Controlled deliveries

Controlled deliveries

Controlled delivery is an investigative tool. It permits transportations of illegal or suspect consignments to enter, cross or exit the territory of one or more Member States. These deliveries are made with the knowledge, and under the supervision of, the competent authorities of the involved States, to progress the investigation of the offence and identify potential suspects.

In a transnational drug trafficking case, for example, controlled delivery enables law enforcement to monitor and gather evidence on subsequent distribution by an organised crime group (OCG) or by other members of an illegal supply chain. In this way, law enforcement personnel investigating the suspects are able to better understand the specific roles played by different members of these organisations.

The application of controlled delivery as an investigative method can be especially complex in cross-border investigations where coordination actions are taken by authorities in multiple different States. Within its mandate to enable judicial cooperation in investigations and prosecutions, Eurojust works with judicial and law enforcement authorities to anticipate and resolve problems arising from controlled deliveries.

Potential issues

Authorities may encounter issues and obstacles when applying controlled delivery as a tool during investigations. In human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases in particular, there is a risk that using surveillance to monitor potentially criminal activities, rather than apprehending suspects at the earliest possible stage, may put the safety of victims at risk.

More generally, national authorities may encounter practical issues when using controlled delivery, such as insufficient resources and differing legal regimes in deploying undercover officers. Authorities may also need to overcome legal complexities ranging from the admissibility of the obtained evidence to difficulties obtaining the authorisation needed to postpone seizures of assets, or place surveillance devices in vehicles.

Eurojust’s support

Eurojust supports judicial and law enforcement authorities to overcome legal obstacles related to the use of controlled deliveries. National authorities have benefited from legal advice provided by Eurojust recommending the use of specific articles in, for example, the Schengen Convention and the 2000 MLA Convention, and of legal bases for authorising a controlled delivery. In addition, Eurojust offers national authorities various forms of practical and logistical support, to enable the successful use of controlled deliveries, including:

  • facilitating agreement on the authorisation and execution of a cross-border controlled delivery via communication between the relevant National Members;

  • assisting with the identification of competent authorities outside the Member State initiating the investigation;

  • organising coordination meetings and coordination centres with the involved authorities;

  • coordinating and expediting the execution of MLA requests on controlled deliveries;

  • mediating communication between the countries involved, and enabling the translation of documents;

  • helping Member State authorities identify and contact equivalents in third States;

  • enabling the timely exchange of information and documents; and

  • communicating efficiently with Europol’s liaison officers to assist in the execution of controlled deliveries.

Handbook on controlled deliveries

As part of its work to gather and disseminate best practice and information around the use of controlled delivery as a judicial cooperation tool, Eurojust participated in developing an online handbook on controlled deliveries, which was launched in June 2018 by the Council of Europe Pompidou Group. The handbook provides information on the national and international legal frameworks on controlled deliveries, as well as the practicalities national authorities should consider when planning and executing the tool.

The handbook also specifies the documents authorities require when requesting cooperation from a foreign State, and provides contact details of single contact points for controlled deliveries in different jurisdictions. Access to the handbook is limited to law enforcement and judicial officials and requires a password. Authorised parties may request a password from the Council of Europe Pompidou Group.


This Issue in focus provided brief background information for the discussions during Workshop No. 1 “Cross-border controlled deliveries from a judicial perspective” in the context of the strategic meeting on drug trafficking held by Eurojust on 29 and 30 September 2014. Following a short explanation...