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Joint Customs Operation Athena

Over EUR 45 000 000 in cross border cash transfers were detected during the year-long Operation Athena, which saw the customs authorities from 28 countries working together to detect and seize crime funds moving across borders.

Project dates 01/05/2008 - 30/04/2009
TopicCustoms Cooperation
Total budget€60 027
EU contribution70%
Project CoordinatorDirectorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes (France)
Project partners
  • Customs and Finance Guard (Hungary)
  • Customs Agency (Italy)

Project Description

Operation Athena detected crime-related cash as it was taken across borders and launched money-laundering investigations. The operation involved 28 countries: 23 EU countries, 1 acceding country (Croatia), 3 North African countries (Algerian, Morocco and Tunisia), and Norway.

The project aimed to: demonstrate the importance of customs authorities’ powers to detect and seize crime-related cash moving across borders; increase detection levels for the cross-border transfer of criminally obtained cash; support strategies for reducing and tackling terrorism and organised crime by cutting funding; and improve operational cooperation and the exchange of information between participating countries.

Benefits and results

In only 8 days, during the first operational phase of the project, the 28 participating countries identified 285 infringements of the customs obligation to declare, and registered 103 declarations of cash above EUR 100 000. This led to the detection by the participating customs services of the equivalent of EUR 7 856 873 in undeclared cash, while a total of EUR 37 847 294 was declared. A total of EUR 45 437 167 in cross border cash transfers was detected during the operation.

Operation Athena established unprecedented operational synergy between international agencies and organisations, such as Europol, Interpol, the WCO and financial intelligence units (FIUs). Efficient information exchange helped the reporting of detections by one country to another.

Following the success of Operation Athena, two similar operations were organised by Spain in 2010 and by Denmark in 2012.

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