A Europol-backed operation targeting criminals across the Western Balkans has resulted in the arrest of people smugglers, drug traffickers, gun dealers and document fraudsters.
A number of Joint Action Days (JADs) coordinated by Europol, Frontex and Interpol involving 8,300 officers from 28 countries saw 180 people arrested, and the seizure of 159 firearms, explosives and 286kgs of drugs.
Throughout the operation, which took place between 5 and 9 September, investigators checked more than 482,000 people, vehicles, premises and parcels against existing crime databases.
Every country across the Western Balkan took part in the operation, namely Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
Twenty EU Member States were also involved in the effort, which was supported in addition by Switzerland and the US.
As a result of the operation, police have started 21 fresh investigations into a number of crimes, with more probes expected to be launched soon.
The total number of arrests made will most likely rise as a consequence.
In a statement, Europol said: “From 5 to 9 September 2018, a coordination centre was set up at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague.
“It was attended by 44 officers from the majority of the participating countries, Frontex, Interpol.
“Fifty-six representatives from Frontex accompanied officers on the ground. The preparatory phase began in early 2018 with several operational meetings and intelligence-gathering activities.
“During this phase, several hundred pieces of information (persons, phone numbers, documents, etc.) were exchanged between all partners, 32 suspects were arrested, 102 firearms seized and 60 houses searched.”
News of the operation was made public after a meeting in Belgrade during which Serbian officials and representatives from Interpol discussed how they could work together to reduce crime.
Interpol President Meng Hongwei met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Minister of the Interior Nebojša Stefanović during a three-day trip to Belgrade last week.
After discussing a range of security issues, President Meng said: “Serbia has been actively supporting Interpol’s initiatives and is playing a key role regarding security in the region.
“We will continue to maintain a high degree of cooperation to deal with all forms of transnational crimes, including emerging crimes.”
Speaking after a meeting with President Meng, Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said his country’s police force had arrested 149 people on Interpol warrants so far this year.
Stefanovic added that Serbia intends to introduce more efficient procedures to improve its crime-fighting cooperation with other countries.
Europol and Eurojust help EU law enforcement agencies dismantle two organised immigration crime networks
Police from Italy and Greece have smashed an organised immigration crime network that used leisure boats and pleasure craft to smuggle migrants across the Adriatic Sea.
In the culmination of an operation that was backed by EU law enforcement agencies Europol and Eurojust, investigators from both countries participated in a day of action that involved raids on 13 properties and the arrest of eight suspects of Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern nationality.
The organised immigration crime gang behind the smuggling conspiracy, which is said to have been active since 2018, was allegedly responsible for trafficking some 150 migrants from the west of Greece via the Strait of Corfu to the southern Italian coast between Otranto and Lecce.
Members of the gang were charging migrants as much as €6,000 ($6,666) per person for the 12-hour journey across the sea, which would sometimes be completed in leisure boats as small as ten metres long.
The gang reportedly smuggled migrants as young as 13.
In a statement, Vice-President of Eurojust Filippo Spiezia said: “Tackling migrant smuggling is one of the priorities for Eurojust to enable a good coordination of actions, as we have been able to do in this case.
“At a time when Greece faces a strong migratory pressure, we have to combine efforts and as EU agencies support the effort of national authorities to combat criminal organisations that exploit migrants.”
In a separate operation, Europol and Eurojust helped French and Italian authorities break up another organised immigration crime gang that trafficked migrants from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan from Italy to other EU member states.
Ten Pakistani nationals were arrested in Italy and one in France as part of a day of action carried by investigators from both countries.
This network, which is thought to have been operational for two years, used dilapidated vans to smuggle migrants from Italy to countries across western Europe.
The money will be used to help Morocco deal with organised immigration crime and irregular migration and improve the living conditions in Libyan communities and protect refugees and vulnerable migrants stranded in Libya through voluntary returns.
The European Commission said the cash would also be used to offer opportunities for labour migration and mobility in North Africa.
EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said in a statement: “With this new package we are deepening our partnership with Morocco to further reduce irregular arrivals on the Western Mediterranean route and prevent people risking their lives.”
Major US hotel chains sued for failing to prevent sex trafficking in their rooms for decades
US lawyers are suing 12 major hotel chains on behalf of women who claim the firms have profited from allowing sex trafficking and prostitution to take place in their properties.
In total, 13 women have accused hotel brands including Best Western and Hilton of failing to prevent sex trafficking from taking place in their rooms, alleging that the companies have made money from trafficked women and children being sexually exploited.
New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg has filed litigation in a federal court in Columbus, Ohio, that brings together 13 separate lawsuits relating to hotels in a number of US cities, marking the first time the hospitality industry has faced such action.
Accusing the hotel firms of benefitting financially from the trafficking of women and children and “providing a marketplace for sex trafficking”, the suit alleges the companies have allowed sex trafficking to take place across their businesses for decades, and says it is time that they were held accountable for allowing the illicit trade to continue unchecked.
KOIN 6 News reports that one woman who claims she was forced by a pimp to sleep with as many as seven men every night is talking legal action against six hotel firms for the role they played in her abuse.
She is seeking $10 million in damages.
“Rather than taking timely and effective measures to thwart this epidemic, defendant hotels have instead chosen to ignore the open and obvious presence of sex trafficking on their properties, enjoying the profit from rooms rented for this explicit and apparent purpose,” the suit reads.
In a statement, Hilton Worldwide Holdings said: “Hilton condemns all forms of human trafficking, including for sexual exploitation. As signatories of the ECPAT [formerly End Child Prostitution and Trafficking] Code since 2011, we are fully committed, in each and every one of our markets, to protecting individuals from all forms of abuse and exploitation.”
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts said: “We condemn human trafficking in any form.”
Back in January, Marriott announced that it had provided 500,000 of its staff members with training on how to spot the signs that a guest might be a victim of human trafficking, and what they should do in the event they are faced with such a scenario.
Speaking at the time, David Rodriguez, Chief Global Human Resources Officer at Marriott International, said: “Hotels can unfortunately be unwilling venues for this unconscionable crime – and as a global hotel company that cares about human rights, we’re proud to be training hotel workers across the Marriott system to spot the signs.”
UK charities warned to look out for social engineering spear phishing emails
The UK’s Charity Commission has warned that scammers are impersonating charity workers via email and attempting to change employees’ bank details.
After receiving several reports of spear phishing campaigns targeting people who work at charitable organisations, the commission cautioned that fraudsters are using spoofed email addresses to pose as staff with authority to update employees’ banking information.
The fraudsters behind the social engineering scam typically write in their emails that they have changed their bank details or opened a new account.
Alan Bryce, head of development, counter fraud and cyber crime at the commission, said: “We know several charities have been targeted by this fraud and we want to ensure others are equipped to protect themselves.
“So, our message to charities is clear: read and understand our guidance on fraud, and check who’s sending an email whenever you receive a message about changes to staff bank details.”
In advice on how charities can protect themselves, the commission said organisations should review internal procedures regarding how employee details are amended and approved, and train staff not to click on links or open attachments in suspicious emails.
A report published by the commission to coincide with the UK’s Charity Fraud Awareness Week, which took place in October, revealed that over half of fraud carried out against charities is committed by perpetrators known to the organisation affected.
The study found that while over two-thirds of UK charities consider fraud to be a major risk, less than 9% offer fraud awareness training to their staff members.
More than half (58%) of charitable organisations surveyed for the study said they believe cyber crime poses a major threat to the sector.
In a separate report also published in October, the commission and the UK Fraud Advisory Panel revealed that one in every six major organisations that make up Britain’s £80 billion ($105.4 million). charity sector will be affected by cyber crime over the course of the next two years.
Twenty-two percent of charities said they believe that cyber crime is a greater risk to the sector than any other threat, with larger charities typically being more likely to appreciate the risk of cyber crime.
“This may be because larger charities generally have a greater capability to detect cyber crime,” the report concluded.
“Many small and medium sized charities are less aware of the cyber crime threat, yet are probably more at risk.”
- Europol and Eurojust help EU law enforcement agencies dismantle two organised immigration crime networks
- Major US hotel chains sued for failing to prevent sex trafficking in their rooms for decades
- UK charities warned to look out for social engineering spear phishing emails
- Hewlett Packard seizes counterfeit products worth $11 million in India as part of its global anti-fraud programme
- Woman carrying container of crystal meth inside her vagina arrested on US/Mexico border
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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