The recent EncroChat case illustrates just how successful European police cooperation can be, in this case a joint investigation team involving Dutch and French authorities and supported by Europol and Eurojust.
Executive Director of Europol Catherine De Bolle presented the case to me. She can be proud of her team.
By bringing together the best experts in Europe, they succeeded in gaining access to the encrypted EncroChat phone service, police could listen in real time to criminals plotting drug deals, violent crimes and murders across Europe.
Believing themselves safely hidden by encryption, criminals showed no restraint in hiding their violent intentions.
The Operational Taskforce at Europol has gathered millions of messages, and helped to alert national authorities in a number of European countries. The results highlighted the pivotal role of corruption in pursuing criminal activities.
These efforts helped to prevent murders, and so far to arrest at least 1000 suspects, seize 23,000 kilos of drugs, dismantle 14 drug labs, capture dozens of guns – including automatic firearms – and 90 million euro in cash.
These are Europol’s latest figures. As the operations are ongoing, these numbers are sure to increase.
More arrests are sure to follow.
Perhaps the most shocking find was a torture chamber – a soundproof cell with a dental chair, handcuffs, garden shears and scalpels.
Thankfully, police found it, before it was put to use.
More clear than any statistic, the images showing this premeditated intention to inflict pain and suffering illustrate the evil nature of organised crime.
The EncroChat example shows, that fighting organised crime depends on police cooperation at European level, between Europol and national law enforcement forces.
I want Europol to be able to do an even better job in supporting Member States in their fight against crime. Before the end of the year, I will present a proposal to strengthen Europol’s mandate.
And I won’t stop there.
To make it easier for law enforcement authorities to work together and share information, I will also table a proposal to modernise the EU legal framework for law enforcement cooperation.
We also aim to improve ways of data exchange in ongoing criminal investigations – such as DNA and fingerprints – by updating the legal framework (“Prüm”).
Besides policing, we need targeted policies.
Today I will present plans to fight three threats to our citizens: online child sexual abuse, drug smuggling and firearms trafficking.
Sexual abuse destroys children’s lives. Online child sexual abuse is increasing exponentially, from one million reports of child sexual abuse material in 2010, to 17 million in 2019. Under cover of the pandemic, predators are increasing their attacks on children.
The drug trade bankrolls organised crime. Drug traffickers also commit other serious crimes, such as trafficking of human beings and gun smuggling. And thousands of Europeans die of overdose related deaths.
Guns kill people. Worldwide 50 percent of murders are committed with a gun. There are 35 million illegal guns in Europe – over half the total firearms in the EU.
To combat these threats, I will present an EU Strategy for a more effective fight against child abuse, an EU Action Plan on firearms trafficking, and an EU Drugs Agenda and Action Plan.
One of the biggest threats to security is poverty.
If you lose your job, your house or your business and your family is suffering and a gangster offers to help you out – that might be tempting. But it’s a debt that will be paid back in more than money alone.
One day, you will be asked to do a favour. That’s how corruption begins.
I am very glad Member States this week approved the European Union’s new multi-annual budget, and a recovery fund to soften the economic blows of the pandemic – to total of 1.8 trillion euro.
Recovery will prevent criminals from getting a hold on society.