International action against trafficking of stolen luxury cars
19 Sep 2016 10:01 AM
Using a coordination centre at Eurojust, a major international operation was carried out by authorities from Italy, Belgium and Spain against an international organised criminal group involved in large-scale trafficking of luxury cars stolen within the EU and destined for locations in northern Europe and North Africa.
After several months of investigations, intense collaboration among judicial and police authorities of the concerned Member States, and the support provided by Eurojust and Europol at international level, today’s action led to the arrest of 28 suspects, searches of several businesses and homes, and the seizure of a large amount of documents and other assets.
The OCG, with key players in Belgium and Spain, was composed of Italian and Moroccan suspects, with a network of associates in several other Member States.
The modus operandi adopted by the OCG was highly sophisticated:
- OCG members obtained identification data on the potential stolen vehicles and their owners from the Public Vehicles Registry in Italy;
- such data were then used to create counterfeit documents to be used in Spain to obtain copies of the original keys to be later used in the thefts;
- after the thefts of the vehicles, OCG members made a second inspection at the Public Vehicles Registry to obtain the data of vehicles similar to those that were stolen; and
- false documents, including vehicle registration, license plates and insurance, were then created on the basis of legitimate vehicles, and these replaced the original documentation of the stolen vehicles. In this manner, the ‘clone vehicles’ were able to circulate in Italy and mislead possible police checks before finally being exported abroad.
Investigations began in Italy in 2015 by the Piedmont and Valle D’Aosta’s Street Police Compartment of the Italian State Police, under the leadership of the Public Prosecution Office of Turin, after victims reported a large number of stolen luxury vehicles. The Italian authorities identified patterns in the modus operandi and discovered important links with other countries. Independent investigations were carried out in Belgium and Spain.
At the end of 2015, the case was brought to the attention of Eurojust with an initial request to facilitate the execution of Italian rogatory letters towards Spain, Belgium and France and to possibly coordinate relevant activities at EU level. Europol held an operational meeting in November 2015 to facilitate the exchange of information and coordination of the investigation with law enforcement officials from Belgium, Italy, Spain and France.
A first coordination meeting was held at Eurojust in February 2016 with the participation of Italy, Belgium, Spain and France, during which issues related to judicial cooperation and coordination (including the possibility to transfer ongoing proceedings between some of the concerned Member States) were discussed. A second coordination meeting was held at Eurojust in May 2016 to prepare for yesterday’s action.
Two Europol analysts and technical equipment were deployed in Italy and Spain throughout the operation. The analysts provided on-the-spot analytical support and real-time access to Europol’s databases. They also performed forensic examination of the seized items.
Figures at a glance:
- Number of arrests carried out: 4 in Belgium, 6 in Spain and 18 in Italy
- Number of premises searched: 8 in Spain and 21 in Italy
- Assets seized: 40 stolen luxury vehicles, several computer devices and telephone handsets, shipping container documents, false IDs and driving licenses, EUR 25 000 in counterfeit currency and a large amount of other documents.
At the conclusion of the successful action day, Ms Teresa Angela Camelio, First Assistant to the National Member for Italy at Eurojust, said: ‘Eurojust’s role in this investigation has been essential. Beyond facilitating the exchange of rogatory letters, preventing conflicts of jurisdiction, and ensuring a clear division of tasks among key stakeholders, Eurojust acted as the unique platform for judicial cooperation at EU level while coordinating all activities until the end of the operation. Today’s action clearly demonstrates that the most sophisticated international criminal schemes can be dismantled thanks to excellent judicial and police cooperation at EU level.’
For questions relating to the involvement of Member States, please contact the relevant national authorities.
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