An international operation coordinated by Europol has resulted in the dismantling of an organised criminal network behind the fraudulent sale of huge quantities of counterfeit extra virgin olive oil in Germany and Italy.
The operation that targeted the gang, which involved police investigators, from both countries, resulted in the arrest of 20 suspected gang members, as well as the seizure of 150,000 litres of fake extra virgin olive oil.
Members of the gang are said to have sourced wholesale quantities of sunflower oil in Italy, which they then adulterated with chlorophyll, beta-carotene and soya oil in a bid to make it appear as though it was extra virgin olive oil.
Once this process was completed in what Europol described as “unsanitary conditions”, the resultant bogus oil was transported by lorry to Germany, where it was stored by logistics firms before being fraudulently sold onto restaurant owners across the country.
Based on evidence that indicates the network purchased around one million litres of sunflower oil a year, it is estimated that the gang made some €8 million ($8.96 million) annually by selling their counterfeit product for as much as €10 per litre.
Investigators participating in the operation conducted raids at 20 properties in multiple locations, and impounded five lorries that were intercepted while carrying 23,000 litres of counterfeit oil each.
In a statement, Europol said: “This operation, supported by Europol and Eurojust, was carried out within the framework of the international Operation Opson, focused on combating counterfeit and substandard food and beverage products on the market in Europe and beyond.
“Europol supported this case since the beginning by holding an operational meeting at its headquarters in The Hague.”
Operation Opson, which has been run by a coalition of law enforcement agencies including Europol and Interpol since 2011, has resulted in the seizure of many thousands of tonnes of fake and adulterated food and drink, as well as the arrest of scores of suspected members of criminal food fraud gangs.
During the most recent Operation Opson investigation, which took place between December 2017 and March 2018, law enforcement agencies from a record 67 countries removed 3,620 tonnes of substandard and dangerous food from international supply chains, and broke up almost 50 organised crime networks said to have been involved in the illegal trade in counterfeit food and drink.
Speaking in April last year, Jari Liukku, Head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, said: “[Food fraud] is a threat which requires… cooperation across borders, taking into account the increased integration and globalisation of supply chains.”
Woman carrying cannabis bricks in bogus baby belly arrested by Argentine police
Law enforcement officers in Argentina have arrested a woman close to the South American country’s border with Chile for attempting to smuggle cannabis concealed inside a fake baby bump.
The woman was searched after police discovered that her travelling companion was in possession of a smaller quantity of cannabis while the pair were on a long-distance coach journey from the city of Mendoza to Caleta Olivia in province of Santa Cruz.
After stopping the pair at a police checkpoint in Valle de Uco close to Mendoza, police found that the woman had hidden 15 packages of cannabis in her bogus baby bump.
The man with whom she was travelling was discovered to be in possession of two packages of the drug in his hand luggage.
Police stopped the pair while conducting routine checks on passengers using the coach route.
In total, the woman and the man were found to be carrying in excess of 4.5kgs of cannabis.
The improvised fake pregnancy bump was held together with a starch-based paste and secured to the woman’s stomach to make it appear as though she was with child.
Posting a picture of the fake baby belly on Twitter, Argentine security minister Patricia Bullrich told her followers: “She made a belly with glue, and hid 15 packages of marijuana inside it while pretending to be pregnant and attempted to move it from Mendoza to Santa Cruz .
“Police arrested the false pregnant woman and her accomplice, preventing her from trafficking the drugs she was carrying.”
In a statement, Argentine police said: “While carrying out control checks, officers stopped a group travelling from Mendoza to Caleta Olivia.
“During the inspection, police observed that a passenger was carrying a black bag that contained two brick-like packages.
“Continuing with their inspection, officers came across a young woman who had a lump in her belly, pretending to be pregnant.
“The two passengers were asked to get off the bus and were later arrested.”
In September 2013, the BBC reported that police in Colombia had arrested a Canadian woman when she attempted to board a flight to Toronto while wearing a fake baby belly that was filled with cocaine.
Police said the woman was searched after she became agitated when asked by a customs officer how far along she was with her pregnancy.
She was found be carrying two sealed bags that contained 2kgs of cocaine.
Lithuanian and Spanish police smash violent sex trafficking gang that forced scores of women to work as prostitutes
A joint operation carried out by law enforcement agencies from Lithuania and Spain has resulted in the break-up of an organised crime network that trafficked women for the purposes of prostitution.
In a day of action coordinated by investigators from both countries, and supported by Europol and Eurojust, 50 searches were conducted at several locations across the two nations, resulting in the seizure of a quantity of cash, drugs, counterfeit documents, weapons and ammunition.
The operation also saw the detention of two leaders of the criminal network in Spain, the arrest of 13 suspected members of the gang in Lithuania, and the identification of 118 suspected trafficking victims from a number of countries including Ukraine and Belarus.
In a statement, Lietuvos Policija said the effort was the result of a two-year investigation into the illegal activities of the trafficking network, which is said to have used extreme violence to force victims to work as prostitutes in Lithuania.
Those arrested are said to have previously been convicted of a range of offences, including robbery, human trafficking, profiting from prostitution, and criminal damage.
All of those held, who were taken into custody where they are currently awaiting trail, have had their assets temporarily frozen.
“Europol supported the investigation by providing coordination and analytical support since the early stages of the joint investigation in 2018,” Europol said.
“Europol supported the action day by providing on-the-spot technical and analytical support in Lithuania and Spain, and by activating the virtual command post to speed up operational information exchange.
“Europol also deployed experts to Lithuania to cross-check operational information in real-time against Europol’s databases.”
Last week, four members of an eastern European sex trafficking gang were jailed for a total of over 36 years for smuggling Slovakian women to Scotland and forcing them into sham marriages, slavery or prostitution.
Vojtech Gombar, Anil Wagle, Jana Sandorova and Ratislav Adam were convicted in October of what the High Court in Edinburgh was told were “utterly repugnant” crimes.
Back in February, a pair of brothers from Romania who trafficked women into Spain before forcing them to work as prostitutes were handed jail terms totalling 108 years.
A Spanish court heard Cristian and Sebastián Sandulache, who were said to have made as much as €11,000 ($12,096) a night by forcing their victims to sell sex, inserted metal balls into their penises in order to cause maximum pain to their rape victims.
Dutch trucker charged with drug trafficking after UK customs find huge haul of cocaine wrapped in frozen meat
Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) have charged a Dutch truck driver with attempting to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated £20 million ($25.7 million) into Britain while it was hidden in frozen meat.
The agency, which is often referred to as the UK’s equivalent of the FBI, launched an investigation after customs officers stopped the driver’s truck when it arrived at Harwich International Port in Essex on a ferry from the Hook of Holland on Monday.
While inspecting the load the truck was carrying, investigators discovered multiple packages containing a total of over 200kgs of cocaine that had been wrapped in frozen meat.
The driver, named as 48-year-old Robert Tromp from the Netherlands, was charged with an importation offence, and appeared before Colchester magistrates on Tuesday, where he was remanded in custody until his next appearance at Chelmsford Crown Court on 12 December.
Commenting on Tromp’s arrest, NCA Branch Commander Jacque Beer said: “While forensic checks are still being carried out on this seizure, it is likely that the total haul would have had a street value in excess of £20 million once cut and sold at a street purity level.
“Our investigation into those responsible is continuing, but we can say that this will have put a big dent in the profits of the criminal network likely to be behind it and caused them substantial disruption.
“The illicit drug trade is a key driver behind the gang violence and exploitation we see on UK streets, which is why we, along with partners like Border Force, are determined to do all we can to stop drugs at source and protect the public. This was an excellent detection by our Border Force colleagues.”
Drug traffickers routinely hide their illicit shipments in consignments of food, not least on account of the fact that perishable goods are often fast-tracked through customs checks.
At the end of last month, two drug traffickers from the Netherlands were jailed for a total of more than 11 years by a UK court for attempting to smuggle more than half a tonne of cannabis into Britain by hiding it in consignments of grated pizza cheese and salad.
Dominic Leema and Henrik Ruben were caught after trying to smuggle the drugs through the port of Dover in the south of England, and were said to have been part of a wider organised crime network that used an industrial estate unit to extract the cannabis from the cheese.
- Woman carrying cannabis bricks in bogus baby belly arrested by Argentine police
- Lithuanian and Spanish police smash violent sex trafficking gang that forced scores of women to work as prostitutes
- Dutch trucker charged with drug trafficking after UK customs find huge haul of cocaine wrapped in frozen meat
- Misery, not hedonism, appears to be driving increased drug use among Gen Xers and Boomers
- US court charges Saudi men with firearms trafficking offences in their absence
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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