Eurojust newsletter - Quarter 1 - 2021

Dear Reader,

Ladislav Hamran

In this quarterly newsletter, we will update you on the main developments at Eurojust in the first three months of 2021. You will learn more about our key events, operational results, new partnerships and recently published reports.

On 23 March, I had the honour to present Eurojust’s Annual Report 2020 to the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. It made me incredibly proud to share that the pandemic did not stop us from opening 4 200 new cases last year – an impressive 8 % increase compared with 2019. You can read more about our Annual Report and its unique digital format on the following pages.

You will also find more details about one of our most emblematic cases in the past quarter, involving the disruption of the criminal use of the encrypted Sky ECC communication tool. With the support of Eurojust and Europol, judicial and law enforcement authorities in Belgium, France and the Netherlands were able to collect crucial information on more than 100 planned criminal operations, prevent possible life-threatening situations and make a large number of arrests.

In the meantime, we continued our efforts to further expand our cooperation with countries outside the EU. We reached an important milestone when we officially launched the EuroMed Justice Programme with a launching conference on 2 and 3 February. The aim of this programme is to strengthen cooperation in judicial criminal matters in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Just a few days before, I had the great pleasure to warmly welcome Ms Fatjona Memcaj to the Eurojust family as the first Liaison Prosecutor for Albania.

Finally, I invite you to take a closer look at some of our new publications, such as the report on trafficking in human beings and a practical guide for judicial authorities dealing with the impact of Brexit.

I hope you enjoy reading our newsletter and wish you a happy spring.

Ladislav Hamran
President of Eurojust

In Focus

Eurojust ensures operational continuity in spite of coronavirus restrictions, with further increase in new cases

Judicial authorities in EU Member States are increasingly turning to Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, for assistance in investigations of serious cross-border crimes and terrorism, to bring suspects to trial in national courts. In spite of drastic restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Agency ensured full operational continuity, with 13 % more cases registered last year, to more than 8 800 in total.
Read more »

Portuguese EU Presidency: overview of priorities by Minister of Justice Francisca van Dunem

In the first half of 2021, Portugal holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In this video, Minister of Justice Francisca van Dunem explains the main objectives and priorities in the field of justice and judicial cooperation, such as access to justice, victim rights, the digital transformation of justice and the fight against cross-border crime and terrorism, and how Eurojust plays a decisive role in implementing these goals.
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Eurojust welcomes mandate for Commission to negotiate agreements with third countries

Eurojust welcomes the mandate the European Commission has received to open negotiations on international agreements with 13 third countries for cooperation with the Agency. With the approval of a negotiating mandate by the Council, talks on agreements for information exchange with Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey can start. The conclusion of such agreements will strengthen the transnational judicial cooperation of Eurojust with third countries and widen the international scope in the fight against cross-border crime.
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EuroMed Justice Programme launched with opening conference

The EuroMed Justice Programme, hosted at Eurojust, has officially been launched with an opening conference in The Hague on 2 and 3 February. Participants from all eight involved South Partner Countries, EU Member States and agencies joined the conference via video connection to mark the official start of the new stage of the programme. EMJ has the overall aim to strengthen strategic and operational cooperation in judicial criminal matters in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
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Eurojust and EPPO sign Working Arrangement to facilitate cooperation

Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) have signed a Working Arrangement laying out the detailed practical modalities of their cooperation in the fight against crimes affecting the European Union’s financial interests. The Arrangement was signed by European Chief Prosecutor Ms Laura Kövesi and Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran in their respective headquarters in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Stepping up cooperation to tackle intellectual property crime

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) are stepping up their cooperation to more effectively tackle criminal abuse of intellectual property rights in the field of counterfeiting and online piracy. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) was signed to boost Eurojust’s capacity and expand its expertise to support complex investigations in this field.
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Latin American partners and Eurojust discuss establishing new Contact Points

Eurojust and Latin American countries have discussed expanding future cooperation by establishing Contact Points for judicial cross-border assistance. This has been agreed during a high-level online meeting of the Europe Latin America Technical Assistance Programme against Transnational Organized Crime (EL PAcCTO) and Eurojust. With a future establishment of Contact Points in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama, Eurojust would be able to count on liaisons with more than 60 partner countries worldwide.
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Casework highlights Q1

New major interventions to block encrypted communications of criminal networks

Judicial and law enforcement authorities in Belgium, France and the Netherlands have in close cooperation enabled major interventions to block the further use of encrypted communications by large-scale organised crime groups (OCGs), with the support of Europol and Eurojust. The continuous monitoring of the criminal use of the Sky ECC communication service tool by investigators in the three countries involved has provided invaluable insights into hundreds of millions of messages exchanged between criminals. This has resulted in the collection of crucial information on over a hundred of planned large-scale criminal operations, preventing potential life threatening situations and possible victims.
Read more »

Action to counter Italian fuel tax fraud worth almost EUR 1 billion

Eurojust has ensured the coordination of cross-border investigations at the request of the Italian authorities (Public Prosecutor’s Office of Reggio Calabria) concerning a massive fraud with fuel taxes worth about EUR 1 billion. The Agency enabled the freezing of bank accounts in Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Malta and Romania. It also ensured the seizure of companies’ assets or the administrative closure of enterprises used for the fraud scheme, where possible. In a large-scale operation, 23 suspects were arrested in Italy today and about EUR 600 million worth of assets were seized.
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Eurojust supports Spanish action against illegal streaming of football matches

With the support of Eurojust, the Spanish authorities have taken action to block the illegal streaming of football matches of major professional leagues via the Mobdro mobile application. More than 43 million users worldwide had downloaded this application to watch games of, for instance, the Spanish La Liga and English Premier League via servers and platforms that illegally tapped into regular audio-visual signals. One suspect has been arrested by the Spanish authorities and three other persons have been taken in for questioning in Spain and Andorra. The app can no longer be uploaded via Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic, where some of the platforms were hosted.
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Massive metal waste fraud in Italy halted with Eurojust support

At the request of the Italian judicial authorities, Eurojust supported an action day involving Slovakia and Hungary to disrupt years of environmental crime and 130 million EUR worth of fraud with the sale of waste metal. Coordinated by the Agency, 15 suspects were arrested in Italy and Slovakia for the illegal trafficking of metal waste, money laundering and the issuance of fake invoices and documents. In total, 60 places were searched and computer equipment, electronic devices and documents have been seized.
Read more »

Dismantling of network that exploited illegal labourers in France

A network involved in the concealed employment of Moldovan nationals, working under false identities on building sites in France, has been dismantled as the result of a Eurojust-supported joint investigation team (JIT) between the French, Romanian and Moldovan judicial authorities. During an action day, 38 persons were arrested, including the Romanian owner of several French construction companies. This arrest was done by the French authorities on suspicion of trafficking in human beings (THB), facilitating illegal employment, the production of falsified identity documents and money laundering.
Read more »

Major VAT scam with memory cards halted in the Netherlands

With the support of Eurojust, the Dutch fiscal authorities have halted a major scam to avoid the payment of VAT via trading companies. By setting up a string of enterprises in the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland and Croatia, a network of traders in Secure Digital (SD) memory cards for mobile phones allegedly defrauded the Dutch fiscal authorities for an estimated amount of EUR 9 million between 2017 and 2020. During an action day supported by Eurojust, 13 places have been searched and communications equipment, documents and digital evidence was seized.
Read more »

Nearly 50 properties seized in action against money laundering in Italy and Spain

Italian and Spanish authorities have seized nearly 50 properties and provisionally arrested 13 persons as the result of a Eurojust-coordinated operation against money laundering, tax evasion and corruption in Italy’s northwestern province of Cuneo and Malaga province in Spain. Eurojust supported the setting up of a joint investigation team (JIT) which led to a series of actions in both countries as of December last year. During these actions three luxury cars as well as cash, jewellery, valuable watches and works of art were seized, with an estimated value of over EUR 1.5 million. The value of the seized properties in Italy is estimated to be at least EUR 5 million. The value of the seized properties in Spain is still pending official assessment.
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Further action against criminals defrauding online investors

Eurojust has coordinated a follow-up action against an organised crime group (OCG) that defrauded mainly German speaking online investors via fictitious companies operating from Bulgaria, Ukraine and other countries. By pretending to make huge profits on simulated websites, at least 350 victims were defrauded of approximately EUR 8,5 million. During an action day, five suspects were arrested in Bulgaria. In the same case, in December last year in Ukraine, EUR 50 million in luxury cars and goods were seized. In April last year, nine suspects involved with the same OCG were arrested in Bulgaria and Serbia.
Read more »

World’s most dangerous malware EMOTET disrupted through global action

Law enforcement and judicial authorities worldwide have this week disrupted one of the most significant botnets of the past decade: EMOTET. Investigators have now taken control of its infrastructure in an international coordinated action.
Read more »

Contract killer sentenced to life imprisonment in Hungary with Eurojust’s support

The Metropolitan Court of Budapest has sentenced a contract killer to life imprisonment for committing two murders in drug-related cases in Amsterdam and Budapest in 2018, after he was arrested in Prague a year later. The role of Eurojust was instrumental in the decision on which jurisdiction to prosecute in, to get justice done. The convicted killer, of Hungarian-Serbian nationality, could face prosecution in Serbia after a possible release by the Hungarian authorities in a third murder case, regarding a contract killing in Belgrade in early 2019.
Read more »

Eurojust supports action against fuel tax fraud in Germany and 10 other countries

A major tax swindle involving sales of fuels has been brought to an end by the German authorities, with international judicial support in 11 European countries coordinated by Eurojust. During an action day, two suspects were arrested in Austria and Poland, allegedly the leaders of a criminal network that defrauded the German tax authorities of an amount of close to EUR 8 million. A total of 40 places have been searched in 11 countries, including 10 in Germany, in cities such as Hamburg, Bremen, Duisburg and Freiburg.
Read more »

At Eurojust

First Liaison Prosecutor for Albania starts at Eurojust

Ms Fatjona Memcaj has started work as first Liaison Prosecutor (LP) for Albania at Eurojust. Her new role at the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation is the direct result of the cooperation agreement between Eurojust and Albania, which entered into force last year. Albania is the 10th third country to have an LP at Eurojust. Ms Memcaj (44) has wide experience in the prosecution of financial crime and corruption and has been responsible for international judicial cooperation in Albania.
Read more »

New Liaison Prosecutor for Switzerland takes up duties

Mr Sébastien Fetter has today started in his new role as Liaison Prosecutor (LP) for Switzerland at Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation. Mr Fetter (41) will take over the duties of Swiss LP from Ms Tanja Bucher, who had worked in this capacity since 2019. Mr Fetter has a thorough background as a public prosecutor, with long-standing experience in combatting cybercrime.
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CrimEx begins development of new tools for cross-Mediterranean judicial cooperation

Judicial experts from Euro-Mediterranean countries (CrimEx) and Eurojust have started the design of new tools for the protection of personal data and cross-border electronic evidence gathering. Furthermore, the development of new mechanisms on joint and parallel investigations and procedural rights of both suspects and victims has commenced. CrimEx will also update pioneering analytical tools and practical manuals, such as the EuroMed Fiches and the Digital Evidence Manual. These are the main outcomes of the 10th Regular CrimEx meeting under the EuroMed Justice (EMJ) Programme, hosted this week by Eurojust.
Read more »

Discussion on accountability for chemical attacks in Syria

Accountability for chemical attacks in Syria and other international crimes committed during ten years of conflict, was the topic of the 29th Genocide Network meeting held on 24 and 25 March. About 180 participants connected online, representing 33 national and international jurisdictions.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria (IIIM), and civil society organisations joined the meeting. Discussions focused on the qualification of the use of chemical weapons as a war crime and crime against humanity under international law.

For more information, please visit the Genocide Network page.

New funding scheme for joint investigation teams

Eurojust introduces a new funding scheme for joint investigation teams (JITs): Financial Assistance to JITs for urgent and unforeseen actions falling outside the scope of the regular Eurojust JIT funding scheme with call for proposals.

Eurojust already provides financial and logistical support to JITs through the regular funding cycle comprised of eight calls for proposals, which are published throughout each financial year.

The new funding scheme (which exists alongside the regular funding scheme) aims to provide targeted financing to urgent and unforeseen JIT activities that are operational in nature, outside the eight calls for proposals, in line with Article 64 (2) of Regulation (EU) 2018/1727.

For further information about Funding without Call for Proposals, please visit the JITs Funding page on the Eurojust website.

Eurojust reports

Eurojust Report on Trafficking in Human Beings

To better assist victims of trafficking in human beings (THB), more cross-border cooperation and investigations are necessary. Earlier involvement of Eurojust and a higher number of cases referred to the Agency will help to better coordinate investigations and get a fuller picture of internationally operating criminal networks, which exploit often young and vulnerable victims. These are the main conclusions from the Eurojust Report on Trafficking in Human Beings.
Read more »

Report on Eurojust’s Casework on Environmental Crime

Environmental crime is the fourth-largest criminal activity in the world, growing at a rate of between 5 % and 7 % per year, according to an Interpol and UN Environment Programme estimate. This increase, combined with the organised, transnational nature of environmental crime, requires administrative, law enforcement and judicial authorities to adopt a coordinated approach at both national and international level.
Read more »

The impact of COVID-19 on judicial cooperation in criminal matters - Executive summary of information compiled by Eurojust and EJN

Delegations will find an executive summary of the compilation by Eurojust and by the European Judicial Network (EJN) of information received by Eurojust, by the EJN and by the Presidency/General Secretariat of the Council, on the impact of the measures taken by governments to combat the spread of COVID-19 on judicial cooperation in criminal matters in the European Union (and Iceland and Norway) and on the way forward.
Read more »

Final Report on the JHA agencies network activities 2020

The Justice and Home Affairs agencies’ network (JHAAN) approved its Work Plan 2020 in January and selected two thematic topics: victims of trafficking and an assessment of the JHAAN. In April 2020, COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the work of JHA agencies was introduced as a new third thematic topic.
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Judicial cooperation in criminal matters between the European Union and the United Kingdom from 1 January 2021

A note for judicial practitioners on future cooperation with the United Kingdom. It is intended to provide practitioners with up-to-date and readily usable information on judicial cooperation with the UK and to contribute to ensuring business continuity despite a changing legal landscape.
Read more »

Looking ahead: what to watch for in Q2 2021

  • Eurojust Report on Drug Trafficking – Experiences and Challenges in Judicial Cooperation (end of April)
  • EU Day Against Impunity for Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity (23 May)
  • Virtual workshop on criminal trends and developments in migrant smuggling for the ‘Focus Group’ members (19 April)
  • Summary of the discussions of Eurojust workshops on violent right-wing extremism and terrorism
  • Third Encryption Observatory function Report ( end of April)
  • Cybercrime Judicial Monitor no. 6 ( end of May)
  • Guidelines on how to prosecute investment fraud
  • European Arrest Warrant Casework Report
  • Expert meeting with Justice and Home Affairs Agencies (JHAA) Network on the identification and protection of victims of Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) (May)
  • Joint paper of JHAA Network on the identification and protection of victims of THB ( June)
  • European Judicial Cybercrime Network plenary meeting (17-18 June)
  • Working group meeting of Network of National Experts on joint investigation teams, (26 May), preparing annual meeting for October 2021

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