Europol wants CAB to help set up specialist unit to target EU crime bosses finances

Europol chiefs met in Dublin with Garda commissioner Drew Harris

Europol, the EU police agency, wants experts from the Criminal Assets Bureau to help set up a specialist unit to target the finances of crime bosses across Europe.

Europol chiefs made the proposal for CAB officers to be seconded to it in a meeting in Dublin with Garda commissioner Drew Harris, who they said is considering it.

During high-level meetings, senior gardaí also discussed, with Europol executive director Catherine De Bolle and chief of staff Brian Donald, efforts to tackle the Kinahan crime cartel.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Ms De Bolle said:

  • There had been a “significant increase” in trafficking of cocaine from Colombia into Europe and that “higher quantities than ever” of heroin are reaching Europe due to a record opium crop in Afghanistan last year
  • Europol needs to “refocus” on tackling the drugs trade and organised crime, saying it had not “done enough” in recent years because of demands to respond to terrorism and the migrant crisis
  • The agency is building a high-tech decryption platform to assist member states in accessing encrypted phones and digital devices, increasingly used by organised crime, including the Kinahan cartel
  • Europol is taking a new departure in creating mobile operational taskforces, comprising experts, to travel to member states and join investigators in the field

Speaking after her address to the Institute of International and European Affairs, and following meetings with gardaí, Ms De Bolle said there is growing demand from member states for Europol expertise in tackling economic and financial crimes, including criminal assets.

“We have very good collaboration with them [gardaí] and we discussed about the presence of their police service in Europol, because when we start to invest more in economic and financial crime they [gardaí] have a lot of experience,” said Ms De Bolle.

The former chief of the Belgian federal police said there is “huge demand” from member states for assistance in this area. “So we need to be experts in The Hague [Europol HQ] to create an expert organisation in that field.”

She said they raised the request with Mr Harris, the Garda commissioner: “It is not decided yet. We had a discussion, but they [CAB] have a lot of good results.”

Ireland has two Garda liaison officers in Europol, while Revenue Customs also has one.

Mr Donald, Europol’s chief of staff, said there is a system of seconded national experts, where the home country continues to pay the salary while Europol pays accommodation costs.

“Ireland hasn’t done that to date,” he said, “so we were exploring ways how that might work for them and for us. He [Mr Harris] was open to it.”

Ms De Bolle said such a move would “help us a lot”. She said: “We need experts to start something new up and we need to find the experts. I understand, as a chief, it is difficult to let your good people go for a few years, but when they come back to the country they have a huge network, they know the organisation better, they know the opportunities for them. For me it’s win win.”

Ms De Bolle confirmed they also discussed with Garda chiefs’ efforts to target the Kinahan cartel. Although the leadership is based in Dubai, senior members are thought to travel within the union, including to Britain and Spain.

“There is good collaboration in this area with the Irish police,” confirmed Ms De Bolle. “I arrived [Tuesday] and I discussed it with the police and there is good collaboration.”

She declined to give further details.

This issue fits in with Europol’s drive to focus on “high-value targets”, which Ms De Bolle likened to “chiefs” or “CEOs” of organised crime.

She said Europol needs to “refocus” on drugs and organised crime, saying 8,000 lives are lost in Europe every year in a trade worth €24bn.

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