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New trends in organised crime: Europol reports on Europe and the Balkans

09. May 2011. | 15:42

Source: Pioneer-Investors.com

This year's report includes findings from three perspectives: criminal commodities, criminal groups, and their geographical areas of operation. It confirms the prevalence of five criminal hubs in the EU, highlighting the particular impact of the South-East hub and the Western Balkans region.

The report's key finding is that organised crime is changing, having become more diverse in its activities and impact on society over the last two years.

Notable features of this development, according to the report, include greater levels of collaboration between criminal groups, greater mobility in and around the EU, a diversification of illicit activity, and a growing dependence on a dynamic infrastructure, anchored in key locations and facilitated by widespread use of the Internet, in particular.

This year's report includes findings from three perspectives: criminal commodities, criminal groups, and their geographical areas of operation. It confirms the prevalence of five criminal hubs in the EU, highlighting the particular impact of the South-East hub and the Western Balkans region.

In the drugs trade, cocaine poses an increasing threat across the EU, with new supply routes emerging, while in other criminal sectors also, especially in regard to fraud, illegal immigration, and the rapidly growing emergence of the Internet as a key facilitator for criminal activity, the changing face of organised crime carries a big impact on society.

"Organised crime is a multi–billion euro business in Europe and it's growing in scale. The further expansion of Internet and mobile technologies, the proliferation of illicit trafficking routes and methods, as well as opportunities offered by the global economic crisis, have all contributed to the development of a more potent threat from organised crime," Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol said.

The report outlined that the Balkans have seen the greatest expansion of organised crime in recent years, as a result of increased trafficking via the Black Sea, and the creation of new routes and distribution hubs.

Existing organised criminal groups, and others not yet established on the Balkans but contemplating such a move, will be seeking to expand their interests in the EU. They will exploit opportunities that will inevitably come with Bulgaria's and Romania's accession to the Schengen Zone, Europol said.

Authorities will have a harder job still thanks to potential EU visa exemptions for western Balkan states, and Ukraine and Moldova to the east.

Special attention is being paid to the constant increase in illegal immigration entering Greece through Turkey, and then onwards to Italy. This is said to be contributing to the problem significantly. The Europol report refers to the formation of the so-called Balkan axis for trafficking to the EU, consisting of the Western Balkans and South East Europe.

Greek authorities, for example, believe that with the entry of Bulgaria into the Schengen Zone, there will be an increase of pressure on the Greek-Turkish border as more immigrants flock to the area.

The EU support mission operating on Greece's border with Turkey has helped cut the number of illegal immigrants arriving in the country, but officials are nervous that with Bulgaria's entry into the visa-free Schengen zone, refugees will now focus on Europe's south-eastern corner, Euobserver.com reported on May 3 2011.

About 47 000 illegal immigrants from Turkey were held in Greece in 2010, or 90 per cent of all illegals detained in Europe.

Illegal immigrants attempting to enter Greece, target the 200km border in the north where the Marista river leaving Bulgaria forms the frontier between Greece and Turkey. With Bulgaria also becoming part of Schengen, refugees will now have more than double the area which could be targeted for infiltration.

But the most vulnerable of all points along the Greek frontier is the 12km stretch which has a direct land-link with Turkey, near Orestiada.

Drugs and human trafficking shipped through the Balkans would end up in Italy or Hungary, which has become a major distribution hub for central Europe, Europol says. Modern criminal groups tend to be "trans ethnic" and "trans national", many of them made up of Albanian speaking, Turkish and former Soviet Union groups.

What is also evolving is not only the make up of the criminal groups themselves but also the way they operate and the fields in which they specialise. These are described as "new fields with low risk perception".

Criminal groups are becoming increasingly diverse, with wide "business interests". During a period of "economic austerity" this helps them to become stronger and enables them to exploit new markets. Such activities include those normally considered highly unorthodox - carbon credit fraud, along with the more traditional payment card fraud and commodity counterfeiting.

For the entire report see http://migrantsatsea.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/octa_2011-11.pdf


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15. August - 21. August 2011.