According to Europol director Rob Wainwright, the internet, and especially the darknet, is the “new field of action” of organized criminals in the European Union.
The Europol director emphasized that the internet is used by criminals to illicit activities and trafficking of all kinds: the smuggling of weapons and narcotics, the spread of online child sexual abuse material. This was stated on April 24 before the Justice Committee of the European Parliament by Europol Director Rob Wainwright, presenting the report of the agency for the year of 2017 on organized crime. Wainwright had stressed the need to establish greater cooperation between the EU Member States to effectively combat international crime, and in particular what is happening online.
“Each type of illicit goods is traded online or criminal legal contexts,” said Wainwright talking about the current size of cybercrime in Europe, “It [the illegal activities] is conducted on the darknet to sell narcotics, illicit weapons, and other illicit goods.” The director of Europol said that the current one percent of the most successful vendors on dark net markets and forums add up to about 50 percent of all transactions. Wainwright also added that more than a third of the organized crime groups active in the European Union are involved in the sale of drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and synthetic drugs of all kinds.
According to the Europol, the darknet becomes a useful tool for criminals taking part in “offline activities”.
“The number of burglaries had increased in the recent years,” said Wainwright, noting that “the thieves use various online services to design their own acts: leverage social media (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to locate the owners of properties, and satellite maps to intervene with precision.” To cope with this technological dimension of criminal organizations in the EU, the director recommended a more comprehensive training for law enforcement authorities within the Union. “We must change the culture, we need technology training for investigators,” said Wainwright, calling at the same time for a “greater coordination between national authorities.”
The Europol Director also spoke of new crimes that are spreading within the European Union and attracting the attention of both national and international law enforcement agencies. Among them is smuggling, “a market [for criminals] strongly growing in the EU, which attracts several criminal groups and takes between 3 and 5 billion in revenue,” said Wainwright. “We are very concerned that they provide false identity documents to migrants and rental properties. Trafficking in human beings for labor exploitation is also on the rise. The migration crisis has had a major impact on traffic, and unaccompanied children are the most exposed to these risks,” he explained to the Justice Committee. However, according to Wainwright, the biggest problems occur outside of the EU, “especially in the Middle East and Africa.” For solving this, according to the director of the Europol, “serves a dialogue with third world countries in order to understand where the criminal act is” and stop them before they act within the Union.
The Europol had realized the issues cybercriminals could cause to the victims of specific countries or regions, and it looks like the agency is focusing hard on avoiding such things from happening. On April 11, the Brazilian government and Europol signed a strategic agreement to work more closely together to combat cybercrime and other forms of cross-border crime. The agreement allows the exchange of general strategic intelligence and strategic technical and operational information, with the exception of personal data. The latter, if exchanged between the Brazilian government and the Europol, could be against privacy rights. This new agreement will enable cooperation between the two participants in important areas in addition to cybercrime, such as the smuggling of migrants, drug trafficking, and money laundering. A Brazilian liaison officer is to be seconded to Europol under the terms of the agreement, which was signed by Europol director Rob Wainwright and Leandro Coimbra, director general of the Brazilian Federal Police. According to the officials, this new level of cooperation will be important for tackling priority crime areas affecting both the European Union and Brazil.