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Presidential foreword

Dear reader,

With the second quarter of 2021 in the rearview mirror, I invite you to look back at some of the main developments at Eurojust. In this newsletter, you will find more information about key events, operational results and recently published reports.

In a virtual conference organised by the German Embassy on 10 May, I presented Eurojust and the work we do to the Ambassadors of the Western Balkan countries. It was a great opportunity to highlight the importance of our partnership and I hope we will soon see the start of negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina in view of a cooperation agreement. I am also happy to report that our statistics show a strong increase in the year-on-year casework numbers with our partners in the region. This is in no small part due to the active involvement of the Western Balkan Liaison Prosecutors already present in The Hague, and they therefore deserve a special word of appreciation.

The second quarter also saw the Council approve the EMPACT priorities for the 2022-2025 period. They will steer some of the operational work and funding of the fight against organised crime in the next few years. On the following pages, you will therefore learn more about our upcoming EMPACT campaign and the webinar we are planning for September.

The EU’s internal security architecture took an important step with the launch of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office’s (EPPO) operational activities on 1 June. In the next period and based on the Working Arrangement we signed earlier this year, our cooperation with colleagues in Luxembourg will now start to take shape.

Finally, I invite you to have a closer look at some of our publications in recent months, such as the Eurojust Casework Report on the European Arrest Warrant and the Report on Drug Trafficking.

With summer around the corner and after a uniquely intense period through the COVID-19 pandemic, I wish you a well-deserved break and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Ladislav Hamran
President of Eurojust
In Focus
Prosecuting with EMPACT
Eurojust is currently rolling out an awareness campaign among judicial practitioners to promote the benefits of EMPACT, the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats. This security initiative driven by EU Member States widens the scope for prosecutors and investigative judges, enabling an integrated and long-term approach to tackle major crimes in key areas and increased learning experiences for all participants. The involvement of prosecutors at the early stages of investigations and actions is especially valuable to ensure these interventions lead to justice being done. As a well-proven, ready-made solution, EMPACT allows participants to make optimal use of exist¬ing capacities, resources and best practice during time-sensitive cases. EMPACT targets the most serious crimes threatening European citizens: complex, high-impact, cross-border criminal activities.

Eurojust’s website features a new dedicated section on EMPACT, including explanations, videos, leaflets and additional material. On 8 September 2021 (10:00-12:00 CEST), Eurojust will host the webinar ‘Prosecuting with EMPACT’, which will present the added value of the EU policy cycle in cross-border criminal investigations and prosecutions. The agenda includes:
  • Eurojust experiences with EMPACT cases
  • Input from Europol – how can prosecutors best make use of EMPACT
  • EMPACT in the future – plans of the European Commission

    Are you a judicial practitioner and would you like to know how EMPACT can help to advance your case? Please register under (entry code: EMPACT2021).
    Online conference with the Ambassadors of the Western Balkan countries
    At the invitation of the German Embassy in the Netherlands and in the framework of the Berlin Process, Eurojust President Hamran and Europol Executive Director De Bolle on 10 May participated in an online conference with the Ambassadors of the Western Balkan countries. The participants took stock of the current levels of cooperation with Eurojust and Europol and discussed how these could be further strengthened. Eurojust has cooperation agreements with four partner countries in the Western Balkans (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). We look forward to soon seeing the start of negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and hope that Kosovo can follow thereafter.

    The second quarter also saw the first joint evaluation meetings of the cooperation agreements with North Macedonia (16 June) and Serbia (28 June). Among the main observations in both cases was that casework had significantly increased since their Liaison Prosecutors joined Eurojust.
    Key publications of Eurojust translated
    Two key publications of Eurojust are now available in all 24 EU languages: the translations of the Annual Report 2020 and the Single Programming Document 2021-2023 have been added to the Eurojust website. The Annual Report describes how the Agency ensured full operational continuity in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the caseload increasing by 13% to more than 8 800 in total. The Single Programming Document presents Eurojust’s objectives, activities, expected results and performance indicators for the 2021-2023 period, as well as the related human and financial resources.
    Statement of Portuguese Minister of Justice Francisca Van Dunem on the conclusion of the Portuguese Council Presidency
    The first half of the year is over, the Portuguese Council Presidency has come to an end. In a statement published by Eurojust, Minister of Justice Francisca Van Dunem reflected on the progress made in the field of Justice & Home Affairs.
    Increase in actions against impunity for war crimes by Syrian regime
    Judicial authorities and civil society are stepping up actions to hold the Syrian regime accountable for torture and the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the armed conflict, which started ten years ago. In a landmark judgment, earlier this year the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz in Germany sentenced a Syrian to 4.5 years’ imprisonment for involvement in the torture of victims. Following a joint investigation team (JIT) between Germany and France, supported by Eurojust, another judgment is expected later this year.
    Further protecting the EU’s financial interests: Eurojust welcomes start of operations of the EPPO

    A new chapter is opened in the protection of the European Union’s budget and the strengthening of its anti-fraud architecture with the operational start of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). Based in Luxembourg, the EPPO will be responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgement criminal offences affecting the European Union’s financial interests. Building on its expertise in criminal justice cooperation in the EU and beyond, Eurojust will serve as a close partner of the EPPO in the efforts to protect the integrity of expenditures from the EU budget.

    First EJCN newsletter

    The European Judicial Cybercrime Network (EJCN) has published its first newsletter. The April-June issue features an overview of important cybercrime cases at Eurojust, such as EMOTET and SkyECC, relevant developments from the European Commission, and news on data retention, e-evidence and relevant trainings.

    Eurojust launches new scheme for urgent JIT funding

    To further step up the fight against serious organised cross-border crime, Eurojust is announcing the launch of a new scheme for the urgent funding of the cross-border operational activities of joint investigation teams (JITs). This offers targeted, short-term grants for JITs’ urgent and/or unforeseen activities.

    Casework highlights
    Coordinated action cuts off access to VPN service used by ransomware groups

    This week, law enforcement and judicial authorities in Europe, the US and Canada have seized the web domains and server infrastructure of DoubleVPN. This is a virtual private network (VPN) service which provided a safe haven for cybercriminals to attack their victims.

    Two arrests in Romania bring large-scale online fraud in the Dutch rental market to a halt

    As a result of a joint cybercrime investigation supported by Eurojust, Romanian and Dutch authorities have arrested two suspects in Romania who were allegedly involved in large-scale online fraud in the housing market in the Netherlands since 2015. The suspects posted fake advertisements for apartments for rent on online platforms and convinced hundreds of victims to pay one or two months’ rent without first visiting the property.

    Ancient archaeological collection returned to Italy from Belgium with help of Eurojust

    An ancient and rare collection of almost 800 Apulian archaeological artefacts and pieces of pottery has been returned to Italy from Belgium, with crucial support from Eurojust. The archaeological goods illegally obtained by a Belgian art collector had been excavated without authorisation in Puglia, Italy. The collection, which dates as far back as 600 B.C., includes a rare Daunian stele, or funerary artefact, that had been shown at expositions in Paris and Geneva. Eurojust ensured the judicial cooperation between the two countries for the collection to return to the Puglia region. The collection has a preliminary estimated value of EUR 11 million.

    Support to action against forced prostitution of female victims in Romania and UK

    Authorities in Romania and the United Kingdom have taken decisive action against a criminal network, which exploited female victims for sexual purposes in Northern Ireland, using the so-called ‘lover-boy method’. During a joint action day, nine suspects were arrested in Romania and two in Northern Ireland. Female victims who were sexually exploited have also been identified and their rights and safety will be ensured. Eurojust provided the financial support to set up a joint investigation team (JIT) into the case and organised judicial cross-border cooperation.

    Sentences for Belgian suspects in fipronil egg contamination case

    The Belgian court of Antwerp has sentenced three suspects in the so-called fipronil egg contamination case to prison sentences ranging from one year effective to 18 months suspended for endangering public health. The court awarded millions of EUR in of damages to the civil parties as well. In April this year, two Dutch suspects were sentenced to one year in prison for the illegal sale of the potentially harmful insecticide fipronil to poultry farms. Eurojust assisted with investigations into the case in 2017 and provided assistance in setting up and operating a joint investigation team (JIT) between Belgium and the Netherlands, to support judicial action against the suspects.

    Ten arrests following controlled delivery of nearly 1 500 kilograms of heroin across Europe

    Following a controlled delivery of drugs across Europe led by Romanian judicial and law enforcement authorities, coordinated arrests of ten suspected members of an organised crime group trafficking large quantities of heroin to Europe took place in Belgium, the Netherlands and Romania.

    Eurojust supports Spanish action against massive VAT fraud

    Eurojust has supported an operation against large-scale VAT fraud, money laundering and forgery of documents, which have cost the Spanish tax authorities EUR 26 million in missed revenues. In record time, the Agency coordinated the judicial cooperation with Slovakia, Belgium and the Netherlands to halt the fraud scheme. The scammers had set up a series of fake companies to avoid paying VAT within the internal market. During an action day, 22 suspects were arrested and 24 places were searched. A total of 13 properties and 16 vehicles were seized, and tens of bank accounts were frozen.

    Coordinated action to stop online investment swindle, defrauding victims for approximately EUR 30 million

    At the request of the German authorities, Eurojust and Europol have assisted in bringing four different online investment scams to a halt, which defrauded thousands of victims for an estimated amount of approximately EUR 30 million. During a joint action day, six suspects have been arrested for organising a fake trading scheme in high-risk options and cryptocurrencies, using manipulated software to project victims’ alleged capital gains. The operation was rolled out on the ground in Bulgaria, Poland, Sweden, Latvia, Spain, North Macedonia and Israel.

    New action at EU level against ‘Ndrangheta in Italy and Germany

    In a new major operation against international drug trafficking and money laundering, Eurojust and Europol have supported the competent Italian and German authorities with the arrest of 31 suspects in both countries, alleged to be part of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, operating in different regions of Italy and abroad. Further to this, in the context of a joint investigation team (JIT) between Italy and Germany, 65 other suspects have been identified and their places were searched during a large-scale action, for which around 800 police officers and tax officials were deployed today in both countries.

    Eurojust supports action by Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania against steroid trafficking network

    With judicial support from Eurojust, authorities in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania have taken action against an organised crime group (OCG) which was involved in the production, distribution and sale of steroids and other illegal hormonal substances. During an action day coordinated by Eurojust, a production facility in Romania was seized and dismantled, and more than 20 suspects were arrested. The estimated profits of the OCG amounted to several million EUR.

    At Eurojust
    56th EJN Plenary meeting held under Portuguese Presidency

    On 29 June 2021, the 56th Plenary meeting of the EJN took place under the Portuguese Presidency in the online environment. Almost 100 participants - EJN Contact Points from the EU Member States, EU candidate, potential candidate and EJN associated countries, as well as representatives from Eurojust, EJCN, Genocide network, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU – gathered to discuss actual topics on judicial cooperation in criminal matters: EAW, e-evidence and freezing and confiscation.

    Serbian cases at Eurojust strongly increase in first year since appointment of Liaison Prosecutor

    Serbia has considerably increased judicial cooperation with EU Member States in the first year since the appointment of the Serbian Liaison Prosecutor at Eurojust. The total number of newly registered cases with Serbian involvement at the Agency rose by 62.5% in 2020. During the first evaluation meeting on the cooperation agreement, the Republic’s Public Prosecutor of Serbia, Ms Zagorka Dolovac, and the President of Eurojust, Mr Ladislav Hamran, expressed their great satisfaction with the implementation of the agreement.

    Eurojust and EU Fundamental Rights Agency want to increase further cooperation

    Eurojust and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) intend to increase their cooperation in future, with regards to the ongoing review and strengthening of the FRA Regulation. In view of this, Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran and FRA Executive Director Michael O’Flaherty discussed potential areas for cooperation in judicial matters such as facial recognition technology, detention-related topics, access to lawyers and victims’ rights.

    Prosecutor General of Estonia visits Eurojust to discuss cooperation

    The Prosecutor General of Estonia, Mr Andres Parmas, has discussed the continued cross-border cooperation of his judicial authorities with Eurojust during a visit to the Agency. In a meeting with Vice-President Mr Boštjan Škrlec, the relations between Eurojust and the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) were another main point of discussion, as well as future developments at the Agency and the continuation of operational activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Parmas also visited the Estonian National Desk at Eurojust, headed by National Member Ms Laura Vaik.

    Judicial experts discuss latest trends in cybercrime and support to victims of malware

    Judicial experts and practitioners in the field of cybercrime discussed new trends in their domain and how to tailor investigations during the 10th Plenary Meeting of the European Judicial Cybercrime Network (EJCN). The EJCN Plenary, hosted by Eurojust in an online format, also gave special attention to supporting victims of cybercrime. One of the particular topics in this regard was the recent taking down of the EMOTET malware bot in a major cross-border operation with support from Eurojust and Europol.

    12th CrimEx discusses roadmap towards EuroMed Judicial Network

    The establishment of a EuroMed Judicial Network of contact points (EMJNet) is one the main objectives of the new phase of the EuroMed Justice Programme, hosted by Eurojust since May 2020. This network will be composed of practitioners who can assist with requests for international judicial cooperation in criminal matters and who will strengthen the contacts and the operational cooperation between criminal justice authorities from South Partner Countries (SPCs) and EU Member States.

    Genocide Network case-law compendium updated
    In May and early July, the Genocide Network case-law compendium has been updated with new successful convictions in Member States for war crimes and terrorism-related offences.
    Discussion on upcoming EU Presidency with Slovenian Justice Minister Kozlovič

    To prepare for the upcoming Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Eurojust hosted a meeting with the then Justice Minister of Slovenia, Ms Lilijana Kozlovič. During this meeting with Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran and Vice-President Mr Boštjan Škrlec (National Member for Slovenia), existing judicial cooperation with Slovenia and future strategic initiatives were also discussed.

    Ms Daniela Buruiana appointed as National Member for Romania

    Ms Daniela Buruiana has been appointed as new National Member for Romania at Eurojust, by the Minister of Justice of Romania, HE Mr Stelian-Cristian Ion. Ms Buruiana has long-standing experience as a senior prosecutor within the Romanian Prosecution Service and previously served as National Member for Romania at the Agency.

    Eurojust reports
    Report on Eurojust’s Casework in the Field of the European Arrest Warrant

    The aim of this report is to inform both practitioners and policymakers of the main difficulties encountered in the practical application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) on the basis of Eurojust’s casework and to highlight, where relevant, the role that the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) has played in overcoming such difficulties. Between 2017 and 2020, 2 235 cases involving EAWs were registered at Eurojust. The report clearly indicates that there are still several ongoing issues with the use of the EAW and that Eurojust has played an important role in facilitating cooperation and ensuring coordination in both bilateral and multilateral cases involving EAWs.

    Cybercrime Judicial Monitor - Issue 6

    The European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) presents this sixth issue of the Cybercrime Judicial Monitor (CJM). The CJM is published once per year and distributed to judicial and law enforcement authorities active in the field of combating cybercrime and cyber-enabled crime. It is produced on the basis of information provided by members of the European Judicial Cybercrime Network (EJCN). All issues of the CJM are available on the Eurojust website.

    The Impact of COVID-19 on Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters

    From the early stages of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Eurojust’s casework showed that practitioners in the Member States were facing various difficulties in dealing with cases involving judicial cooperation in criminal matters. These issues were repercussions of the measures implemented by the Member States to combat the spread of COVID-19 and affected all instruments commonly applied in the field of judicial cooperation. Furthermore, the unprecedented social changes triggered by the pandemic created new opportunities for organised crime groups to gain illicit profit.

    Eurojust Report on Drug trafficking

    Drug trafficking remains a highly lucrative market worldwide, with an estimated value of EUR 30 billion per year in the European Union alone. The overall impact on societies has dramatic consequences – for healthcare, governance, economics and other indirectly affected areas. This impact also affects law enforcement and judicial authorities, which find themselves overwhelmed by the steep increase of drug trafficking cases. Many EU Member States struggle to allocate sufficient resources to the fight against highly flexible organised crime groups acting across borders.

    Eurojust Expert Workshops on Violent Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism

    Eurojust Expert Workshops on violent right-wing extremism and terrorism brought together judicial practitioners and counter-terrorism (CT) experts to share experience and identify common legal and operational challenges in investigating and prosecuting offences committed by right-wing extremist and terrorist groups and lone actors.

    Third report of the observatory function on encryption

    Access to data-in-clear of encrypted communications and stored data presents several difficult and controversial issues and continues to create tensions between key stakeholders, including law enforcement and the judiciary and civil society organisations, leaving policy makers with the mammoth task of balancing all the important considerations in this debate.

    Eurojust Guidelines on How to Prosecute Investment Fraud

    In these guidelines, Eurojust provides an overview of the legal and operational issues that prosecutors may come across and explains how Eurojust and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) can help to bring investment fraud prosecutions to a successful end.

    Looking ahead
    • 8 September 2021: Webinar ‘Prosecuting with EMPACT’ (for details, see ‘In Focus’ section above)
    • 14 and 15 September 2021: 13th CrimEx meeting of the EuroMed Justice Programme, focusing on the update of EMJ tools and CrimEx docs
    • September: Eurojust Written Recommendations on Jurisdiction
    • 8 October 2021: Eurojust Open Day (details to be announced soon on Eurojust’s website)
    • 18 October 2021: Joint report of the Justice and Home Affairs agencies’ network (JHAAN) on the protection of the victims of human trafficking, to be published under Eurojust’s lead on the occasion of the EU Anti-Trafficking Day
    • Q3/Q4: Eurojust Report on Counter-Terrorism
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    Catalogue number: QP-AH-21-002-EN-Q

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