Europol report shows €2.4bn out of €110bn criminal assets frozen

European criminal assets agencies are only seizing around 2% of the total estimated proceeds of crime, according to the EU police agency.

Europol said EU agencies freeze an estimated €2.4 billion worth of criminal assets on average each year, out of a total value of illicit crime markets of €110bn.

The report, published by Europol Criminal Assets Bureau, said that while around €2.4bn (2.2% of the estimated total) was provisionally seized annually, some €1.2bn (1.1%) was ultimately confiscated.

The figures are based on estimates between 2010 and 2014.

“This report, the first of its kind, shows that the amount of money currently being recovered in the EU is only a small proportion of the estimated criminal proceeds: 98.9% of estimated criminal profits are not confiscated and remain at the disposal of criminals,” said Europol in a statement.

It said cross-border co- operation between law enforcement agencies and Europol to trace and identify criminal assets had “significantly improved” in recent years.

It said over 1,000 asset recovery investigations had been carried out within the EU in 2015. “Despite this increase and more effective cooperation, the final results in terms of confiscations are still modest, clearly showing that more work needs to be done,” said Europol.

It said measures should include:

  • Strengthening financial investigations at national level, particularly in relation to organised crime activities.
  • Increased investment in resources and training.
  • Collection of statistical information and court decisions

The report said this area was “an increasingly crucial issue” for governments and EU institutions.

The Criminal Assets Bureau in Ireland, set up in 1996, was the model for such agencies across the EU.

The Europol report cited figures compiled by the EU-funded Project OCP (Organised Crime Portfolio) which estimated that illicit markets generated about €110bn in the union.

The OCP report said there were no estimates regarding the share of proceeds that are laundered in the legal economy.

The OCP report estimated that illicit markets in Ireland generated some €1.7bn in revenue annually.

This includes values for the following markets: Heroin (€623m); cocaine (€90m); cannabis (€47m); ecstasy (€30m); illicit tobacco trade (€277m); counterfeiting (€456m).

The report cited Europol figures which suggested there were 40 Irish criminal gangs, including nine ‘primary’ gangs based in Spain, Britain, and the Netherlands. Gardaí told the OCP that Irish gangs had links with Russian-speaking gangs, often based in Spain, as well as Chinese and Eastern European outfits.

It said Ireland was not only a destination for drugs but a “strategic transit country” for drugs destined for the UK and other countries in Europe.

The OCP report said Ireland’s remote west coast provided strategic access for sea shipments.

The report said the high value placed on the heroin market in Ireland — ranging from €498m to €830m, with a best estimate of €623m — was owing to the high price of heroin in the country.

It said that while most of the Irish gangs involved are based in Ireland and the UK, “foreign groups” were increasingly engaged in heroin trafficking.


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