At least 110 billion euros a year and growing – organised crime costs Europe the equivalent of the first Greek bailout every year. With evidence of increasing criminal infiltration into the legal economy, what is being done to tackle the gangs and their proceeds?
Heroin, cocaine and cannabis make drugs the number one activity for organised crime in Europe, followed by human trafficking. VAT fraud, weapons and tobacco smuggling provide other major revenue streams. To clean dirty money, criminal gangs turn to the legal economy. More recently the renewable energy and waste management sectors have been targeted.
Europe’s open borders have also enabled criminals to move cash and invest in other parts of the EU easily. Discrepancies in criminal laws between European countries and the increasingly fragmented nature of criminal groups only highlight the difficulties faced by police in the battle against organised crime.
On the Frontline speaks to Europol’s Brian Donald and the Director of Transcrime Professor Ernesto Savona.
Savona contends Italy may once have been Europe’s gateway to organised crime, but in today’s global market there is a Russian gateway, a Chinese gateway, in fact many. Money made from crime in Europe is funnelled back into legitimate investments.
He claims Europe could do much better than it is doing today in confiscating these assets. Member states’ laws often differ widely, local implementation of these laws is patchy, and police forces need to accept proceeds-hunting is as important as locking people up.
Savona also argues the banking system in Europe has been working probably better than the law enforcement system in terms of cooperation, notably by putting offshore countries on a blacklist, but that Europe’s big problem remains the asymmetries between member states’ tax systems which are exploited by money launderers. However, he fears this is probably more difficult to harmonise than countries’ criminal laws which will also be extremely complicated.
Brian Donald insists law enforcement is utterly reliant upon cooperation so anything it fails to achieve is largely because agencies do no cooperate enough, but that does not mean they do not already cooperate a lot.
However, he points out obligation is a word that is lacking in EU law enforcement cooperation, member states do not like it and do not like to be obliged to do anything with anybody, least of all, Europol.
To see the full debate click on the video player.