are prominent in trafficking synthetic drugs of
Dutch origin within Germany as well as to Turkey in return for heroin destined for Western
Europe. OC groups in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands cooperate closely with the
destination countries to facilitate the secure delivery of such consignments.
Several new Member States
, particularly Poland, Estonia and Lithuania, have also
experienced considerable amphetamine production by criminal groups. A large part of the
production is meant for Northern and Western Europe but there is also a growing consumer
market within the new Member States. The main reasons are the low prices and the greater
profit for the wholesalers.
Criminal groups active in China provide most of the precursor chemicals
amphetamine and ecstasy production, for example BMK and PMK. The selling price in
China of one litre of PMK or one litre of BMK is 5 euro. The price on the criminal Belgian
and Dutch market is around 700 euro per litre. With one litre of PMK, it is possible to
produce one kilo of MDMA powder, which is 10 to 12 thousand tablets of ecstasy. On the
wholesale market, ecstasy tablets are sold at approximately one euro each. Each litre of
PMK thus gives a gross income of more than 10,000 euro.
There are indications that new sources of precursor chemicals are emerging with smaller
amounts increasingly smuggled from Russia and Ukraine via Lithuania, Belarus, Poland
and Germany into Belgium and the Netherlands.
Besides the EU, ecstasy produced by criminal groups in The Netherlands and Belgium is
exported to worldwide destinations. Most tablets produced in the Netherlands were
destined for the US, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Indonesia, in order of importance.
Ecstasy is also exported to South-East Asia, South Africa and South American countries,
sometimes in exchange for cocaine and also to Turkey in exchange for heroin. OC groups
use air passengers as couriers, airmail parcels or send larger quantities in sea freight. With
regard to ecstasy in particular, whilst the criminal groups in The Netherlands remain the
major global source, production has spread globally, in particular in Australia, North
America, South Africa and South-East Asia.
Regarding the trafficking to Australia, large shipments are currently organised mainly by
Dutch, British and Australian criminals, as well as multi-national OC groups operating in
Belgium. With regard to trafficking to the US, large-scale shipments are controlled by Israeli
and Dominican criminal groups, some of whom have the nationality of a Member State. The
suppliers of the drugs originate in most cases from the Netherlands.
At Belgian airports during 2004 there were fewer interceptions of couriers destined for
countries of North America or Western Europe. Destinations such as Mexico, Brazil or
South Africa are now preferred.
The amphetamine that is produced in illegal laboratories in Lithuania is mostly shipped to
Scandinavian countries. Amphetamine illegally produced in Lithuanian is also shipped to
Russia and Belarus. It is estimated that about 35 per cent of amphetamine produced by
criminals in Poland is destined for the local market, whereas 65 per cent is exported mostly
to Germany and Scandinavian countries. Amphetamine and its derivatives are smuggled by
land, sea and air from Poland to the US.
Cannabis is the most widely available and commonly used drug in the EU with many
countries reporting lifetime prevalence rates in excess of 20 per cent of the general
population. Criminal groups make Morocco the principle source country for cannabis resin
or hashish, with a potential annual production of over 3,000 tonnes. Almost 100,000
families in Morocco depend on the cultivation of cannabis. The activity of criminal groups
also make Pakistan and Afghanistan significant sources of cannabis resin, large amounts of
which are trafficked by ship into the EU. Due to its proximity to Morocco, most cannabis
resin enters the EU through Spain. Part of it is destined for the local market; the vast
majority, however, is destined for other Member States. The seizure, in 2004, of over 800
tonnes of cannabis resin in Spain reflects the size of the problem and the constant massive
law enforcement effort in that country.
Criminal groups import Herbal cannabis
or marihuana to the Member States mainly by
from Colombia, Jamaica, South Africa and Nigeria. Criminal groups active in Albania have
developed into a major provider for herbal cannabis, which is grown over large areas. Most
of it is destined for Greece and Italy. The annual turnover of the international trade in
Moroccan cannabis resin is estimated at EUR 10 billion, most of which is generated by
trafficking networks operating in the various Member States of the
EU. Indigenous OC
groups control the large-scale trafficking of cannabis resin. Some of these groups have set
up bases in Spain to facilitate trafficking into their country.
Pharmaceuticals, classified as drugs
A continuing trend that has been observed in Northern Europe is the smuggling of synthetic
opium surrogates, mainly Subutex (buprenorphine) and Methadon (methadon hydrocloride),
as shown by a number of major seizures.
Lithuania reports about Fenazepam, a psychotropic medicine that is being smuggled from
Kaliningrad and illegally sold in market places. At present it is shipped by people having
little or no legal income. However, it is not excluded that minor OC groups might engage in
this business in the future.
Anabolic and Doping Substances
Criminal groups have turned Russia into a source or transit country of doping products
destined for Finland. Doping products (different anabolic substances such as anabolic
steroids, peptide and growth hormones, stimulants, diuretic substances and anodynes) are
used not only by sportsmen but also by drug addicts, who try to enhance the effect of other
drugs. Hormones are smuggled to Finland from Thailand, the US, or Europe, often in
combination with illegal drugs.
The fact that doping products are sold on the Internet is a growing threat. Buyers are not
always aware that electronic trade and import by mail is governed by the same Customs
regulations and limitations as personal import. Furthermore, there is the anonymity of the
purchaser and the salesman. In addition, access to the prohibited products and the ordering
them is easier. Offers on the Internet are increasing and it seems that the demand
increases further, possibly stimulated by a decrease in prices.
Crimes against persons
The most important crime in this field is illegal immigration which saw no real change in
volume, but certainly a consolidation of the organised crime involvement. This consolidation
can be illustrated by the expanding offer, made by the OC groups: they sometimes control
the whole process from the source countries to the target countries, where the illegal
immigrants are often put straight into the black labour circuit. Mixed transports with different
nationalities are done more often. Several Member States report an increasing involvement
of Chinese nationals both as offenders and illegal immigrants.
In the field of trafficking of human beings, ethnic Albanian OC groups are becoming more
and more active, using excessive violence to control their victims. Greece signals that
woman are becoming more involved in organising forced prostitution since potential victims
are more inclined to trust another woman. It is also noted that the criminals more frequently
use legal enterprises and even labour contracts to control their victims.
Bulgarian OC groups have become prominent in the field of illegal adoption. […] Children
are also forced to beg for criminal organisations. A dangerous evolution is the sexual
exploitation of children through the Internet where the criminal organisations involved still
find ways to safeguard their anonymity.
An important characteristic of illegal immigration is that the illegal migrants are essentially
willing participants and the organised criminals profit mainly from facilitating their migration.
OC groups appear to view immigration crime as a lucrative business which carries a
relatively low risk of prosecution. Therefore, they have readily exploited these opportunities.
Many of the traditional transit countries that joined the EU as of 1 May 2004 are now, to a
larger extent than before, being exploited as destination countries by the facilitators of
illegal immigrants. The facilitators are already well established in those countries and they
are utilizing the fact that the new control systems in the enlarged EU are not yet running
smoothly. Furthermore, the borders of the EU are now closer to many key source and
The complexity of moving large volumes of people across long distances requires a degree
of organisation, specialisation and sophistication that can only be met by OC groups.
Similarly, the profits that can be made through facilitating illegal immigration make it a
market that is naturally attractive to organised crime. Many illegal migrants are attracted by
the existence of diverse minority communities or family in the target country, who can
provide support and employment.
However, most of the facilitators who move illegal migrants overland operate along a
particular section of the route. As a result, most illegal migration takes the form of a multi-
, with illegal migrants being passed from criminal to criminal along a chain of
territorially-restricted criminal networks. Since facilitation is a business for these networks,
they are largely unconcerned about the nationality or ethnicity of the illegal migrants they
facilitate, and they interact with each other as business dictates. In practice, most
facilitators appear prepared to work with whoever can help them to make a profit, provided
there is a reasonable degree of trust between them.
Crime groups continue to make
the Russian Federation
a constant source for illegal
immigration towards Western Europe. In the last two years, an increase has been observed
in the number of Chechen illegal immigrants in the EU countries. There is also evidence of
a growing number of Chechen immigrants linked to activities of smuggling networks
operating within the EU, mainly in Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic and
Belgium. This has raised concerns for public security because Chechen illegal immigrants
often become involved in OC after arriving in the destination country.
The travel regime for Russian citizens between the Kaliningrad enclave and the rest of the
country continues to pose concerns. Transit documents are issued by the Lithuanian
authorities and the documents are quite easily accessible for Russians travelling frequently
to and from Kaliningrad. Both Poland and Lithuania have stated that the Kaliningrad district
is used as an alternative route for the facilitation of illegal immigrants. The transit regime for
people travelling to and from Kaliningrad must be monitored very closely due to the risk of
is a major nexus point for illegal immigrants en route to the EU, being situated
within the central and Eastern European smuggling route. Ukraine is both a transit and a
source country. The nationality of the facilitators of illegal immigration varies a lot, but
Afghans, Chinese, Indians, Pakistani, Vietnamese and Turks are frequently reported. The
origin of illegal immigrants arriving in Ukraine varies as well, but nationals from Iraq,
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Somalia, Vietnam and Turkey are well
represented. Russia and more specifically Moscow is an often used point of entry before
The largest number of persons smuggled towards the EU
comes from the People’s
Republic of China
. Chinese illegal immigrants enter the EU via several routes, for example
Poland and the Czech Republic and via most airports. Major nexus points for the Chinese
are Moscow and Kiev. Since the EU accession, there were instances where Malta has been
used as a transit country for Chinese illegal immigration. In general terms there is a further
increase in Chinese involvement in illegal immigration.
The strategic location of Morocco,
with the nearest borders between Europe and Africa,
between developed and developing countries, plays a key role in the illegal immigration
flow as a source and transit country. Moroccan territory is used as a departure point for
illegally entering Europe by immigrants from Morocco, Algeria, sub-Saharan countries, the
Middle East and Asia, after having transited long, and in many cases, dangerous routes.
Trafficking in Human Beings (THB)
The main difference with illegal immigration is that in trafficking in human beings (THB), the
intention behind the facilitation is to exploit the illegal migrants during the journey to the
country of destination and within that country. All the indications to date point out that THB
takes place on a much smaller scale than illegal immigration. However, the nature of THB is
such that it is harder to identify and therefore quantify. In addition, the exploitation involved
and frequent use of intimidation and violence leads arguably to more harm to the victims.
There are also cases where illegal migrants, who have been smuggled, rather than
trafficked, later find themselves in exploitative situations. Exploitation of illegal migrants is
made easier by their illegal status.
The most active traffickers or trafficking networks operating in the EU have very good links
to the major source countries. They are either indigenous groups or have close historic or
cultural connections with the country from which the victim originates. Therefore, based on
the fact that most women and girls are trafficked from the Russian Federation, Ukraine,
Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Moldova, it can be seen that the traffickers are usually
citizens of those countries. These groups will work in close cooperation with Albanian,
Kosovo-Albanian, Serbian and Macedonian criminal networks.
There is also a discussion regarding the role of people smuggling syndicates in trafficking.
The death of 20 Chinese cockle pickers in 2004 has led to greater awareness of the role of
these syndicates in the UK and elsewhere in the EU. The structure of the groups involved in
this area of crime is well known and they are commonly labelled ’Snakehead Gangs’; they
operate in a hierarchical structure, with links in the source, transit and destination countries.
These organisations have key components at every stage in the process to ensure control
and arrival in the destination countries. A particular modus operandi
is to ensure that the
families of the victims become indebted, at very high interest rates, to the OC Group in the
source countries. To pay off the debt migrants are forced to take dangerous and low-paid
employment in the destination country that the local population is not prepared to accept.
A prevalent modus operandi by criminal groups in Albania and Kosovo is to recruit victims
by offering marriage. Once the women have been moved from the home country, it quickly
becomes apparent that the offer of marriage was a sham, and the women are coerced into
It has clearly been acknowledged that victims are far more likely to trust females from their
own communities than anyone else. This is another growing trend identified in the structure
of OC groups involved in THB. More and more females are being found to be actively
involved in THB networks. In a case in Greece, female organisers
recruited victims from
their home country.
generated for the OC groups, involved in trafficking of human beings are
estimated by the UN and IOM at between USD 7 and 10 billion a year globally. It is
reasonable to assume, therefore, that a fair proportion of this figure is generated in Europe.
It can also not be ignored that criminals become involved in the area of crime because it is
seen to be a high profit, low risk crime. The sentences that are routinely given in the rare
event of a conviction are normally much lower than those for other serious crimes.
A trafficking network was dismantled earlier this year in Greece and EUR 18,000 cash and
EUR 280,000 in bank deposit books was recovered. A recent investigation in the UK
revealed a Ukrainian national masterminding a casual labour business that earned him
more than EUR 7.5 million in four years by providing clandestine workers from Eastern
Europe to farms and factories all over the UK.
Trafficked Lithuanian women are currently traded for between EUR 2,200 and EUR 6,000.
Women are resold up to 7 times along the way. It was possible for the owner of a bar in
FYROM to make a profit from one trafficked girl of between EUR 10,000 and 15,000 per
There are many examples of pimps recovering their investment in the purchase of a
trafficked victim within two or three days. Everything after that is net profit including the
possibility of the victim being resold.
With regards to Italy, recent research estimates the annual number of victims at over 5,000
with annual profits from the sale and sexual exploitation of women ranging from EUR 380 to
EUR 950 million.
Exploitation of children
It appears that Bulgarian gangs have become prominent in the field of illegal adoption.
Cases have been investigated in Italy, France and Portugal. Complicity with local nationals
has been established.
There are indicators of a global child trafficking market which agencies estimate involved
more than 1 million children and is worth EUR 1 billion a year.
Russian officials have begun a drive to combat illegal adoption after the number of
adoptions by foreigners outnumbered Russian ones for the first time last year. More than
45,000 Russian children were adopted abroad in the past decade and 9,000 in the past
year alone, according to statistics presented to the State Duma at the end of 2004.
Sexual exploitation of children on the Internet
It is clear that crimes related to the sexual abuse of children need a special approach
because the criminality behind them exhibits different dynamics and characteristics from
those seen in other forms of trafficking in human beings. The use of the Internet by the sex
industry is not limited to providing and selling pornographic material and sexual devices and
for advertising contacts for explicit sexual purposes, but also includes distributing child
pornography and the on-line grooming of innocent children unaware of the dangers facing
The production of child pornography is obviously a global phenomenon, although very
active production can be attributed to perpetrators in the Eurasian region including Russia,
Ukraine, other FSU countries, and to Japan and other South East Asian countries.
Recently, South American countries have also been exploited for the production of child
pornography images and movie files.
The evolution of payment systems through the Internet is now providing a much more
secure anonymity for both the users/customers and the webmasters, which makes this
phenomenon further attractive for the exploitation by OC groups.
Financial Crime and other crimes against property
Money laundering is a common support activity of OC groups, where different modi
operandi are being exploited. The increased use of electronic banking and payment has
certainly led to intensified criminal activity in this field.
Intellectual and property rights fraud has the biggest impact on the EU economy causing,
among other damages, the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. No sign of any decrease
in this criminal activity could be noted.
Money laundering is an offence committed by all OC groups in order to hide the origin of
the proceeds of crime and to finally legitimate the illegal funds within the legal economic
system. By developing various and sometimes very complex integration methods of illegal
money, OC groups have a tendency to penetrate the legitimate economy, such as the
financial sector, in order to facilitate the money laundering process. The profit generated by
OC activities is significant enough to provide these OC groups with sufficient financial
powers to strengthen their internal structures, to ensure the continuation of their illegal
activities, to have the capacity to corrupt officials, and finally to guarantee their future. The
phenomenon has further increased during the year 2004.
Money laundering activities carried out by cash transactions connected to drug trafficking
are still predominant.
The majority of OC groups involved in trafficking in human beings and illegal
use money laundering as a ‘complementary crime’. Connections between
illegal immigration and money laundering can clearly be demonstrated; this observation is
particularly proven concerning Eastern countries such as Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia, and
the Chinese community.
In some Member States legal gambling
schemes are quite a widespread modus operandi
to launder money. It is estimated that the above-mentioned trend will continue and increase
in the future. OC groups also make their way directly into the gambling world by buying
companies in this field.
Among other techniques, a growing resort to cash electronic transfer operations called money transfers
has been observed. The use of Money Transmission Agents (MTA) by
serious organised criminals to launder money is well established. Historically, MTAs have
been favoured by serious OC groups from South America and the Caribbean; recent
intelligence has pointed to the use of MTAs to remit criminal proceeds to other foreign
destinations such as the Gulf States, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.
Alternative remittance systems
(ARS), sometimes referred to as ‘underground banking’,
are becoming more popular. Rather than using the conventional banking system to remit
funds, ARS rely on an international network of trusted contacts, who act like private
bankers, accepting deposits and making payments. Records are usually kept by ARS of all
transactions, but they may be in dialect, shorthand, or a language unfamiliar to law
enforcement authorities in the Member States and therefore difficult to interpret. For
obvious reasons, ARS are attractive to OC groups, and are especially used by those with
links to South Asia where there is a long history of ARS.
The acquisition of real estate
by foreigners has often been followed in recent years by
suspicion of money laundering.
Money laundering often takes place in offshore centres
, areas whose favourable tax
situation and low regulatory standards can be exploited.
OC Groups frequently launder cash through legitimate businesses
, typically those with a
high cash turnover. The businesses are often owned or part-owned by the criminals or by
close associates, although legitimate businessmen may also be duped into providing the
means for laundering criminal proceeds. The same businesses may support money-making
criminality, for example providing the means to transport drugs or the venue where they are
Swindling and Fraud
Fraud comprises a wide variety of criminal activities, which mostly endeavour to exploit
weaknesses in systems and controls for profit-making. Frauds vary considerably in
sophistication. Some demand financial or legal expertise, while others are simple to
execute. Logistically complex frauds that require a criminal infrastructure in order to function
effectively, such as excise frauds that involve the smuggling of goods, do attract OC
groups. They often possess the necessary capabilities, established networks and contacts
to commit large-scale fraud. Criminals have also embraced high technology crime to
Fraud is often related to other types of crime such as forgery of ID documents,
counterfeiting and money laundering. These are often supporting criminal activities of fraud
or in order to legalise the criminal proceeds thereof.
Value Added Tax (VAT) fraud can produce large profits and carries relatively low penalties.
It can thus be considered an attractive crime area for OC groups. A particular case regards
VAT fraud in food in the intra-Community trade.
In acquisition fraud
the goods are bought VAT free against the creation of a VAT number
in another EU country. The goods concerned are typically soft drinks, sweets, beer,
washing powder and eggs. The foodstuffs are then transported to the destination country
and sold, VAT free, to wholesalers and retailers all over the country. In the final phase, the
goods are often sold to individual consumers at a lower price, which leads to losses in tax
revenue and distortion of competition in the food industry.
A development of acquisition fraud, known as carousel fraud
, involves the continuous
movement of goods between collaborating traders in different EU Member States. This type
of fraud results in multiple tax losses. To facilitate the fraud, a number of companies are
involved increasing the distance between the trader and the dispatcher and making
detection difficult. High-value goods that are small in volume and easily traded, such as
mobile telephones and computer components, are particularly attractive to carousel
The misuse of companies occurs frequently in cases of VAT fraud, but also in various
complicated swindling practices. Suspects often use legal persons to buy consumer goods
from various firms. By the time they try to collect payments, the suspects and their
businesses have disappeared.
Moreover, the losses in tax revenues caused by evasion of excise duty in the course of
smuggling of cigarettes and counterfeit cigarettes, and diversion of alcohol are significant. Diversion fraud
involves the movement of duty-suspended products between bonded
warehouses in several Member States. The goods never arrive in the mentioned
destination country. Instead, the load is diverted onto the illicit market of another Member
State without paying the due taxes. Unlike in the smuggling of cigarettes, concealment of
the load is unnecessary. If challenged by customs or tax authorities prior to the diversion,
the criminals can show forged or substituted supporting documents that suggest the load is
Many OC groups engaged in large-scale alcohol diversion fraud are also involved in
cigarettes smuggling. This is an indication of criminal opportunism but also of the potential
flexibility of OC groups when faced with enforcement measures. When authorities have
been able to prevent diversion fraud attempts, the OC groups have had the flexibility to
obtain supplies from elsewhere.
Payment card fraud
Payment card fraud entails mainly credit and debit card fraud. This type of fraud consists of
the copying of financial data and its subsequent fraudulent use. Currently, this data is
mainly obtained by three methods, namely skimming, hacking and phishing.
refers to the illegal copying of data stored in the magnetic stripe of a payment
card. Automated teller machines (ATMs) are mostly targeted for skimming activities.
Criminals install handmade skimming devices on the card slot and copy the data stored in
the magnetic stripe. Additionally, they attach mini-cameras above the keypad in order to
capture the PIN code of the cardholders. The copied data is often remotely transmitted to
other members of the criminal group and used for the production of counterfeit cards.
These cards are then further used for cash withdrawals at ATMs.
entails the act of breaking into databases of merchants, third party processors or
banks and the copying of the data stored in these databases. The data is then fraudulently
used for various purposes such as the production of counterfeit credit cards.
is a relatively new technique used to gain personal and financial data for the
purposes of identity theft or fraud. False websites usually hijack the identities of the major
banks and are designed to look like the website of the real bank. When the victim provides
account details, the fraudsters use them to transfer money into other accounts.
Currently, there are indications of a dual development in payment card fraud in the EU.
Some Member States report significant increases in card fraud, while according to others
there is a striking absence of fraud cases involving counterfeit payment cards or their
Counterfeiting and Forgery
Intellectual and Property Rights Fraud
Intellectual and property rights fraud has probably the most significant impact on the EU in
terms of tax losses and employment with an estimated number of 200,000 job losses every
year within the EU. Sometimes this type of crime also affects the security of the EU citizen
when products such as motor vehicle spare parts or pharmaceutical products are
counterfeited. Figures of seizures of counterfeit goods within the EU have exploded since
1999, increasing more than 300 per cent in certain specific areas such the counterfeiting of
toys and games. The delocalisation and the industrialisation of the production plants in
emerging countries has led to the structuring of this illegal market, from the production site,
through complex routes of transportation to the final distribution to end users, and so
opened the door for criminal networks.
If the luxury and designer goods sector was the first sector targeted by traffickers years
ago, the logic of easy profits with relevant market tools was implemented by traffickers:
luxury goods represent less than 4 per cent of seizures nowadays. Therefore all kinds of
products for mass consumption are affected. If clothing and accessories or cosmetics
sectors are classical ones, food, beverages, plants, medicines, electrical materials and
components, toys and games had an increase of 94 per cent of seizures between 1999 and
2000. Telephones, cigarettes, vehicles or plane spare parts are affected as well. IT
software, music CDs, movies on VHS or DVD are very lucrative sectors, easy to copy in
mass production without big infrastructures or investment, and easily and rapidly replaced
in case of law enforcement agencies interventions.
1Among the places and areas of criminal activity, Thailand appears to be one of the most
relevant, followed by China, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Turkey.
2The major part of counterfeited software products traded in Europe are produced by
criminals in Europe. The easy disposal on the market of tools allowing the mass production
of counterfeited CDs is one of the reasons. Referring to cosmetics and vehicle spare parts,
counterfeited products are produced in the country where they are sold and used. For
vehicle spare parts, some EU countries are less strict on patents, therefore more attractive
as a production location. Referring to medicines, according to some investigations,
counterfeited products were made in Europe with African countries as their final destination.
3One of the major difficulties in tracing a counterfeited product lies in the identification of
the location of the production of its different components. That is to say that the
conditioning, packaging and the product itself can be produced in 3 different places, sent to
a fourth country to be assembled, and sold to a fifth country for the final consumption. Most
of the time, these products are sold on the black market, which means that traffickers will
benefit from illegal distribution networks specially set up for the sale or originally set up for
other kinds of traffic such as drugs.
The number of counterfeit euros increases year after year. Relatively speaking, there is still
less counterfeited currency than before the introduction of the euro but nothing indicates
that the number of counterfeits will drop in the coming years. The necessary technology
becomes cheaper and more easily available so the cost for the OC groups decreases. The
strength of the euro and its broad acceptance as a means of payment makes it now more
attractive for counterfeiters than the US Dollar.
Counterfeiting is considered to be a high profit, low risk activity and, at the same time, a
means to enlarge assets that can be invested in other crime types like drugs and trafficking
of human beings. OC groups do not limit themselves to counterfeiting money: every
valuable item that bears security features such as traveller’s cheques, passports, concert
tickets and all kinds of documents are forged.
During 2004 a total of 860,661 counterfeit euro banknotes
with a value of EUR 45,179,430
were seized. Compared to 2003 (673,902 banknotes seized), this means an increase of
27.7 per cent.
With the exception of the EUR 50 banknote, all the other denominations have increased in
terms of the number of counterfeits seized. In fact, the 50 euro counterfeit apprehensions
dropped from 409,460 in 2003 to 392,678 during 2004, decreasing around 4.5 per cent.
Nevertheless, the EUR 50 denomination still represents 43.45 per cent of the banknotes
detected and is the one which results in the greatest economic loss to the EU with EUR
19,633,900 worth of loss. This is partly due to the combined lower risk in its dissemination
and easier acceptance by the public than the other denominations.
According to the statistics, France is currently the country where the largest numbers of
counterfeit euros have been recovered, followed by Italy, Spain and Germany.
A comparison between the year 2003 and 2004 demonstrates an increase of 130 per cent
in the total of counterfeit coins
seized. During 2003, 60,559 coins were seized while during
2004 the seizures reached 139,328 pieces.
Most of the good quality euro notes are believed to be produced by criminals in the Balkan
and Baltic regions
where several print shops have already been dismantled since its
introduction, while the distribution takes place mainly within the EU Member States. Austria,
the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Poland might reasonably be expected to
be the initial recipients of counterfeit euro banknotes. From these countries, distribution to
the rest of the EU Member States takes place.
Suppliers based in several countries inside and outside the EU are able to place orders for
counterfeits with the criminals responsible for the print shops, mainly based in Bulgaria and
Lithuania, who will in turn order or arrange the production of the counterfeits.
Both the Lithuanian and the Bulgarian criminal groups use legal as well as illegal print
shops for their activities. The main difference is that the Lithuanian groups control the whole
production line from print shop to dissemination of a certain type of counterfeit whereas the
Bulgarians seem to be divided into groups that control several print shops and other groups
that control the distribution.
Organised Robberies, Burglaries and Theft
The main organised criminal activities considered under this crime area are:
- (Armed) robberies targeting cash-in-transit and other security transports, jewellery
shops and so on
- Burglaries of houses, business premises, industrial sites, shops selling expensive
goods, and other valuable premises
Theft of high-value goods such as jewellery, designer clothes and hi-tech equipment
Theft of public or private works of art and cultural property
Theft of documents
OC groups resort to robberies, burglaries and theft in order to finance and facilitate their
main money-making criminal activities. In some cases OC groups steal goods that they do
not wish to buy legitimately since this might be traceable. Theft is commonly used to obtain
motor vehicles, official documents, and monetary instruments. OC groups may want to
acquire firearms, keys to be used for vehicle theft, visa stamps for counterfeiting, and even
police communications equipment for anti-surveillance purposes. In some cases the theft
relates to a particular need, for example a tablet press for synthetic drugs production.
OC groups originating predominantly from Eastern Europe, FSU and Former Yugoslavia
remain active in organised robberies, burglaries and theft. Itinerant groups especially from
the Balkans but also from Albania, Romania and Bulgaria are involved in this type of crime
in the EU and beyond, as far as Japan.
Additionally, Chinese and Turkish OC groups are also known to be linked to robberies
although they often commission these high-risk criminal acts to low-level criminals outside
Furthermore, robberies are considered intrinsically violent especially when they involve the
use of firearms, and burglaries often feature violence, or threats thereof, against house
occupants or shop owners. The OC groups involved have become more willing and
prepared to resort to violence, if considered necessary.
An important feature of robberies is the cash-in-transit robberies or lorry-load thefts causing
huge losses to the industries in question. They are almost always planned attacks at a point
of transfer and involve groups of criminals armed with firearms or other weapons, which
they are prepared to use.
Burglary of residential and business premises nearly always involves motor vehicle crime.
Additionally, there are also clear links between robberies, burglaries and thefts on the one
hand and drug trafficking, counterfeiting and forgery, money laundering and swindling and
fraud on the other.
Additionally, due to the free movement of goods in the EU, the new Member States are
finding it increasingly difficult to control the export of large quantities of cultural objects. The
production of high-quality forged documents of authenticity is further complicating this task.
Moreover, the ability and willingness of the various OC groups involved in robberies,
burglaries and thefts to cooperate with each other across borders is significant.
The increasing OC involvement in some forms of robberies, burglaries and thefts is
apparent in the sophisticated ways legal structures are used to facilitate the criminal
activities. Several OC groups use front companies, owned by members or supporters, for
logistical reasons (for instance car hire), to sell their stolen property or to launder and invest
their illicit proceeds.
Theft of cultural goods
The criminal interest in cultural property embraces a wide spectrum of illegal behaviours
such as theft and receiving, illicit trafficking, forgery and fraud, extortion, money laundering,
important issues of threats to the integrity of cultural heritage. The criminals involved in
cultural property crime can be found at all levels of society. In general they are common
criminals stealing for financial gain. OC groups from the Former Yugoslavia seem to be very
active in stealing – among other things – works of art, jewellery and similar cultural objects.
There is still a growing criminal interest in swindle and fraud using fake pieces of jade and
ivory, which mainly occur in France, Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland.
Trafficking in Stolen Vehicles
Approximately 1.3 million vehicles are currently stolen each year in the EU. Around 60 to 70
per cent of these vehicles are recovered. As the number of stolen cars in the EU is slightly
decreasing, the number of missing stolen vehicles has remained relatively stable. Therefore
the percentage of missing vehicles of the total has increased in several Member States.
The latter development is of concern, since non-recovery is generally regarded as a strong
indicator of OC involvement. This data is supported by Member State contributions
according to which perpetrators are becoming increasingly organised and international.
Some areas of vehicle theft such as overriding the electronic anti-theft devices installed in
vehicles by the manufacturer require such expertise and resources that OC involvement
becomes a necessity.
Currently, most OC groups involved in vehicle theft originate in Poland or Lithuania. To a
certain extent their position seems to be challenged by Dutch and Moroccan OC groups
and groups originating in former Yugoslavia. In addition to these established groups,
Russian, Estonian, Bulgarian and ethnic Albanian OC groups are increasingly expanding
their criminal activities into this crime area.
Vehicles are stolen for various purposes. They can be exported to be sold in Eastern
Europe, the Middle East and North and West Africa; sold for parts or re-introduced into the
black market of the country where the vehicle was originally stolen by using false or forged
vehicle identities. Vehicle theft is also committed in order to finance other criminal activities
of an OC group, to obtain get-away cars to be used in robberies and burglaries, and to
facilitate smuggling of commodities.
Trafficking in stolen vehicles remains one of the most common forms of property crime. In
the UK, the direct cost of vehicle thefts from individuals is estimated to be over GBP 600
million a year. The overall figure including uninsured losses and indirect costs is manifold.
Vehicle thefts have been partly reduced by the introduction of anti-theft technology installed
in the vehicles by the manufacturer. One consequence of improved anti-theft technology in
new cars has been a rise in offences aimed at stealing car keys as well as fraud and
robbery by car-jacking. There are increasing instances of burglaries taking place with the
sole motive of obtaining car keys. If confronted, these criminals show an increasing
propensity for violence.
Fraud in this context includes hiring or test driving cars with the intention of stealing them,
and insurance claims on cars that have been transported abroad to be sold.
The multi-crime base of modern OC in the EU is also apparent in vehicle thefts. In the
Netherlands, some OC groups involved in vehicle thefts are also active in the smuggling of
hard drugs, swindling and receiving. In Slovenia most OC groups involved in vehicle thefts
were also active in other crime areas. The crimes more frequently committed together with
vehicle thefts are counterfeiting, money laundering, fraud, swindling and trafficking in
North and West Africa have become more popular destinations for the re-sale of stolen
vehicles than the previous main market of Eastern Europe. Vehicles are either shipped by
criminals directly to Africa or via EU countries such as France and Belgium. France, Italy
and Spain have significant container and bulk cargo handling ports but also major ferry
crossing points to North Africa. The main destinations of vehicles trafficked from the EU to
North Africa are Algeria and Tunisia, but also Morocco and Mauritania. The vehicles are
subsequently distributed to the surrounding countries.
Poland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are transit countries for transporting stolen vehicles
to the FSU. Greece is an important gateway for vehicles from Western Europe mainly
France, Italy, Germany and Spain destined for Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asian
countries. Austria is also used for trafficking to Romania, former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and to
the former Soviet Republics.
The smuggling of tobacco and cigarettes is a problem within the EU. Tobacco and
cigarettes smuggled by criminal groups into the EU come from China and other countries in
Asia, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States, the Middle East and Africa. Cigarettes that are
smuggled into EU are in most cases aimed for the Nordic market and the UK.
Cigarettes from Eastern Europe were smuggled via Germany into the UK
, where profit
margins are particularly high as a consequence of the high tobacco duty. Belgium and the
Netherlands play a major role as transit countries. Turkish OC groups also seem to be
involved in the traffic of cigarettes to the UK shipping the cigarettes together with heroin.
Italy has increasingly become a transit country for cigarettes intended for the UK.
The individuals involved in cigarette smuggling in Sweden
usually have some kind of
connection to Russia, the Baltic States, Poland or Former Yugoslavia. Smuggling of alcohol
and cigarettes to Finland seems to be largely in the hands of Russian and Estonian
organised criminal groups. Sweden is also a transit country for goods smuggled by
criminals from Eastern Europe to Norway, Denmark and the UK. The illegal import of
cigarettes is mainly via lorries and containers in legal commercial freight traffic.
Illicit Firearms Trafficking
The scale of trafficking illicit firearms has remained variable throughout the EU in 2004.
Additionally, the nature of illicit firearms trafficking is also varied and includes for instance
firearms originating from outside the EU, firearms originating from EU Member States, re-
activation of firearms, conversion of blank-firing or gas cartridge weapons, links betweens
arms collectors and OC groups, and weapon parts being purchased via the Internet and
delivered by post for assembly at a later stage.
As in 2003, the Balkan region
has to be taken into serious consideration concerning
firearms trafficked into the EU in 2004. In addition, crime groups in Bulgaria are allegedly
heavily involved in illicit firearms trafficking. The cheap Bulgarian hand-made weapons can
be sold in Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, and Turkey for a profit of 800 per cent.
The main route
for trafficking firearms to Western Europe is from Turkey through Serbia
and Montenegro. Also FYROM is mentioned as a country where weapons are trafficked
from Bulgaria. So-called small arms and light weapons smuggled out of Bulgaria are known
to have found their way to EU Member States such as Italy, Spain, and the UK.
France and Ireland reported that the enlargement of the EU
favoured the organised
smuggling of firearms to those countries. Austria, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands
reported relatively low figures and minor criminal importance of illicit firearms trafficking to
and through their countries. In many instances they were only registered as a secondary,
sometimes supporting, criminal activity.
There is also an increase in the use of heavier and more lethal weaponry in criminal cases.
Finland and Sweden reported on the involvement of outlaw motorcycle gangs in firearms
Illegal waste trafficking
The concept of ‘crimes against the natural environment’ covers a wide range of criminal
offences. Elements of organised crime can be seen in cases of illegal waste disposal,
especially hazardous waste and illegal trade in protected and threatened species. When
speaking about organised environmental crime in the Member States in 2004, mainly illegal
waste disposal with a clear focus on hazardous waste materials is being reported.
The level of OC groups’ involvement in environmental crime is difficult to determine, mainly
because it has been a low priority for law enforcement authorities in some Member States
and, as a result, there has been limited intelligence available.
It is worth mentioning that the illegal business of disposing hazardous waste generally
generates high profits and is considered by criminals as a so-called low risk
Additionally, penalties related to these offences are relatively low in most countries and very
often there is a lack of enforcement in this field. Some criminals are even known to simply
incorporate penalties into the cost of doing business.
In many countries a continuous growth of the economy
is taking place and, subsequently,
the amount of waste produced is growing, whilst disposals systems are often unable to
meet these growing demands. The UK reported about the increasing costs of dumping
waste in a legal way (‘landfill costs’) as a main reason why crime in this area is growing. In
addition, the lack of legitimate sites for disposing of hazardous waste in the UK may
increase the instances of illegal dumping (‘fly tipping’), which takes place in rural and urban
areas, and has an economic as well as environmental impact due to the costs of clear up
and correct disposal. The consequences for a country’s environment and economy are
obvious, although hard to estimate accurately. It will obviously be very expensive to clean
up the sites where illegal waste has been dumped.
The 10 Member States that joined the EU in May 2004 could be experiencing a growth in
the number of cases of cross-border transport of waste and illegal trade in certain protected
and threatened species.
In many EU Member States it was noticed that environmental crime is sometimes taking
place next to other criminal activities.
OTHER KEY OC FEATURES
Use of Influence
Combating corruption in the EU has received a high political priority. Article 29 of the Treaty
on EU lists the prevention and combating of corruption, organised or otherwise, as one of
the objectives enabling the creation and safeguarding of a European area of freedom,
security and justice. Corruption was repeatedly identified by the European Commission as a
serious problem in some of the new EU Member States. This has been highlighted by the
European Commission in the yearly Regular reports on the progress of accession countries
The enlarged EU of 25 Member States is a heterogeneous union of unequal countries with
the per capita income levels in the new Member States falling in most cases below the
average of the old EU countries, particularly in those public sector jobs that are vulnerable
to corruption. This economical discrepancy between Member States may create pressures
that can easily play into the hands of OC groups if left unaddressed. Despite the fact that
many corruption-related problems still prevail, the fight against corruption continues in the
new Member States and accession countries in the fields of policy, legislation and law
enforcement. Various ongoing anti-corruption programmes and strategies are enforced in
order to battle the phenomenon.
Corruption used by OC groups to infiltrate the state, legal economies, law enforcement
bodies and politics is a powerful tool for organised crime and at the same time a possible
indicator of the potential threat posed by OC groups.
The main problem in this area lies in the fact that reliable and comparable figures on the
use of corruption by organised crime do not really exist. Available statistics can only be
seen as indicative.
There are also noticeable differences in the ways in which Member States report OC-
related use of corruption. Therefore it would be misleading to develop a common
perspective on the use of corruption across the EU. In general terms it can be stated that
corruption is used by OC as a tool to achieve their aims but the level in individual MS does
differ greatly, which might also be based on the fact that data in this specific crime area is
difficult to obtain.
Use of Violence
Within the criminal environment rules cannot be enforced relying on the intervention of the
State. That is why actual or threatened violence is an essential feature of the outlaw world.
The nature of damage caused can be physical, psychological or material.
Different criminal groups can make different uses of this tool. It can be adopted as an
offensive or defensive tactic, it can be planned or based on reaction, it can be brought to
the extreme or limited to the necessary degree, and it can be boasted about or hidden.
Violence may be used within the group to maintain internal discipline and cohesion, against
other groups to manage the balance of power within the criminal environment, and against
private individuals or companies outside the criminal world.
Statistical assessments are challenging because of the vagueness of the notion of violence,
how it is applied and whether it is regarded as a tool, a threat or just an inherent part of the
modus operandi of certain types of crime or OC groups. There are differences in the ways
Member States report OC-related use of violence. Some Member States report on the
number of OC groups that have used violence whilst other Member States indicate the
percentage of cases involving violence of all reported cases. This makes the assessment
and the statistical comparison of the given figures difficult and can also be misleading.
In general, it has been noticed that Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCG) are changing their
strategy concerning their appearance. Previously they used an aggressive attitude, relying
on fear in order to increase their power and presence in the criminal field. This caused
greater attention from the law enforcement agencies and the media, they are now adopting
a low profile strategy and are developing public relations in order to avoid this pressure.
However, violence is still a crucial feature of their sub-culture. Clashes between Bandidos
MC and Outlaw
MC took place in 2004. Other killings – allegedly internal to the motorcycle
outlaw gangs’ environment – also happened.
Ethnic Albanian criminal groups are renowned for being violent and using intimidation to
maintain discipline within the syndicate, to settle inter-groups disputes and to control their
victims. Violence and threats are used against law enforcement and judicial officials.
Turkish OC groups are also very violent and protect their business with the use of extortion,
kidnapping, physical violence and firearms. There have been several instances reported of
contract killings related in some way to the heroin trade in quite a few countries in the EU.
Groups dealing with drugs are making an increasing use of means of violence.
Russian and Belarusian groups are known to use physical violence and intimidation to
support their activities. It is used to protect their business from rivals and as threat to
competitors. Violence and intimidation are also used when negotiations have broken down
and a crime group wants to achieve its objective. These groups are also known to target
and corrupt key individuals within organisations (for example, banks).
Violence and intimidation are used primarily to maintain the discipline and compliance of
group members and criminal associates, and to enforce criminal business deals and
recover debts. Punishments may be meted out for double-crossing the group, making
mistakes, not following orders, or being suspected of informing to the police.
Colombian criminal groups, which control the large-scale importation of cocaine from South
America into Europe, are also reported to use violence against their members and their
families in case of failures or cooperation with law enforcement agencies.
Violence sometimes erupts because of a dispute between criminal groups, although only a
small proportion becomes involved in ‘turf wars’. For example, ‘criminal vendetta’
kidnappings revolve around disputes over debts and reflect the willingness on the part of
criminals at all levels to resort to violence to reinforce their rule.
Ripping off of money, consignments of drugs or stealing commodities are often the trigger
for such actions, along with problems in the logistical chain of drugs trafficking, such as
suppliers not delivering on time, or buyers not paying on time.
Sometimes, groups even resort to hostage-taking. Murders were also recorded.
In general, violence seems to be more used in relation to the exploitation, rather than
facilitation, of immigrants, particularly when contracting debts or when they are subjected to
extortion. Immigrants are then exploited as bonded labour for the traffickers’ own
companies or in the black economy (manufacturing, food processing, construction and farm
crops). Concerning exploitation of human beings, the risk that children could be trafficked to
EU Member States for working for OC groups as beggars must be mentioned.
Chinese criminals dealing with illegal immigration for labour exploitation and facilitating
trafficking in human beings use extortion against individuals of the same nationality.
Furthermore, violence has also been used against victims – mainly coming from Eastern
Europe and some South American countries – in the white slave trade.
In THB the threat of violence to control both trafficked prostitutes and sweatshop labourers
is widespread in the UK. Whether implied or actual, violence is likely to be ever-present
from the point when the woman begins working as a prostitute. One form of control is
through the supply of drugs to the victims especially where the OC group is also active in
There are signs that criminals from the Balkans, especially ethnic Albanians, are seeking to
gain control of the vice trade in the UK. They are doing so particularly by taking over
ownership of brothels and saunas and are prepared to use violence to achieve this
In general, ethnic Albanian criminal groups are reported to force the trafficked women into
prostitution, through rape and other forms of violence.
Women who are victims of Bulgarian OC groups are subject to extremely serious violence;
they may be beaten and raped, have their documentation removed, be held in virtual or
actual captivity and work in conditions of slavery.
Inquiries in the field of THB showed that women from Romania and Bulgaria, in particular,
but also from South America and Asia, are forced into prostitution by the use of threats and
violence. Nigerian women are subjected to the threat of voodoo rites, Eastern European
women – often handed over to nomadic groups – are repeatedly raped.
In the UK and Spain criminals are turning to house burglaries to steal keys (car home-
jacking) and robbery by car-jacking. In addition, it is reported that, in France, car-jacking
and home-jacking are currently carried out mostly by French, Romanian, Bulgarian,
Byelorussians, ethnic Albanians or nationals from the Former Yugoslavian States and car
thefts using aggressive methods are highlighted also with reference to Poland. Car theft
involving violence is viewed as a threat for the coming years, due to the improved anti-theft
devices that frequently cause criminals to resort to robbery.
With reference to the intellectual and property rights fields, violent methods, including
murder threats, have been used by criminal groups against legal companies’ experts in
Russia, Mexico, North Africa and FYROM. These pressures lead some intellectual property
owners to reconsider their action or to withdraw their complaint, when they do not simply
renounce the property rights in these countries.
The use of violence and intimidation against law enforcement agents is a serious problem.
In Sweden, motorcycle and prison gangs have systematically subjected police officers to
threats, harassment, and violence in order to undermine their enforcement activities. It is
worth mentioning that actions against police officers were also put in place, in particular by
young criminals, prison and suburban gangs, to raise one’s status in the OC environment.
Also Swedish Customs officers were subject to threats and violence to varying degrees,
and their entire families were targeted.
In Greece, ethnic Albanian criminal organisations which transfer drugs via the Greek –
Albanian border do not hesitate to shoot at guards. Similarly, in France, cannabis
traffickers, crossing the country from Spain in powerful motor vehicles, do not hesitate to
use open force against law enforcement services.
To give sound estimations about the turn-over or profit made by OC groups continues to be
difficult as there are no agreed Europe-wide standards on how such figures should be
calculated. Nevertheless it seems worth reflecting on the following figures as they give a
very broad idea about the economical dimension of organised crime activities within the EU.
In Germany the profit made by criminal organisations was estimated at about EUR 1.34
In Belgium assets held by criminal groups were estimated at approximately EUR 1.5 billion.
In Spain, the criminal syndicates had an estimated capital of about EUR 1.45 billion and an
estimated income of approximately EUR 1 billion.
In Sweden, crime has revenues of approximately SEK 3.7 billion a year.
Use of Business Structures
Legal commercial structures are mainly used by OC groups for the following purposes:
o To launder illicit proceeds;
o To cover and facilitate their illegal activities;
o To obstruct criminal investigations;
o To gain profits in order to finance criminal activities;
o To conduct a legitimate business in an unlawful way (such as disregarding
regulations about quality, safety, environment, workers pensions etc.).
For example, Turkish criminal groups often hide the drugs in purpose built concealments
within the framework of the vehicles used or within the legitimate goods being carried. In
many cases the consignors are Turkish companies involved in textile, foodstuffs or
construction companies. These companies often appear to have links to similar companies
strategically placed throughout Europe in countries such as Germany, The Netherlands and
the UK, which are also the main destination markets for the drugs. Many of the companies
used by the criminal groups are believed to be legitimate companies used as cover for
illegal activities (for example, storage, transportation or money laundering). Turkish
organised crime is also involved in the running of employment agencies giving rise to
opportunities for, inter alia
, the recruitment of couriers.
Another example is related to people smuggling activities that in Russia are run under the
cover of legitimate businesses, such as travel agencies and marriage bureaux, through
advertisement in newspapers and web pages on the Internet. OC groups take advantage of
the increased demand for tourist trips abroad and for the opportunities to work in the
countries of Western Europe to set up firms concerned with the arrangement of work for
Russian workers abroad and the preparation of the corresponding documents. In general,
companies in the destination countries can also be used to send invitation letters providing
the reason for business trips abroad.
Travel agencies are also routinely used in trafficking of human beings. In addition,
traffickers are increasingly moving towards the use of employment contracts registered with
a law firm as a way of maintaining control of victims and putting a veneer of respectability
on their activities.
In the economic field the following sectors are ‘favoured’ by criminals: the ’Import-Export’
one; adding up ’Hotels, restaurants, cafés’, ’Transport’, ’Construction’, ‘Real Estate’ and
A distinction has to be made between companies that are set up specifically to commit
criminal acts and reputable companies that are misused in some way.
It is worth mentioning that, according to the Italian authorities, OC from the FSU countries is
particularly involved in international finance and is capable of exploiting any new
opportunity both in the economic and financial sectors such as real estate, tourism and
hotels, and import-export firms trading in various goods. They specifically aim at laundering
huge capital gains derived from illicit activities. In Italy it has also been noticed that the
Chinese community invests in real estate and commercial business, always paying in cash.
There are innumerable transactions related to handicraft-activities in the textile, leather and
A particular use of business was detected in the OMCG environment. Its members
increasingly register their clubs as legal associations or even foundations; they try to protect
their own symbols (often referred to as ’colours’) as registered trademarks and sue
companies which misuse them. OMCG sell merchandise the proceeds of which are used to
support their imprisoned affiliates (support gear). They also carry out legal business linked
with the motorbike world and tattoo parlours. In addition, relevant members of different
chapters own or have close links with several legal enterprises; this might be an indicator of
possible money laundering activities.
• Indigenous OC groups still pose the main threat to the EU.
• Italian Mafia-type OC groups are particularly dangerous for their ability in infiltrating the
public and economic sectors, but their influence outside their regions of origin, albeit
significant, is far less serious.
• Lithuanian OC groups easily forge alliances with international OC, and are rapidly
expanding all over the EU. They are extremely skilled in money counterfeiting, and well
versed in many criminal activities.
• Dutch OC groups are specialised in drug production and trafficking. Their production
and consequent trafficking of synthetic drugs have a major impact on the global market.
They are also involved in cocaine and cannabis trafficking.
• German OC groups are seldom mentioned in trans-national criminal activities, but their
significant profits and the fact that they are involved in types of crime that require a vast
network of international connections suggest that their importance on a continental level
is underestimated and their actual power not fully known.
• Polish OC groups are among the fastest growing groups in the EU, and are expanding
their criminal activities all over the continent.
• Ethnic Albanian criminal groups pose a significant threat to the EU because of their
involvement in drug trafficking, THB and money laundering, and have expanded their
activities all over the EU. They are actively looking for new criminal markets and
acquiring increasingly important positions in the existing markets.
• Russian and other FSU OC groups are involved in practically all types of crime and are
constantly looking for new crime markets and new forms of collaboration with other OC
groups. Although heavily involved in traditional crime, including violent crimes, Russian
OC is also highly sophisticated in the area of financial crime, fraud and money
is mainly involved in heroin production and trafficking to the EU. However, it
is diversifying its criminal activities by engaging in poly-drug and arms trafficking and
crimes against persons.
• Chinese OC groups are well established in the EU and pose a significant threat. They
are heavily involved in illegal immigration, THB and non-cash payment fraud, and
increasingly in precursors and synthetic drugs trafficking, money laundering, forgery
and intellectual property theft.
groups pose a significant threat because they are the major providers of
cannabis to the EU drug market. They are also active in THB and illegal immigration.
• Colombian OC groups
control cocaine production and global trafficking. They use
corruption and violence and are deeply involved in money laundering. The serious
threat they pose is also due to their smooth and efficient cooperation with OC groups in
• Outlaw motorcycle gangs are present in force in the Nordic countries, Germany and
Belgium, but they are now expanding their activities to the new Member States with the
support of existing gangs in Russia and Eastern Europe. They are involved in a variety
of crimes such as drug trafficking, smuggling of commodities and illegal prostitution.
They have no scruples about using violence.
Types of Crime
• Drug trafficking remains the most lucrative type of crime for OC and one of the biggest
threats to modern societies.
• The EU is estimated to consume 135 tonnes of heroin a year. Social and health
problems caused by the abuse of heroin are significant and put a high burden on
authorities and local communities. Heroin is produced with Afghan opium by Turkish
OC groups, which then smuggle it into the EU in cooperation with ethnic Albanian
• Trafficking in cocaine remains a threat for several Member States and is intensifying
according to some. After the US, Europe is the main cocaine market, and the recent
enhancement of border controls in the US could divert large amounts of cocaine
towards the EU from producing countries in South America. Colombian OC groups
dominate the cocaine trade, with effective cooperation with indigenous OC groups.
• The global use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), especially ecstasy, is increasing
and is posing a clear and present threat, especially to younger generations that are the
main users. Production of synthetic drugs in the EU is largely controlled by indigenous
OC groups from the Netherlands and Belgium, as is the ensuing large scale trafficking
within Europe and beyond.
The general and incorrect conception of cannabis as a harmless, recreational product
combined with the apparent social acceptance of it can pose a real threat to the young
users of the substance and to the societies of the EU. Cannabis is mainly imported from
Morocco and Albania, but is also grown in hydroponics’ cultures within the EU.
• In relation to social implications, THB is one of the most harmful types of crime to
society. The use of violence in THB is endemic. Many of the victims are forced into
slave-like existences working as prostitutes or illegal labour force. Even children are
exploited in extremely harsh ways. The profits for OC are enormous.
• Illegal immigration increasingly relies on OC to succeed. The growing flow of illegal
immigrants into the EU continues to burden societies, causing serious social, economic
and political implications in source countries as well as a negative impact on transit and
destination countries. OC groups involved in facilitating illegal immigration are mainly
from source and transit countries, and are benefiting greatly from that kind of trade.
• Money laundering is an inherent characteristic of OC, to the point that it can be safely
stated that there is no OC without money laundering. There is a considerable and
constantly increasing number of modi operandi for the laundering of money.
• Fraud is an extremely lucrative and often underestimated OC activity. Second only to
drug trafficking in terms of profitability, fraud is the perfect example of low-risk high-
profit crime. The very high threat it poses to the EU is further enhanced by the very fact
that fraud is not considered a serious threat, and is dealt with accordingly by Member
States’ criminal laws, which are extremely lenient thus inviting OC to resort more and
more to this profitable and relatively safe type of crime.
OC groups dealing with currency counterfeiting use sophisticated printing facilities as
well as artisans with considerable printing skills to produce high quality banknotes and
coins. These are then efficiently distributed all across the EU. Several criminal groups
are currently active in currency counterfeiting. Although small-scale traditional
counterfeiting is still done in some ’old’ Member States, Bulgarian and Lithuanian OC
groups have taken a dominant role in this area. Counterfeit euros are to some extent
also produced by OC in Colombia, the Balkans and Turkey.
Property crimes are among the less refined types of crime with which OC groups are
involved. Often used by OC groups to finance other criminal activities, property crime is
frequently perpetrated by criminals who do not hesitate to resort to violence, sometimes
for no apparent reason.
Smuggling activities, especially of tobacco products and in lesser measure of alcohol,
are particularly lucrative when directed towards Member States with high duties on
those products, such as the UK and Nordic countries. In many cases smuggled
cigarettes are counterfeits.
OC has an increasing role in the theft of cars which are subsequently trafficked, as
demonstrated by the shrinking percentage of recovered stolen vehicles. Thirty to forty
per cent of the million plus vehicles stolen each year in the EU disappear, and this is
considered a clear indicator of OC involvement, as only criminal groups have the
structure and the expertise to export outside the EU or resell within the same market
(after having tampered with car ID features and documents) such an enormous quantity
of vehicles. The threat posed by stolen vehicle trafficking is increased by the rise in
robbery by car jacking and home jacking, which is the result of improved anti-theft
technology in new cars that makes traditional non-violent theft more difficult.
Firearm trafficking is considered a present and constant threat, with the vast majority of
them coming from the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, where vast arsenals
prove difficult to secure and low wages in the armed forces may encourage corruption.
Environmental crime, especially illegal waste dumping, is exploiting a wide legislative
vacuum and a lack of law enforcement. Much of it remains undetected. Italian Mafia-
type organisations are deeply involved in such illicit business not only through the
organisation and management of clandestine waste disposals parallel to the legal ones,
but also through the exploitation of public tenders obtained through their deep
penetration in public sectors.
Other Key OC Features
The most established criminal groups appear to make a more calculated and cautious
use of violence and intimidation. This can be noticed, for example, in Italy, the UK,
Lithuania, or with reference to the development of the OMCG strategy. Non indigenous
syndicates, such as Albanian, Turkish and Chinese criminal groups, are more often
mentioned as using violence in the Member States were they operate, also in
connection with the exploitation of persons living in these countries and sharing the
same ethnicity or country of origin. Emerging or lower level criminal groups, such as
street, suburban, motorcycle or prison gangs show a more aggressive attitude,
including readiness to use firearms, for carving their space in the criminal environment.
With specific reference to structural clashes between different criminal groups, some
Member States mentioned situations where they were provoked or they could be
triggered by the emergence or markedly expansion-oriented strategy of some criminal
syndicates, lack of a clear leadership and the linked need for regroupings, changes in
agreements, alliances and areas of ’competence’.
Concerning violence against victims of THB or smuggled illegal immigrants, it is
specifically mentioned by the UK, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, France,
Portugal, Greece, Lithuania and, in general, with reference to ethnic Albanian, Chinese,
Bulgarian, Rumanian, Nigerian, Greek (also in cooperation with Moldavian, Ukrainian,
Romanian, Iranian), Russian, Bangladeshi, Iraqi, and Pakistani OC groups. The risk
that children could be trafficked to the EU Member States and forced (through violence
and intimidation) by OC groups to work as beggars emerged. It is also worth mentioning
an emerging trend consisting in the increase of the propensity for violence in vehicle
theft (home jacking and car jacking) as a consequence of improved anti-theft
technology as well as the use of violence in the business environment to enforce
monopoly in certain fields or, in general, to get control of legal enterprises.
Most of the Member States record a significant propensity for the use of influence by
organised crime. The public sector is usually the most affected, but the private sector is
also noticeably involved. Corruption practices are mainly mentioned with reference to
criminal activities such as smuggling or trafficking of goods or persons (including
forgery and fraud connected with legalisation of illegal aliens), public works and
tenders, money laundering, robberies and road freight theft, identity theft, and fraud.
The use of businesses can be considered a key feature of organised crime. Where
estimates are provided by the Member States, very high percentages of the criminal
groups are reported as using enterprises. Companies are mainly used to cover and
facilitate the core criminal activities (in particular, to cover and justify movement of
goods – such as drugs - and persons – such as illegal immigrants) and to launder illicit
profits (to justify the movement of funds from one jurisdiction to another, and to
introduce money in the legal financial and economic system, to provide a reason for the
availability of money, etc.). Furthermore, the use of businesses is intrinsic in certain tax-
related and financial frauds.
The Threat of OC
Modern societies based on increasing mobility, urbanisation, anonymity and diminishing
social control provide greater leeway and increasing opportunities for OC. The
perceived economic success and physical well-being on offer in the West act as pull
factors for populations in areas where war, turmoil and unrest wreak havoc. OC can
easily exploit these pressures by facilitating illegal immigration and trafficking human
beings to the desired destinations. Additionally, OC uses threatening supporting
activities such as violence and corruption in order to ensure a risk-free logistical chain
from origin to target country, and immigrants who can be exploited to the extreme as
workforce, commodity or subjects of extortion and blackmail.
Globalisation and economic development create a rising demand for goods and
services that OC can satisfy. The professionalism, logistics and efficiency offered by
OC are prerequisites for ensuring the profits of a criminal activity. Illegal waste disposal,
trafficking in cultural objects and luxury cars, and counterfeiting in all its variety are but
examples of the areas with increasing OC involvement. OC satisfies a demand that is
becoming more and more specific and sophisticated; thefts of cultural objects and
jewellery follow international trends and can be committed to order: only specific and
the most valuable goods qualify. On the other hand, large volumes of smuggled bulk
commodities also require OC involvement. The required chain of logistics and
distribution alone are almost impossible to establish otherwise.
OC is increasingly penetrating businesses and other legal structures in the EU. It is
exploiting the lack of awareness in public administration and the advantages offered by
accessing positions of power and resources. Additionally, legal businesses are often
utilised by OC to provide a legal cover for illegal activities and to support them
(transport, warehousing and so on).
Technological development is currently both facilitating traditional types of crime but
also creating altogether new crime opportunities for OC. The threat of high technology
crime is intensified by the fact that many of these new forms of high technology crime
are very difficult to detect and control by law enforcement. The losses incurred are also
frequently significant. A good example of this is the hacking of payment card data that
are copied in vast volumes and can easily be further fraudulently used.
- Crimes against persons
- Financial Crime and other crimes against property
- Illicit trafficking
- Other key features
- Use of influence
- Use of violence
- OC Groups
- Types of Crime
- Other Key OC Features
- The Threat of OC