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OCTA 2008
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© European Police Office, 2008

Foreword by the Director
1. Introduction
2. General assessment of the Organised Crime groups
Non-EU-based groups 
Intermediary situations 
EU-based groups 
Functionality as a defining factor of Organised Crime 
Trends and developments 
3. Criminal markets
Drugs trafficking 
Crimes against persons 
Counterfeiting 26
The horizontal dimension of the criminal markets 
4. The Organised Crime landscape
The North-West region: The Atlantic region  
The North-East region: Approximating the Baltic Sea region  
The South-East region 
The South-West region: The Iberian Peninsula and beyond 
Nodes of attraction: Criminal hubs 


‘The Hague Programme’ to provide a forward-
looking approach to fight OC in a more pro-
active than re-active manner. The OCTA allows
the EU to develop complementary measures
to countering OC, linking those at the ministe-
rial and political levels with those of practi-
tioners and law enforcement agencies who
operate at the front line.
The OCTA as a tool, and the ensuing Council
Conclusions based on the OCTA from 2006 and
2007, have already had a significant impact on
the law enforcement community throughout
I am delighted to present the third European
Europe in terms of practices and priorities. This
Union Organised Crime Threat Assessment
is the case, for instance, through the European
(OCTA). The OCTA is a core product of the intel-
Police Chief Task Force (EPCTF/COSPOL) frame-
ligence-led law enforcement concept and its
work at the common EU level, the Baltic Sea
drafting is one of Europol’s top priorities.
Task Force, the Operational Inter-organisation-
al Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking in
The OCTA is, as its name suggests, a threat
Greece (ILAEIRA), the Maritime analysis and
assessment of current and expected new
operations centre – narcotics (MAOC-N) in
trends in organised crime (OC) across the EU.
Lisbon, at Europol and within the individual
The assessment is based upon existing knowl-
Member States.
edge and expertise and it is drawn up in order
to enable decision-makers to take the appro-
A great number of people and various organi-
priate action to counter the anticipated
sations have contributed to the production of
the 2008 OCTA. This deserves to be recognised.
All Member States have provided their respec-
The OCTA marks a new approach to the way in
tive contributions. Valuable contributions have
which Europol and the Member States operate
also been received from other institutions at
and it is a first step to a change of paradigm in
the EU-level such as ECB, EMCDDA, Eurojust,
policing. The OCTA fits in firmly with the aim of
Frontex and OLAF. Additionally, a number of

third parties provided valuable assistance in
to produce this document. I appreciate and
building up the picture of OC as it impacts
thank them for their on-going efforts in the
upon the EU. We are grateful to our law en-
production and development of this signifi-
forcement partners in Canada, Colombia,
cant and pioneering work.
Norway, Russia, Switzerland and the US as well
as to ICPO/Interpol and SECI for their coopera-
The 2008 OCTA will be another important
tion. The novel approach taken in producing
step to raise the level of cooperation
this work has also seen consultation with a
between various competent authorities in
number of partners from the private sector
the Member States as well as with the EU
and academia and their cooperation has
institutions and agencies as such. This will
added significant value to the OCTA. Finally,
contribute to further develop the common
and perhaps most importantly, the staff of
space of freedom, security and justice in the
Europol deserve recognition for their efforts
European Union.
Max-Peter Ratzel
Director of Europol


In response to ‘The Hague Programme’, the
on elaborating the benefits of an intensified
first OCTA was introduced and later endorsed
public-private partnership. The OCTA helps to
by the Council during their meeting on 1-2
close the gap between strategic findings and
June 2006. The OCTA, and the ensuing Council
operational activities. The OCTA helps to iden-
Conclusions based on the OCTA from 2006 and
tify the highest priorities, which will then be
2007, have already had a significant impact on
effectively tackled with the appropriate law
law enforcement work throughout Europe.
enforcement instruments. The OCTA suggests
This third OCTA will provide an important plat-
strategic priorities, but it needs to be realised
form for the evaluation of the Council
that the OCTA itself is not detailed enough to
Conclusions of 2006 and 2007.
pinpoint specific criminal investigations.
The OCTA covers the EU. However, it cannot be
The structure of the 2008 OCTA follows the
neglected that Europe, due to its geography
general conceptual model for the analysis,
and its cultural, social and historical differences,
starting with an assessment of the OC groups,
is not a homogeneous structure and so may
followed by an analysis of the criminal markets
also require a regional priority setting. There-
and ending with an assessment of the region-
fore, although the European dimension is the
al dimension of OC impacting on the EU.
prime focus, the OCTA also accounts for region-
al divergences. In order to enhance the under-
The OCTA is always being enhanced. Metho-
standing of events within the EU, consideration
dological and other issues are continuously
of the international arena is at times necessary.
being addressed in close cooperation with the
Member States to allow for the further
To support decision-makers in the best possi-
enhancement of the OCTA. The methodology
ble way, the OCTA provides a well-targeted
and procedures for its completion have been
qualitative assessment of the threat from OC.
amended. Overall, the changes which have
The OCTA is based on a multi-source
been introduced have all contributed to
approach, including law enforcement and
enhancing the quality of the OCTA.
non-law enforcement contributions. These
include various European agencies as well as
The OCTA does not cover terrorism or terrorist
the private sector. A specific emphasis is put


Organised Crime (OC) groups can be assessed
tionally indigenous OC groups or EU-based
by using a typology based on the OCTA indica-
groups; traditionally non-indigenous or non-
tors. This typology helps to identify specific
EU-based groups; and finally the intermediary
types of OC groups in any Member State and
situations including both second generation
also to assess their most threatening aspects.
OC groups and groups that combine aspects
The typology is not a scientific statistical exer-
of both non-EU and EU-based groups.
cise but is created to evaluate and showcase
functional differences in the OC groups.
A way of visualising the main types is repre-
sented below in Figure 1. The development of
In the 2007 OCTA, much of the analysis was
the groups along the line of the strategic cen-
focused on assessing the seven individual
tre of gravity takes into consideration how the
indicators related to the OC groups, that is:
international dimension is used by the group,
what structural indications can be discerned
1. The international dimension;
and whether there are any apparent changes
2. Group structures;
in these, where the groups’ leaders and assets
3. Use of legitimate business structures;
are placed, where and how effectively they use
4. Specialisation;
corruption and violence, what are the groups’
5. Influence;
capabilities to exploit legal business struc-
6. Use of violence;
tures, and how well and for which specific pur-
7. Counter-measures.
poses they exploit specialists and counter-
measures. Another factor in defining the
This focus is built upon in the 2008 OCTA.
groups’ strategic centre of gravity is to consid-
Based on the indicators, the OC groups report-
er whether and how the groups hinge on an
ed by the Member States can roughly be divid-
ethnic community of reference to facilitate
ed into three main categories. These are tradi-
their criminal activities.

centre of
centre of
gravity outside
gravity in
the EU
the EU
Figure 1: Types of OC groups in relation to their strategic centre of gravity
2.1. Non-EU-based groups
public administration and politics outside the
EU. The use of violence, in most cases outside
Non-EU-based groups pertain to criminal
the EU, is also a strong general characteristic of
organisations that have a strong international
this type of groups whilst the use of specialists
dimension so that in most cases both leaders
is on a much more basic level.
and assets of the group are located outside
the EU. These groups can be regarded as ‘visi-
Non-EU-based groups differ from EU-based
tors’; in most cases only cells of the group are
groups in one specific aspect: their strategic
present and visible in the EU. Although these
centre of gravity and interests are mainly out-
cells are in most cases led from outside the EU,
side the EU, and many groups only exploit the
the level of organisation of these groups
crime markets in the EU for profit. These
inside the EU is still relatively low. Contacts
groups are often so-called supplying groups;
with the countries of activity are kept to a min-
they either provide people, goods or drugs for
imum and the international dimension is used
the EU markets after which they repatriate the
to its fullest extent for shielding purposes and
profits to the origin. In some cases they also
to support the criminal activities.
take care of the final distribution, but may also
leave these functions to other groups. This
This category is often represented by hierarchi-
approach often leaves EU law enforcement in
cally organised groups. Their criminal activities
the dark of the origin and the organisers of the
are normally linked to the use of legal business
crime while also making it extremely difficult
structures and also the use of high-level corrup-
to identify, re-trace and confiscate the criminal
tion against law enforcement or the judiciary,

2.2. Intermediary situations
on the exploitation of the ethnic community,
but has also become more prepared to use
The intermediary situations are among the
corruption or influence, in some cases also vio-
most interesting types of and developments in
lence, and all in all gain an enhanced access to
OC groups. In general they are relatively inde-
legal structures in the EU. The group enhances
pendent structures and not only cells of larger
its presence in the EU but simultaneously
OC groups controlled from abroad. The loca-
shields some of its functions behind its inter-
tion of the centre of gravity of these groups is
national dimension (for instance in the form of
to a large extent dependent on their second
language, family ties or values), which guaran-
generation or assimilation process so that in
tees it a sound insulation against law enforce-
the end the level of presence in the EU grows
ment and other OC groups.
while the possibility to shield behind the inter-
national dimension decreases. In general these
There are indications that certain groups tradi-
groups are developing along the lines and
tionally considered insulated outside the EU
direction of EU-based groups.
and only involved in procuring various com-
modities to EU-based groups are established
The intermediary situations include two main
in the EU.
types of groups, second generation groups and
groups combining aspects of both non-EU-based
2.2.2. Groups combining aspects
and EU-based groups.
of both non-EU-based and
EU-based groups
2.2.1. Second generation groups
The groups combining aspects of both non-
The second generation groups are in many
EU-based and EU-based groups are comprised
functional ways flanked by the non EU-based
of groupings that in their criminal activities
and EU-based OC groups but progressing
combine the insulating features of groups
towards the latter. The defining factor in this
based outside the EU and the level of presence
development is the assimilation process
in the EU of indigenous groups. The centre of
through which the groups become more
gravity of these groups can be described to be
ingrained in the societies of their countries of
in every country of activity. They are as such
not evolving along the lines of the second gen-
eration development.
These groups do not form a homogenous
amalgamation. Some of them are still in active
In most cases these groups are not independ-
contact with the mother group located in the
ent OC groups but more accurately geograph-
origin country and in some cases procure
ically spread networks often involved in traf-
goods or services from it. In a more progressed
ficking or smuggling activities. These are often
stage the group has gradually cut its ties with
made up of several relatively independent and
its mother group and rather hinges on ethnic
equal groups or cores which activate when a
communities present in the EU for cover, mar-
certain type of goods or certain nationality of
kets and recruitment. In the most advanced
people or certain country of the trajectory
intermediary situation the group relies partly
becomes relevant.

2.3. EU-based groups
On an organisational level EU-based groups are
efficiently organised and support task diversifi-
EU-based groups refer to OC groups that have
cation and specialisation. These structures are
both their leaders and at least a substantial part
resilient in relation to the outside world. On the
of their assets inside the EU. They are in general
other hand, they are not always able to use the
defined by the use of legal business structures,
international dimension for effective shielding
actively employ specialists in their criminal
purposes, which can make them relatively vul-
activities and, in most cases, use corruption
nerable to law enforcement action.
inside the EU against low-level representatives
of law enforcement or the judiciary. However,
EU-based groups can comprise several struc-
the type and level of corruption applied by the
tural types but current data suggests that
groups varies somewhat. Although decidedly
hierarchically based groups, and certain orient-
fewer groups try to use corruption on a higher
ed clusters are typical of this category. The con-
level and also against public administration and
cept of ‘oriented cluster’ is described in the 2007
the political context, these contacts do occur.
The use of violence is in many cases not a defin-
Even though modern criminal organisations
ing characteristic of this type since the need for
often invest their assets and launder their
its use is in many cases made obsolete by the
criminal proceeds in various locations around
ability of EU-based groups to use other, more
the world and are active in numerous coun-
sophisticated and less conspicuous means to
tries and even continents, the strategic centre
facilitate their criminal business. However, there
of gravity of EU-based groups is still located in
are important exceptions to this rule.
their origin in the EU.

2.4. Functionality as a 
immediate criminal proceeds and to get
defining factor of
involved in profitable legal business struc-
Organised Crime
tures, especially if the risk of involvement is
dispersed and some parts of the overall inter-
On the whole the majority of the groups
ests of the criminal organisation are main-
reported by the Member States are located
tained outside the EU in the origin. Additional
between pure EU-based and non-EU-based
information is in any case required in order to
groups. This development can be explained by
confirm these factors.
various factors: it is possible that many supply-
ing groups, or non-EU-based groups, want to
These factors may also explain why certain non-
better safeguard their business interests in the
indigenous and originally non-EU-based
EU and maybe also get more involved in the
groups of one and the same dominant ethnici-
final phases of the supply chain, namely distri-
ty can be located in different developmental
bution and money laundering. They may even
phases. Based on this it can be suggested that
wish to expand their business into other crim-
the functionalities and strategic interests of a
inal markets located in the EU. Originally non-
group and the relevant criminal markets in
indigenous OC may also regard the borderless
many cases override ethnicity as a defining fac-
EU as a good location to invest some of the
tor of OC.

2.5. Trends and developments
their overall strategic interests, often reside
both in the countries of activity and origin.
According to the data contributed to the 2008
OCTA certain trends and developments in rela-

The second generation development is an
tion to OC groups can be emphasised:
important aspect to be taken into consider-
ation by law enforcement. Some OC groups

The OC environment in the EU is evolving
are already showcasing a significant use of
and dynamic. Some non-EU-based groups
legal business structures both to facilitate
seem to be displaying characteristics of
criminal activities but also to launder crimi-
intermediary situations while others remain
nal proceeds and to get established in legal
relatively purely non-EU-based.
business. They are also prepared to use
influence and corruption in the EU both in

Some groups in intermediary situations are
the public and private contexts. This indi-
increasingly featuring members from a
cates an increasing awareness of the func-
mixed background so that several ethnici-
tions of the EU societies of these groups but
ties and nationalities, including that of the
also reflects their specific zeal and readiness
countries of activity, are represented. Their
to control any aspect possibly affecting the
leaders, probably wanting to safeguard
criminal business.


The first two editions of the OCTA addressed
3.1. Drugs trafficking
criminal markets through the study of a num-
ber of facilitating factors which in various ways
Large scale importation of cocaine into the EU
have a horizontal effect on different types of
is dominated by Colombian OC groups. They
crimes, namely:
profit from the historic and linguistic links with
Spain but also Portugal, as well as from the
1. Document forgery and identity fraud;
long coastline of the Iberian Peninsula and
2. Technology as a facilitating factor;
well established Colombian communities
3. The misuse of the transport sector;
there. Colombians and Spanish nationals are
4. The exploitation of the financial sector;
used to co-operate within this drug market
5. Globalisation and borders.
and recently also cooperation with Nigerian
groups is frequently reported.
In the 2008 OCTA, the detailed assessment of
the facilitating factors themselves is built
Instead of direct transport towards the EU, OC
upon by a thorough analysis of crimes through
groups may prefer to go via the Caribbean or
the same analytical perspective.
recently via West Africa. West Africa is increas-
ingly gaining in importance as a trans-ship-
The crime types addressed are:
ment zone. Recently, Colombian OC groups
have developed relationships with their

Drugs trafficking;
Moroccan counterparts in order to make use

Crimes against persons with a focus on the
of the traditional cannabis smuggling routes,
exploitation of illegal immigration and traf-
thereby enabling the onward transport of
ficking in human beings (THB);
cocaine to the EU.


Counterfeiting, including euro counter-
Most  heroin is originating from Afghanistan.
Heroin trafficking towards and within the EU
continues to be dominated by Turkish OC
Money laundering will be addressed in the
groups. Turkey has ties with Afghanistan and
ensuing assessment of the horizontal dimen-
with countries such as The Netherlands,
sion of the criminal markets.
Belgium, France, Germany and the UK. The

majority of heroin is still transported via differ-
corridors) can further facilitate the production
ent branches of the Balkan routes, but a con-
and trafficking of synthetic drugs and possibly
siderable amount is trafficked via the Northern
also the trafficking of precursors, from princi-
Black Sea route which is gaining in impor-
pal source countries such as China and Russia,
towards Western Europe.
Dutch and to a lesser extent Belgian OC
All these developments might indicate that
groups still dominate the major production of
regions of the world will become self-suffi-
synthetic drugs in the EU, profiting from their
cient in synthetic drug production and distri-
knowledge and experience and with traffick-
bution. With this in mind, the global domi-
ing facilitated by major ports such as Antwerp
nance of Dutch and Belgian OC groups in rela-
and Rotterdam which also act as important
tion to MDMA may diminish over time.
trans-shipment points, for instance for cocaine
trafficking. However, large scale MDMA (ecsta-
The cannabis market is the largest illicit drug
sy) production continues to spread, in particu-
market so far. Cannabis originating from Mo-
lar in Indonesia, Canada and Australia. In some
rocco enters the European continent via Spain
cases the use or support of criminal expertise
and is often transported to The Netherlands
from the EU has been observed.
for further distribution. Spanish and Moroccan
nationalities are predominant within this acti-
Within the EU, an increase of large scale pro-
vity and cooperation with other nationalities
duction sites outside the Dutch-Belgian region
allow successful results. The Netherlands is an
can also be noticed.
important producer of cannabis herb when fo-
cussing on the European market. Indoor culti-
It is expected that the accession of Bulgaria
vation of cannabis is also increasing in the
and Romania will influence the EU market in
Czech Republic by making use of technologi-
synthetic drugs. Bulgarian OC groups are pro-
cal skills and equipment originating in The
ducing amphetamine tablets currently traf-
Netherlands. The actual growing of cannabis is
ficked to the Middle East. In this context, there
sometimes outsourced either to other people
are indications that laboratories are moving
who have financial problems and set up a nur-
towards destination countries in the Middle
sery in their own home or to labourers from
East. The large transport possibilities (Black
Eastern Europe who are forced to employ their
Sea harbours and important Pan-European
skills to grow Nederweed.

3.2. Crimes against persons
Another important variable is the impact of the
recent EU accession of Romania and Bulgaria.
Facilitation of illegal immigration and trafficking
in human beings (THB) are two distinct crime
Certain OC groups, such as the Romanian,
fields requiring specific responses and responsi-
Polish, Lithuanian ones, will continue to profit
bilities. Nevertheless, there are some overlapping
from their being EU-based and being able to
areas concerning facilitating factors and condi-
recruit human beings not only from the
tions feeding into these crimes and influencing
Member State where they are centred but also
their developments. Moreover, it cannot be ruled
from outside the EU. Other OC groups, such as
out that, in real cases, incomplete information
indigenous and ethnic Albanian ones, will con-
might lead to the classification of victims of THB
tinue to try to keep their market position also
as facilitated illegal immigrants, or the other way
by exploiting human beings trafficked by the
round.The possibility that illegal immigrants find
aforementioned OC groups.
themselves exploited at a later stage by OC
groups not involved in their smuggling must be
The other crucial set of variables includes the
taken into account as well.This last consideration
dynamics linked to the African continent.
opens up for a wider reflection on how OC can
profit from illegal immigrants.
Every year, tens of thousands of Africans
attempt to enter the EU illegally. Africa is also
ID fraud and borders will continue to be
being used by larger and more structured OC
important factors in THB and facilitation of ille-
groups involved in smuggling immigrants
gal immigration. Land and sea borders can be
from other continents, particularly East, South
crossed clandestinely without resorting to ID
and Southwest Asia.
fraud. When overstaying the validity period of
a legal visa or residence permit, ID fraud is not
The role of Africa in THB for sexual exploitation
needed either. Otherwise, stolen or forged
into the EU seems to be mainly played by
travel documents are necessary and this is the
Nigerian OC groups. Nigerian criminals usually
main method used when entering the EU by
take care of all phases of the trafficking and
plane illegally. Documents that allow entrance
exploitation process.
or residence in the EU can also be genuine but
obtained on false grounds.
Another crucial variable is illegal immigration
from China. Chinese OC networks facilitate the
There are some variables that can be regarded
illegal immigration of Chinese people into the
as crucial for the future dynamics of THB and
EU. There are factors that may generate an
facilitation of illegal immigration in the EU.
increase in the exploitation of forced labour,
and lead to an expansion to new forms of
One of these factors is the pool of potential vic-
exploitation such as for sexual purposes that
tims or illegal immigrants in Ukraine, Belarus,
are more likely to lead to contacts and visibility
Moldova and Russia. Romanian and Lithuanian
beyond the limits of the Chinese community.
OC groups will be prevalent in profiting from
this situation. In addition, other important
Concerning Southeast Asia, intelligence sug-
actors appear to be the Polish OC groups,
gests that other nationalities, such as Vietna-
which are dominating THB in and via Poland.
mese, are emerging in the criminal fields of

facilitation of illegal immigration and THB.
as service providers by facilitators from out-
This points to the possible growth of a new
side the regions. The most serious and imme-
significant front in the fight against these
diate risk is posed by the major ports of
Odessa, Istanbul, Constanta and Varna. They
are used as transport and transit hubs for
It is also important to monitor the evolving
international shipments.
situation in the Black Sea region. Criminal
groups active in this area are involved in the
The security situation in Iraq has a significant
facilitation of illegal immigration of nationals
impact on illegal immigration from that coun-
from their own regions, but they are also used
try to several Member States.

3.3. Fraud
economy almost unnoticed. This penetration
can have far-reaching implications especially
Fraud comprises various differing criminal
when it is combined with the use of corruption
phenomena ranging from VAT, investment and
to influence important political and economic
social security fraud into fraud on EU funds
decision-making locally, regionally and nation-
and public tenders. Also intellectual property
ally. The most threatening aspect of fraud is
rights (IPR) issues and cigarettes, alcohol and
that it can be used by OC to gain a strong
gasoline smuggling are regarded as fraud due
foothold in various sectors from construction
to their direct and indirect financial and tax
to transport aided by cumulative fraudulent
implications (theft or evasion of revenue).
practices and subsequent lower prices offered
Fraud features more sophisticated and compli-
by OC-related businesses.
cated schemes crossing the globe and involv-
ing various bogus and real companies, such as
Thus, fraud has a far-reaching impact on socie-
trade fraud, but also more straightforward
ty as a whole that surpasses its direct financial
scams orchestrated simply to lure gullible indi-
implications. This applies specifically to ven-
viduals into parting with their monies, such as
ture and trade fraud, where fraud on EU funds
some forms of advance-fee fraud.
(public tenders and procurement) is an exam-
ple of the former, and trade fraud is a main
Fraud can be typified and discussed according
heading for different types of crimes and
to its main objective: fraud with direct financial
fraudulent practises that exploit, in various
benefits, and fraud with further interests to in-
ways, the borders between the buyer, the sell-
fluence the society and economy (penetration
er, and the possible intermediaries. These
into society, acquiring a legal appearance,
expose certain key vulnerabilities in society
strengthening the control over territory
and the economy that can be exploited by OC
through the control of local administrations,
with grave destabilising consequences.
establishment of new criminal business, laun-
dering criminal proceeds, etc.). It can be argued
Concerning payment card fraud, OC can
that in the end all fraud purports to financially
exploit the readily available technological
benefit its perpetrator but this is not the sole
expertise and equipment (skimming devices,
purpose and raison d’eˆtre of fraud; OC can use it
hackers, phishing kits, etc.) on offer, the fact
in a more functional way to attach itself into
that payment card fraud is a global problem
various legal structures and either exploit or
but that the relevant tools against it are main-
penetrate them. In some cases the blatant
ly national, and the growing use of the Internet
money-making aspect of fraud actually mis-
providing new vulnerabilities to be exploited
leads both law enforcement and society in
for stealing and abusing data. The main threat
general into overlooking it as nothing but.
in relation to payment card fraud is that OC
supported by external experts increasingly
However, fraud supports financially many
gets involved in payment card fraud and, aided
threatening forms of OC. It is in many cases the
by its resources, develops more and more effi-
latch that OC can use to penetrate society and
cient means of stealing high volumes of data.

3.4. Counterfeiting
Documents counterfeiting is a major crime fa-
cilitator. Counterfeit documents facilitate
Counterfeiting is an illegal activity encom-
crimes such as drug trafficking, THB, facilitating
passing a wide range of criminal fields. It can
illegal immigration, stolen vehicles trafficking,
be a crime in itself, a specialisation and a facil-
commodity smuggling (including cigarettes
itating factor for other crimes.
and spirits), identity theft and many types of
fraud. The transnational nature of modern OC is
Counterfeiting can be divided in three main
reflected in the utmost care spent by OC groups
in carefully counterfeiting all documents to be
used to cross several borders in apparent legiti-

Currency counterfeiting (banknotes and
macy. Forged accompanying documents also
facilitate the infiltration of illegal products into

Documents counterfeiting (ID, freight,
the legitimate retail sector, releasing distribu-
vehicle, excise, etc.);
tion from the clandestine enclosure of black

Commodity counterfeiting (intellectual
markets, thus increasing the profits of OC
property rights infringements).
Currency counterfeiting, and in particular that
The limitless variety of official or semi-official
of the euro, is reported throughout the EU. The
documents existing throughout the world,
countries most affected during the first ten
combined with the ever-increasing movement
months of 2007 were France, Italy and Spain,
of people and goods across real and virtual
followed by Germany, Austria, The Netherlands
borders, hampers efficient controls and facili-
and Belgium. The smallest number of euro
tates illegal operations. The threat deriving
counterfeits was seized in Denmark, Latvia and
from document counterfeiting is therefore to
be considered as very serious.
Overall, currency counterfeiting is characterised
Commodity counterfeiting is a crime which
by a strict distribution of tasks between pro-
requires special attention. All Member States
ducers, middle-men and distributors, in some
are affected by it, and an emerging threat is
cases controlled or, more often than not, toler-
the infiltration of counterfeit goods into the
ated by Mafia-type Italian OC and OC groups
legitimate retail sector.
from Lithuania, Bulgaria and Poland. Criminals
from the itinerant community are among the
Thorough exploitation of the transport sector
main distributors in France and Spain. Most of
and of state-of-the-art technology, globalisa-
the involved OC groups have a multi-crime pro-
tion and borders are the main facilitating fac-
file, and exploit their international dimension
tors for commodity counterfeiting, making it a
and all available trafficking routes to provide to
crime in perfect line with the modern nature
other criminals and to the public a wide range
and structure of international OC.
of illegal products and services.
The threat posed by commodity counterfeiting
Currency counterfeiting in the EU is a present
and IPR fraud is multiple and potentially devas-
threat that, for the time being, is under control,
tating. The sectors most threatened by it are

health and safety, economy, innovation (scien-
by counterfeiters negatively affect innovation
tific and technological) and employment.
and research, slowing progress down.
A side-effect of commodity counterfeiting is its
Moreover, falling profits and shrinking markets
impact on innovation and research, the core
unavoidably lead to a necessary reduction of
product and added value of intellectual proper-
working personnel, with consequent loss of
ty. Decreasing profits due to unfair competition

3.5. The horizontal dimension
and services. This wider dimension may give
of the criminal markets
them the possibility to run the whole produc-
tion and distribution processes of entire crimi-
International OC groups are widening their
nal markets, optimising their profits and cut-
operational scope and the range of criminal
ting out local and minor OC groups, which will
activities they are involved in. In a smaller,
be forced to resort to other or limited criminal
globalised world with a growing demand of all
activities. That could lead to a harsher impact
goods, smuggling is the quintessential crimi-
on the territory by local OC groups, while major
nal activity, and is passing from a situation of
international OC groups may increase their rev-
strict specialisation, in which each OC group
enues and infiltrate more and more the com-
only trafficked one type of product, to one of
mercial, economic and social sectors, thus pos-
multi-offer and, consequently, of multi-crime.
ing a greater, more powerful threat.
One of the most used strategies is to amass
funds through a low-risk, high-profit crime
There are several factors which have lead to
such as cigarette smuggling or fraud, later
the present situation and which will continue
investing them in a highly lucrative criminal
to be important in the future. However, two
activity, for instance drug smuggling.
emerge above the others.
Modern and sophisticated OC groups seem to
The first is the exploitation of globalisation and
realize that instead of robbing citizens, it is
borders. Without borders there would be no
better to offer them what is forbidden, rare,
smuggling, and modern OC is nothing more
too expensive or craved. The control on inter-
than smuggling brought to its highest level.
national smuggling routes, the establishment
of strategic alliances with powerful OC groups
The second is less definite but more disturb-
in source and transit countries, the exploita-
ing: it is the human factor. Social tolerance is
tion of borders and of all related unsolved
one of the facilitators taken into consideration
issues, the misuse of the transport sector, the
by the OCTA. Organised criminals are particu-
control over black market and illicit labour, the
larly able in sensing these and other weak-
use of technology and virtual markets, the tol-
nesses, and to transform them into money.
erant attitude of the ‘targets’: these are all con-
verging facilitators of a criminal trend.
On the illegal market, OC groups remain
unchallenged by any credible competition,
Violent and aggressive crime can be left to
and in line with their new commercial
more primitive and less structured groups,
approach they can venture in previously unex-
while the leading syndicates can glide
plored criminal fields. A notable example is
smoothly in the parallel economy with the aim
provided by child pornography.
of satisfying their clientele, thus realizing the
ultimate goal of the top-level criminals: that of
OC groups perform other criminal activities
being considered successful entrepreneurs.
using the whole world as a stage, the most
international of them all being the ultimate
In general, the main OC groups are transna-
organised crime: money laundering. And
tional, multi-ethnic and poly-crime oriented,
money laundering, being very often perpetrat-
and they can offer an ample variety of products
ed by OC groups in combination with other

crimes – its predicate offences – is yet another
an important facilitating factor. The common
sign of the trend towards multi-crime of mod-
denominator of the most complex and effec-
ern OC. At the same time, the existence of
tive money laundering scheme is the interna-
experts providing their services to other OC
tional dimension. As in other criminal fields,
groups is evidence of the increasing commer-
also in money laundering, OC groups display
cial attitude described above. Many are the
peerless skill in managing the international
methods used by OC groups to launder money,
dimension, while national and international
and in the last years technology is becoming
authorities are constantly struggling with it.


In line with the 2007 OCTA, much focus is pro-
ecstasy. The well developed transport network
vided for the geographical dimension of OC in
in the Atlantic region acts as the main facilitat-
the EU, to complement the relationship
ing factor for drug trafficking and offers possi-
between crimes and criminals and provide a
bilities for illegal immigration and THB. World
context for their whereabouts. Four regions of
class harbours such as Rotterdam, Antwerp,
the EU will be analysed. This will be followed
Hamburg and Dover act as major maritime
by an assessment of the dynamic relationship
gateways to the EU while a well developed
between the regions captured in the idea of
infrastructure for air, waterborne, rail and road
criminal hubs.
traffic facilitates any kind of transport through
this region.
4.1. The North-West region:
The Atlantic region 
A second important facility for OC within this
region consists of the exploitation of well
The Atlantic region encompasses more or less
established ethnic communities. During recent
The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the
decades, Turks have established themselves in
UK, Ireland, the north-western part of Germany
and the north of France. Specific particularities
of the region include the major transport infra-
structures, well established ethnic communi-
ties of reference, different tax regimes, geo-
graphical proximity to various Member States
and a flourishing economy which offers possi-
bilities that can and are exploited by OC.
The North-West region, characterised by enor-
mous transport facilities, plays one of the main
roles in drug trafficking and even in drug pro-
duction. The Netherlands is Europe’s main sec-
ondary distribution centre for both cocaine
(originating from South America) and heroin
(originating from Turkey) and is together with
Belgium the world’s primary producer of

various Western countries and connections
extensive area and do not have to deal with
have been developed between Turkish OC
controls at the border. Law enforcement on the
groups in Western Europe and Turkey. How-
other hand is still to a large extent limited to
ever, the exploitation of Turkish or Kurdish
operate within its own borders. Itinerant OC
communities in Belgium, The Netherlands,
groups involved in large-scale burglaries are
Germany, the UK and France particularly facili-
highly exploiting this situation. Itinerant OC
tates Turkish OC in the Atlantic region.
groups originating from the former Yugoslavia
are active all over the world but the geographi-
The exploitation of Colombian communities in
cal proximity to various Member States and the
the UK facilitates cocaine trafficking into the
well developed transport and road infrastruc-
EU and an emerging risk in other countries of
ture makes it even easier in the Atlantic region
the Atlantic region may facilitate cocaine traf-
to cross borders in a limited amount of time.
ficking even further. The networks can exploit
These OC groups are usually non-EU-based.
these communities to disguise their drug traf-
ficking activities
The UK and Ireland are highly attractive desti-
nations for illegal immigrants and OC groups
Chinese OC groups involved in several crime
who facilitate illegal immigration. Both coun-
domains exploit the existence of a growing
tries are favourite destinations because of a
Chinese community in the Atlantic region.
flourishing economy and consequent demand
for workers, particularly in low skilled sectors,
Some Moroccan OC groups, well established
and the image of easy access to health, welfare
amongst others in Belgium and in The
and education systems. Ireland, historically a
Netherlands, as well as some groups with
country experiencing high levels of emigra-
Dutch nationals, are specialised in the impor-
tion, has only in the nineties become a desti-
tation of Moroccan hashish via Spain towards
nation for migrants. Significant numbers of
The Netherlands.
people are now attempting to enter Ireland.
Nigerian OC groups for generations present in
The geo-strategic position of the Atlantic
amongst others the UK and The Netherlands
region facilitates different forms of OC. The
and responsible for various forms of fraud are
North-West region is not only from a pure
now also discovered in Ireland.
geographical point of view an important
gateway to the EU but has also essential cul-
In both the UK and Ireland, educational estab-
tural and historical links with different regions
lishments gain in importance as facilitating
of the world. The countries of the Atlantic
factors in case of illegal immigration. This
region were important colonial powers in his-
allows the use of genuine documents instead
tory. For example, small overseas possessions
of falsified documents to apply for access to a
in the Caribbean play an important role in
school. Recently also bogus schools, estab-
transatlantic cocaine trafficking.
lished by the OC group themselves, help
obtaining the VISA applications by providing
The geographical proximity to various Member
the necessary documents.
States in the Atlantic region offers another pos-
sibility for OC. Within the continental part in
Different tax levels, attributed to the same
particular, people are free to move within this
type of products encourage criminals to

involve themselves in the lucrative business of
States. The UK is highly affected by carousel
tax fraud, and high levels of taxation in Ireland
fraud, a particular form of MTIC fraud. The
and the UK provides opportunities for smug-
goods involved, typically small and expensive
gling. These suspects are mainly indigenous
items which can easily be packed and trans-
groups, Irish and UK nationals. Missing Trader
ported in bulk such as mobile phones, com-
Intra Community fraud (MTIC) exploits the free
puter chips etc. can go round the carousel
movement of goods between the Member
many times before the fraud is discovered.

4.2. The North-East region:
transports across the borders and other vul-
Approximating the Baltic
nerabilities of the logistics sector.
Sea region 
The expansion of the Schengen area into the
The criminal dynamics of the Baltic countries
three Baltic States and Poland will have certain
are mostly influenced by their interposition
implications on the region especially in the
between countries supplying cigarettes and
criminal markets of facilitation of illegal immi-
synthetic drugs precursors and significant des-
gration, drug smuggling and property crime.
tination countries for cigarettes, synthetic
drugs, cocaine and hashish. The North-East
The new Schengen countries will experience a
criminal hub identified by the 2007 OCTA pres-
new type of pressure on their eastern borders
ents attractive opportunities to organised
as they became the external Schengen borders.
crime from the Baltic region but also to non-
For example, increased criminal activities in the
indigenous OC groups originating from the
border areas between Latvia and Russia and
neighbouring countries such as Russia,
Latvia and Belarus are foreseen as well as the
Belarus, and Ukraine.
creation of new transit channels into the EU.
Additionally, an important feature of the
Oriented clusters are relatively characteristic to
region is the existence of borders between the
the North-East region. Due to the relatively
EU and Russia. This border separates two very
strong representation of EU-based oriented
different types of legislation and makes cross-
clusters in the region it can be suggested that
border law enforcement cooperation some-
non-EU-based groups need to either co-operate
times lengthy and cumbersome. Therefore the
with local, and in many cases oriented structures
border can also be seen to facilitate certain OC
in order to access the criminal markets, or devel-
groups and markets. A further facilitator for
op certain characteristics of EU-based groups by
trade fraud in this region is the large volume of
evolving through intermediary situations (that
is, the second generation development).
Certain regional OC groups are becoming
‘bridging’ groups that procure certain goods or
services to specific parts of the regional market
in cooperation with or supplied by the Lithua-
nian OC groups. Estonian OC groups co-operat-
ing with Lithuanian OC have a significant role
in smuggling certain drugs to Estonia as well as
in the production of synthetic drugs and the
further distribution of these to the Finnish mar-
ket. Their Finnish counterparts, Outlaw Motor-
cycle Gangs (OMCG) and the networks co-
operating with them, are responsible for the
wholesale and distribution in Finland. Additio-
nally, Lithuanian OC groups have contacts with
Russian OC groups supplying BMK facilitated

by the use of bogus companies. Polish OC
for various commodities ranging from smug-
groups participate in the smuggling of the pre-
gled and counterfeit cigarettes to synthetic
cursor while Latvian OC groups secure the
drugs. Lithuanian OC groups are acting as
cross-border shipments.
important traffickers in many criminal mar-
kets in various geographical locations, often
Immigration processes from Lithuania and
also beyond the borders of the North-East
Poland to Western Europe will strengthen the
region. In some cases Lithuanian OC groups
creation of ethnic communities, (the fringes
co-operate and supply goods to some Polish,
of ) which can be exploited for support, work
Latvian and Estonian OC groups and OMCG
force, camouflage, and proceeds (extortion,
and related groups. These groups can then act
kidnap, etc.) by Lithuanian and Polish OC
as ‘bridging groups’, procuring goods from the
groups. This could further strengthen the role
global markets for specific sections of the
of these OC groups in the destination markets
regional market. The Lithuanian OC groups as
of Western European countries.
independent criminal actors, but also as main
links to EU and global criminal markets for
The North-East region of the EU is both a tran-
other regional groups, constitute a major
sit area and an important destination market

4.3. The South-East region
Europe and Asia. Drugs and THB are the most
lucrative illicit trades going towards the EU,
A number of factors substantially differentiate
while in the opposite direction the most traf-
the South-East region from the other three. In
ficked goods are drugs and stolen vehicles. The
fact, several southeast European countries are
Balkan route links the OC situation in southeast
not members of the EU. Furthermore, with the
Europe with that of the three other European
notable exception of Greece, all Member
regions. In fact, all transnational OC groups in
States in the region have joined the EU only
need to utilize the Balkan route have to find an
recently or very recently. Finally, modern histo-
agreement with Balkan OC groups, which gain
ry in the area has evolved with different and
a double benefit from their position of advan-
unparalleled dynamics compared to Western
tage: a share in the profits, and the possibility
Europe and, in many instances, also North-
to establish high-level criminal alliances
Eastern Europe. These factors, combined with
through which they can attain new markets
the geographical location, substantially affect
and get involved into new types of crime. The
the OC situation.
central role of the Balkan route is amplified by
the fact that all southeast European Member
The long wave of the liberalisation process
States share frontiers with non-EU countries,
that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain,
thus placing borders among the main facilitat-
together with the social, political and econom-
ing factors of crime in the region.
ic consequences of the Western Balkan con-
flicts, still influence the OC scenario in south-
Another important facilitating factor is the
east Europe.
black market. In fact, during the last several
decades the black market was the only way
The strategic control of the Balkan route is a
for most of the citizens in southeast Europe to
significant strength, maximised by the increas-
get hold of many, often necessary, commodi-
ing flows of illicit trafficking between Western
ties. OC groups exploit this situation and pro-
vide a growing assortment of products and
Ethnic Albanian OC groups are active all over
including southeast European
Member States, mainly dealing with drug traf-
ficking or THB. Their specialisation in the last
stage of THB, namely in the exploitation of the
prostitution of women often trafficked by
other OC groups, is widely reported. Ethnic
Albanian OC groups tend to smoothly gain
access to new criminal environments, offering
themselves as service providers for powerful
and well established domestic groups, often
being sub-contracted some criminal activities
once they prove their skill and efficiency.
However, ethnic Albanian OC groups avoid

establishing tight links with domestic OC
many other criminal fields. In fact, heroin traf-
groups, preferring to remain logistically and
ficking has made Turkish OC strictly linked
operationally independent.
with the main international OC groups and
perfectly aware of all existing smuggling
Romanian OC groups are usually not very big
routes and methods, to be used for all kinds of
in size, but they are recently displaying a ten-
illegal trafficking, including facilitating illegal
dency toward expansion in dimension and
scope. They are involved, in several Member
States, in drug trafficking, THB and in credit
OC groups from Croatia, Greece, Hungary and
and debit card fraud. Access to the EU has facil-
Slovenia normally have a local or national
itated intra-EU movements also for Romanian
dimension, while information is not sufficient
OC groups, increasing their impact in many
to evaluate the threat posed by OC groups
Member States. In Italy, their criminal escala-
from Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and FYROM.
tion is similar to that of ethnic Albanian OC
In the Western Balkans, however, the situation
groups, with a rapid and ruthless acquisition of
is influenced by several unique factors, in par-
a growing portfolio of criminal market shares.
ticular the still heavy presence of the interna-
The possible exploitation of the Constanta
tional community and the delicate question of
port at the Black Sea, which is a major interna-
the province of Kosovo.
tional hub with intense commercial flows very
difficult to control, represents another threat
The criminal threat on southeast Europe is not
posed by Romanian OC groups.
limited to domestic OC groups. The Balkan
route and the privatisation process, combined
Bulgarian OC groups are particularly proficient
with the recent accession of many southeast
– besides drug trafficking – in currency coun-
European countries into the EU, have raised
terfeiting, credit and debit card frauds and THB.
the attention of several EU and non-EU OC
In assessing the international dimension of
groups. Southeast Europe is seen by these OC
Bulgarian OC groups it is necessary to consider
groups as a land of opportunities, and the links
that many OC groups labelled as Bulgarian are
established between OC groups along the
actually composed by ethnic Turks or Roma
Balkan route have a direct influence on all
people. A possible explanation for the minor
regions of Europe.
involvement of ethnic Bulgarians in interna-
tional OC is that, due to social and economic
After the first period of general settlement,
factors, domestic crime is more profitable and
Bulgaria and Romania will join the political and
less risky.
economic mainstream of the EU, and will possi-
bly switch from source countries to destination
Turkish OC groups are routinely associated
countries for illegal immigrants. That will pose
with the heroin trade, but they are involved in
new challenges and new criminal threats.

4.4. The South-West region:
against property. In addition, Latin American
The Iberian Peninsula
street gangs are causing great social alarm.
and beyond
With regard to cocaine trafficking, indigenous
Criminal activities shaping the South-West
criminals from the South-West region main-
region, which includes mainly Spain, Portugal
tain a central role in this flow also because
and part of France, are strictly linked with his-
South American OC groups engaged in
torical, cultural and geographic connections
cocaine production are usually not interested
with Latin America and North-West Africa.
in taking care of the delivery and sale in the
EU. This brings a high degree of flexibility to
The large majority of OC groups in Portugal
this criminal market.
are mainly composed of persons from the
Community of Portuguese Language Coun-
The Iberian Peninsula is still a crucial crossroad
tries (CPLP). When OC groups are active at the
for cocaine produced in Colombia and transit-
international level, in most cases, members are
ing from other Latin American countries, such
from Africa and South America. One of the
as Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, and also
characteristics of the Spanish crime environ-
from the Caribbean region. Cocaine gets to the
ment is the important role played by criminals
Iberian Peninsula in significant amounts by sea
from Maghreb, not only for their dominance in
through containers or clandestine unloading
hashish trafficking but also for their activities
on the vast Portuguese and Spanish coasts. Also
in synthetic drugs and crimes against proper-
Iberian airports and mail deliveries are misused.
ty. Another peculiarity is the activities of South
West Africa is increasingly used as transit point
American criminals that, besides their involve-
for South American cocaine aimed at Europe.
ment in cocaine trafficking, are noticeably
engaged in heroin trafficking, express kidnap-
As it is argued later on, this growing role of
pings, home burglaries and other crimes
Africa in cocaine trafficking can create a con-
text in which the Iberian Peninsula or OC
groups active there are increasingly bypassed
by flows supplying the EU.
Concerning the development of cannabis traf-
ficking in the EU, two main factors are the
proximity with Morocco and the Moroccan
criminal presence in Spain. Opportunities for
clandestine unloading using vessels or private
aircrafts are very difficult to be fought by the
Iberian law enforcement agencies. Further-
more, traffic between Morocco and Spain is so
intense that it offers wide possibilities also for
smuggling through official entry points. After
unloading in Portugal or Spain, hashish is usu-
ally stored before further transportation to
other EU countries.

In case law enforcement pressure should
Extortion against illegal immigrants by Mo-
make a route more difficult, easy alternatives
roccan OC groups seems to be a peculiar fea-
are at hand in the Mediterranean or Atlantic
ture that can easily blur the border between
areas, also in relation to increasing capabili-
facilitation of illegal immigration and THB.
ties of vessels or aircrafts. It is also possible
that Spain will be bypassed. New source or
An increase in migratory flows from Africa is
transit countries might increase their role in
foreseeable in the near future, taking into con-
cannabis trafficking.
sideration a high number of would-be illegal
immigrants on the African continent.
Moroccan OC groups will continue to consoli-
date their position in the cannabis markets
West Africa is currently one of the main desti-
with the aim of taking care of all phases of this
nations for stolen vehicles. Stolen vehicles tran-
criminal activity from source to destination.
siting through South-West Europe, from har-
These OC groups could extent their area of
bours located on the western bank of the
interest in the cocaine market, due to the exist-
Mediterranean Sea, are mainly bound to the
ing transit of this drug from West Africa and, in
Maghreb countries, at least as a first step. The
particular, the exploitation of the cannabis cir-
geographical proximity and intense traffic play
cuit also for cocaine redistribution to the EU.
again a crucial role. Other parts of Western
Africa are directly reached by flows from
Concerning the movement of people, Spain
important harbours in Northern Europe and
will continue to receive a significant number
this route is apparently more structured.
of irregular immigrants coming by air from
Latin America, especially from Ecuador and
Spanish ports on the Mediterranean coast
Colombia. Portugal is a priority destination or
receive intense commercial flows from Asia.
transit point for migratory flows coming from
Cigarettes, which are quite often counterfeit
the CPLP, among which special emphasis goes
and meant for the British market, are smuggled
to the stream coming from Brazil.
via containers from Asia to the busy Medi-
terranean ports. Portugal is reporting an
Points for illegal boarding towards the Iberian
increase in transit of smuggled tobacco using
Peninsula, such as Morocco, Western Sahara,
then logistics in Spain for further distribution to
Mauritania and Algeria, collect migratory flows
other EU countries.
coming by land from all West Africa and
beyond. Africa is used also by immigrants from
Counterfeit products are imported from Asia
Asia. The international human smuggling net-
to Europe also through the South-West
works also use Moroccan OC to smuggle immi-
grants from the Middle East and Asia into the
EU in the final phase of the process.
The geographical position of Portugal and
close relations between this country and its
South American and West African nationalities
former colonies makes it attractive also for VAT
are reported in Spain among victims and crim-
fraud because this gives credibility to the
inals related to THB.
fraudulent transactions.

4.5. Nodes of attraction:
heroin, hashish, synthetic drugs and counter-
Criminal hubs
feit goods criminal fields.
As introduced by the 2007 OCTA, a ‘criminal
Because of the strict inspection policy adopt-
hub’ is a conceptual entity that is generated by
ed by the Dutch authorities, cocaine is increas-
a combination of factors such as proximity to
ingly flown to other EU airports. Nevertheless,
major destination markets, geographic loca-
from there land routes are often used to com-
tion, infrastructure, types of OC groups and
plete transport to The Netherlands.
migration processes concerning key criminals
or OC groups in general. A criminal hub
With specific reference to the United Kingdom
receives flows from a number of sources and
and Ireland, British and Irish criminals based in
spreads their effects in the EU thereby forging
the North-West hub act as facilitators for drugs
criminal markets and creating opportunities
deliveries to these countries. This is probably
for the growth of OC groups that are able to
one of the factors leading to multi-commodity
profit from these dynamics.
shipments. Established Irish OC groups are
starting to bypass the criminal hubs and
The North-West, North-East, South-West, South-
becoming active in the source countries.
East and Southern criminal hubs are discussed
As a result of the above mentioned dynamics,
the North-West hub will continue to be a
Opportunities given by large airports and har-
major drugs supplier for the Benelux coun-
bours, well developed road infrastructures and
tries, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany,
financial systems contribute to forge the North-
France, Italy and Spain. Its influence extends to
West criminal hub, which revolves around crim-
the Nordic countries, especially with reference
inals and OC groups active in the area approxi-
to cocaine and cannabis products, and further
mating The Netherlands and Belgium.
for synthetic drugs.
The presence of the North-West criminal hub
In the picture below, the concept of the North-
can be noticed with reference to the cocaine,
West criminal hub is visualised. The arrows do

not represent precise routes but rather factors
The North-East hub is also used as a transit to
shaping the criminal hub.
Russia for counterfeit goods from Asia.
Criminal groups active in the North-East
Although the role of OC groups from other
criminal hub, which is located in the Baltic
Baltic countries should not be underestimat-
countries, work as a bridge between criminals
ed, it seems to emerge a central role for
operating, in particular, in Russia, Belarus and
Lithuania and Lithuanian OC.
Ukraine and the EU criminal environment. They
look both towards the west and the rest of the
The South-West criminal hub is based on
EU, and towards the east and beyond the bor-
links of the Iberian Peninsula with South
ders of the EU.
America and northwest Africa. However, its
focus is shifting towards the latter.
Criminal groups active in the North-East hub
look east beyond the EU borders to get heroin,
West Africa is growing as an immediate source of
synthetic drugs precursors and cigarettes. As
cocaine for Europe and the direct channel from
already mentioned, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova
Latin America and the Caribbean region by air is
and Russia represent an important pool of
lively and not limited to the Iberian Peninsula.
potential victims of trafficking or illegal immi-
This might weaken the importance of Spanish
grants and OC in the Baltic region is prevalent
and Portuguese direct links with South America.
in facilitating their illegal entry or trafficking
into and within the EU.
Within this framework, historical and cultural
links (including language) between France,
Besides towards the Nordic countries and
West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean
other Member States, OC groups active in the
region may facilitate direct provision by
North-East hub look eastward for another
French criminals. In addition, the influence and
important destination market. They tend to
potential for further development of the role
play an intermediary role with reference to ille-
of African networks in supplying directly diffe-
gal flows originating in the west, such as ecsta-
rent Member States’ markets from Africa must
sy, cocaine and cannabis products.
not be underestimated.

The Iberian Peninsula is likely to keep its level
In the end, West Africa will develop into an im-
of importance within the South West hub with
portant criminal hub for the EU, increasingly
reference to cannabis trafficking. As already
attracting flows also from the east and not
mentioned Moroccan OC groups will continue
only from the Atlantic side. On the other
to consolidate their position in the cannabis
hand, the intention to diversify points of
markets and could extent their area of interest
departure from Africa might lead to an east-
in the cocaine field.
ward movement of cocaine within the African
Another indicator suggesting West Africa as
the real focus of the South-West criminal hub
The recent eastward expansion of the EU bor-
comes from the analysis of the migratory pres-
ders to the Black Sea could alter the current
sure on Spain and Portugal. Points for illegal
equilibrium and could potentially establish a
boarding towards the Iberian Peninsula collect
new, South-East criminal hub in this area.
migratory flows coming by land from all West
National borders lacking sufficient protection
Africa and beyond. Africa is also used by immi-
in the South-East region, as well as inexpen-
grants from Asia.
sive waterways which connect the Black Sea

with the Mediterranean through the Bosporus,
in towards the EU is reported, pointing to an
and with the heart of Western Europe via the
eastward movement of the Balkan route. In
Danube, naturally make it very attractive for
this context, Romania and Ukraine are expect-
illegal shipments.
ed to gain further importance as transit and
storage countries.
Following this, Romanian criminals might be
benefiting mainly from their favourable geo-
Bulgarian OC groups appear to be the most
graphic position, contributing to turn Romania
Middle East oriented. This could be due, at
into a point for illegal flows from Eastern
least in part, to the geographic position and
Europe and Asia.
the significant links with Turkey.
Moreover, concerning the evolving situation in
In the end, the presence of the South-East
the Black Sea region regarding facilitation of
criminal hub is confirmed. The threat from this
illegal immigration and THB, one of the main
hub will grow in the near future.
issues is that this region is an entry gate for
significant flows of illegal immigrants from
The Southern criminal hub is centred on the
southwest Asia and the Middle East.
role played by the main Italian OC groups.
These highly organised criminal groups tend to
With regard to Romania, Constanta harbour
take advantage of their pervasive presence to
represents a vulnerability. It is a major European
try to control certain social and economic
harbour and it will most likely be exploited by
dynamics in some geographic areas. Op-
OC groups for shipping goods meant for
portunities are provided by ready criminal mar-
Romania and other Member States.
kets in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa.
Although the majority of heroin trafficked by
Certain OC groups based in Italy have the capa-
Turkish OC groups is still transported via the
bility of sourcing cocaine and heroin directly
different branches of the Balkan route, a con-
from the areas of production or transit.
siderable and increasing amount is channelled
via the Black Sea route. A significant use of the
Criminal groups based in Italy have important
territories of Ukraine and Russia to direct hero-
links in other Member States in both the

western part of the EU – including Spain and
is mainly characterised by its centrality and
The Netherlands, which are geographically at
good connections with the richest part of the
the core of other criminal hubs – and its east-
EU. The North-East hub is heavily dependent
ern part. Switzerland, The United States,
on criminal interchanges with Russia and
Canada and Australia are also reached by the
Ukraine and the capability of OC groups active
above mentioned links. These links together
in the hub to attract and manage such flows.
with the already mentioned contacts in illicit
The Southern criminal hub is mainly based on
goods producing countries and transit coun-
the structural and functional features of the OC
tries provide for the potential to play a role on
groups active there.
the world scene.
The United Kingdom and Ireland are mainly
Italy features among the production countries
destination markets similar to the Nordic coun-
for counterfeit goods. In addition, many counter-
tries. The Nordic countries and France are also,
feit products, including cigarettes, are detected
to some extent, transit areas. The ‘transit’ fea-
within the intense flow of containers from China
ture is more central with reference to Germany,
to Italian ports. In the context of counterfeiting, it
Austria and Poland. Regions revolving around
must also be stressed that significant amounts of
these countries are not part of the listed crimi-
the counterfeit banknotes circulating in France,
nal hubs but are complementary to them,
Spain and Belgium are produced in Italy.
mainly representing destination markets and
criminal highways linking the different parts of
Italy is also a transit point for smuggled tobac-
the EU.
co meant for other Member States.
It could be argued that Poland and OC groups
The above mentioned intelligence seems to
active there should be seen as a more integral
suggest that the main OC groups based in
part of the North-East hub. There they might
Italy are not passively dependent on other EU
be or become an alternative focus of the hub
criminal hubs for the provision of drugs and
itself, undermining the central role of
other criminal opportunities, but that they
Lithuania and Lithuanian OC groups. This argu-
have a more active role in relation to the rest
ment only confirms the explanatory power of
of the EU and beyond.
the criminal hubs model itself, being able of
streamlining the discussion on the basis of a
4.5.1. The interaction between
common understanding of these complex
the criminal hubs
In the attempt to better understand the cur-
On the basis of such a scheme, The North-East
rent and future interaction of the European
and South-East criminal hubs could be seen as
criminal hubs, the following simplified scheme
competitors and the growth of the latter may
can be used.
impact negatively on the first. The develop-
ment of the South-East criminal hub could also
The South-West and the emerging South-East
affect the role of the Iberian Peninsula within
criminal hubs are mainly based on their geo-
the South-West hub, also taking into consider-
graphical position and links with crucial source
ation that the focus of the latter seems to be
countries outside the EU. The North–West hub
moving towards West Africa.

These dynamics are not going to weaken the
the Southern hub, because it is primarily based
North-West hub, because the dominance of its
on the characteristics of the main OC groups
infrastructure and its central position within
that are active there together with their capa-
the richest part of the EU are factors that are
bility of operating worldwide and of creating
not going to change in the near future. A simi-
advantageous synergies with other EU and
lar assessment refers to the development of
non-EU OC groups.




European Police Office
OCTA 2008 – EU Organised Crime Threat Assessment 
2008 – 52 pp. – 297 x 210 mm
ISBN 978-92-95018-72-3
ISSN 1830-9704

ISBN 978-92-95018-72-3
ISSN 1830-9704