Joint investigation teams

Joint investigation teamA joint investigation team (JIT) is one of the most advanced tools used in international cooperation in criminal matters, comprising a legal agreement between competent authorities of two or more States for the purpose of carrying out criminal investigations. Made up of prosecutors and law enforcement authorities as well as judges, JITs are established for a fixed period, typically between 12 and 24 months, such as is necessary to reach successful conclusions to investigations.

Providing operational, legal and financial support to JITs is a key part of Eurojust’s mission, together with enabling access to the expertise of the JITs Network, a network of relevant national experts, who encourage and promote best practice in the use of JITs. Eurojust also hosts the JITs Network Secretariat, which supports and stimulates the activities of the JITs Network. Since 2005, the Agency has supported national authorities in the setting up and running of JITs, and has provided funding from 2009, while also taking a leading role in promoting JITs and developing awareness and understanding around the tool and its use.

The purpose of JITs

In complex and time-sensitive cross-border investigations, speed and efficiency are of the essence. However, in many cases, the operational needs of the authorities involved are not fully met by the traditional channels of mutual legal assistance. Direct cooperation and communication between authorities is the most efficient method of handling the increased sophistication of organised criminal activities. JITs offer national authorities in different States a flexible framework that is relatively quick and easy to establish and enables the respective authorities to participate in the investigation in a mutually beneficial way.

Once a JIT has been set up, the partners can directly exchange information and evidence, cooperate in real time and jointly carry out operations. Further, JITs allow for practitioners to be present during investigative measures on each other’s territories, and to therefore share their technical expertise and human resources more efficiently. Direct contacts and communication enable the JIT members to build personal relations and trust, leading to faster and more efficient cooperation.

The financial support provided by Eurojust and/or other EU agencies to JITs is another important benefit to national authorities, reducing the impact on national budgets of costs incurred due to the transnational dimension of cross-border cooperation.

Eurojust’s role

Eurojust supports the use of JITs during the entire life cycle of a cross-border investigation:

1. Planning

The decision to set up a JIT often takes shape at Eurojust. Once parallel or linked investigations have been identified by the National Desks at Eurojust, and the case has been registered, Eurojust may organise a coordination meeting between the involved States. During the meeting, Eurojust helps authorities assess the suitability of the case for the purpose of establishing a JIT. The setting up of JITs can also be agreed upon without, or prior to, a coordination meeting.

2. Setting up the JIT

Next, Eurojust supports the national authorities in setting up the team, by assisting in the drafting of JIT agreements and helping the partners navigate differences in procedural laws and reach agreement on key areas of cooperation and working methods. In establishing a JIT, practitioners are able to make use of supporting tools, jointly developed by the JITs Network, Eurojust and Europol.

3. The operational phase

Throughout the operational phase of a JIT, Eurojust works with the JIT partners to ensure the smooth running of joint investigations, providing legal and practical support. In particular, Eurojust helps to identify and resolve issues, coordinate investigative and prosecutorial strategies between the partners, and enable the coordination of joint operations. For example, by organising and hosting coordination meetings and setting up coordination centres.

4. Evaluation

Following the closure/expiry of a JIT, those involved perform an evaluation of its performance, in particular for JITs which received financial support from Eurojust. The feedback provided is important in improving the use and functioning of JITs and for establishing best practice for future use of the tool. The JITs Network has developed a JIT evaluation form for this purpose, as well as guidance and support to carry out the evaluation.

Supporting tools and documents

JIT model agreement

Updated in 2017, a model agreement has been developed to facilitate the setting up of JITs. This document can be downloaded here, in all official languages and in editable formats (DOC and PDF).

JITs Practical Guide

The JITs Practical Guide developed by the JITs Network in cooperation with Eurojust, Europol and OLAF, aims to provide information, guidance and advice to practitioners on the formation and operation of JITs.

JIT evaluation reports

The JITs Network Secretariat periodically publishes JIT evaluation reports that provide an overview of the best practices and lessons learnt as reported by the JIT practitioners working with JITs. In the Second and Third JIT Evaluation Reports, the findings of the JIT national practitioners were complemented with Eurojust’s experience in supporting JITs.

JITs Funding Portal

Eurojust operates an online tool, the JITs Funding Portal, through which national authorities can securely submit funding applications for JITs.

JITs factsheet

A comprehensive overview of JITs as a key instrument of judicial cooperation, including information on the ways in which Eurojust supports JITs, can be found in this factsheet.

Eurojust casework involving JITs

As demonstrated by Eurojust’s casework, the added value of JITs has resulted in the tool being progressively incorporated into the prosecutorial strategies of the Member States. In 2019, Eurojust supported 270 JITs, including 103 that were established during 2019, and 167 that were ongoing from previous years, representing an increase of 214 % compared with 2015.

Although JITs are still predominantly used in bilateral cases, Eurojust’s casework and subsequent case evaluations show that the tool successfully supports investigations with a multinational dimension, with a sizeable number of JITs involving more than two States.

In recent years, Eurojust’s involvement in JITs has led to successful outcomes across a wide range of cases, including priority crime areas as defined by the Council of the European Union, such as terrorism, cybercrime, migrant smuggling, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings (THB). The often complex and fast-moving nature of such cases makes the speed and flexibility enabled by JITs especially advantageous. The criminal organisations involved are typically highly mobile, with targets often moving across borders at speed; the involved authorities must be just as agile when tracking and building cases against suspects.

The use of JITs in investigations involving third States

JITs are increasingly recognised by practitioners from EU Member States as a valuable option for judicial cooperation with non-EU States. While the operation of such JITs may present specific features or deviate from usual EU practice, the tool is sufficiently flexible to allow practical adjustments and still function efficiently. Indeed, as experience in using the mechanism has grown, the number of newly established JITs involving third States supported by Eurojust has increased significantly, rising from 3 in 2016 to 20 in 2019. The Third JIT Evaluation Report includes a chapter devoted to Eurojust’s experience in JITs with third States.