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SELEC organized the annual Anti-Drug Trafficking Task Force meeting

The 23rd meeting of the Anti-Drug Trafficking Task Force was held at the SELEC Headquarters in Bucharest, on October 17th 2017, with the participation of SELEC Member States and Partner countries’ experts, as well as representatives of EUBAM and Interpol.

Mr. Romulus N. Ungureanu, Director for Operations of SELEC and Mr. Svetlin Danailov, Task Force Co-Manager, chaired the meeting and presented the latest activities developed in the framework of the Anti-Drug Trafficking Task Force, as well as the excellent results obtained in this field by the Member States’ law enforcement authorities, with SELEC support.

The Acting Director General of SELEC, Mrs. Snejana Maleeva, addressed opening remarks during which she underlined that SELEC’s mission is to support its Member States in preventing and countering this crime, as drug trafficking in Southeastern Europe remains a serious concern that law enforcement institutions are constantly dealing with.

During the meeting, the most noteworthy anti-drug trafficking joint investigations conducted by the Member States under SELEC’s coordination and support were presented by the representatives of the Member countries and partners. (read more)

The 3rd INTERPOL CT Committee Meeting hosted by SELEC

During 2-4 October 2017 SELEC hosted the 3rd INTERPOL CT Committee Meeting for the MENA region with the participation of officers from six Middle East and North Africa countries and representatives of international organizations such as SELEC, Europol, NATO and UNODC.

The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to improve the exchange of information between counter-terrorism experts from the Middle East and North Africa, and to provide a better understanding of INTERPOL’s projects in the region. Further developing the law enforcement cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism was also a topic of the discussions.

Mr. Romulus N. Ungureanu, Director for Operations, presented SELEC’s activities and tasks, with a focus on the actions developed in the framework of SELEC Anti-Terrorism Task Force, stating that “Increasing the international cooperation as a response to the new terrorist attacks and improving the tolls available for the investigators, in parallel with an intensive preventive and proactive action are definitely ways to move further and to insure a secure and safe environment in our societies for the citizens around the world. Equally we should envisage and increase communication with private sector, social media platforms, internet providers, financial entities in order to access particular type of expertise and legally support the investigations and the efforts against terrorism”.

The three-day meeting provided an opportunity to create synergies between national and international institutions involved in the fight against terrorism, supported by INTERPOL's global capabilities.

INTERPOL is a long term partner of the Center, currently having the status of Operational Partner with SELEC.

The Annual Meeting of the Heads of Combating Organized Crime Agencies from Southeast Europe

During 19-22 September 2017, the Director for Operations of SELEC, Mr. Romulus N. Ungureanu, attended the 14th Edition of the Annual Meeting of the Heads of Combating Organized Crime Agencies from Southeast Europe. The meeting, held in Sibiu/Romania, was organized by the Romanian Police, the Embassy of the United States of America and Hanns Seidel Foundation.
The event gathered experts in preventing and combating organized crime from specialized authorities, as well as representatives of international organizations, such as Europol, Interpol, Frontex and SELEC.
Mr. Ungureanu presented the role of SELEC, a unique law enforcement organization gathering Police and Customs, in preventing and combating trans-border organized crime in the Southeast European region.
The meeting also offered the opportunity for the participants to have various debates, evaluations and bilateral meetings concerning the international dimension of organized criminality.

Successful joint investigation on migrants’ smuggling

In mid-July 2017, the competent law enforcement authorities from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia undertook multiple measures and activities to arrest the members of an organized criminal group constituted of nationals from Republic of Albania, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and individuals from the Middle East, who were dealing with smuggling migrants. 23 individuals were charged on serious grounds they’ve committed the criminal acts of “Smuggling migrants” and “Organizing a group and encouraging someone to commit the crime of trafficking in human beings”.

The members of the organized criminal group, led by foreign illegal migrants from the Middle East countries, in collaboration with members of the organized criminal group from Republic of Albania, Hellenic Republic and Republic of Serbia, organized the smuggling of migrants from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Hellenic Republic to Republic of Serbia by using illegal crossing points.  Most of the migrants originated from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, as well as from the Middle and Far East.

In the following days, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s Police intercepted an illegal transport of 12 migrants transported by car, driven by one of the organizers. House searches were performed and 2 more migrants were found in the villages area. At the same time, 14 individuals, members of the organized criminal group, were arrested, 6 vehicles, many telephone devices and SIM cards, almost 30,000 €, and 1 pistol being seized.

Due to the fact that the criminal activities of the organized criminal group had international dimensions, for the success of this case it was important to have an effective international police collaboration during the process of identifying, targeting, profiling and suppressing of the group. The law enforcement cooperation and the exchange of information were done through SELEC, which also supported the organization of several operational meetings in the countries involved in this operation code-named JASTREB/FALCON.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’ law enforcement officers awarded by SELEC

The ceremony for awarding the law enforcement officers for Operation ODZA took place on August 14th 2017, at the headquarters of the Department for Organized and Serious Crime, in Skopje, in the presence of Mr. Laze Jovanovski, Head of Department for Organized and Serious Crime, Mr. Aleksandar Jovanov, Head of Sector for International Police Cooperation and Mr. Goran Ristovski, SELEC Liaison Officer.

Joint investigation ODZA was developed between Republic of Bulgaria and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and targeted an organized criminal group dealing with drug trafficking. 108 kg marijuana in value of 500,000 Euro was seized and 4 persons were arrested.

SELEC awards the successful joint investigations carried out by the law enforcement authorities of its Member States, as an appreciation for the excellent cooperation and significant results obtained.

44 kg of heroin and 9 kg of marijuana seized during a SELEC coordinated operation

Based on the swift exchange of information and 24/7 support provided by the Liaison Officers posted at SELEC, on July 27th, 2017 the Bulgarian and Turkish authorities succeeded dismantling an organized criminal group dealing with drug trafficking from Republic of Turkey to Western Europe via Hellenic Republic, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and other countries on the route. The heroin was transported by a car, which was under the constant surveillance of the Turkish Police. Following the checks, 10 kg of heroin were found in a special concealment of the car, the traffickers being detained and the amount seized by the competent authorities. The following day, Turkish Police confiscated, from the location where the vehicle was loaded, an additional amount of 34 kg heroine and 9 kg marijuana, as well as a handgun and ammunition. 18 persons were arrested in this case.

Joint investigation codenamed PICASSO is still ongoing, further results being expected.

Excellent coordination among three law enforcement authorities in an illegal drug trafficking case

The law enforcement authorities of Republic of Albania, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Hellenic Republic successfully concluded joint investigation VECTOR/FRANKLIN that targeted dismantling two organized criminal groups dealing with illegal trafficking of drugs in the region.

The investigation revealed that initially two citizens from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia organized in February 2017 the purchase of marijuana from Republic of Albania, arranging its transport to the territory of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, through the lake of Ohrid.

As a result of the intensive exchange of information done through SELEC channel, the competent authorities of Republic of Albania managed to arrest 4 persons and seize 10,762 kg heroin and 10 kg of cannabis, the law enforcement authorities from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia arrested 8 persons and seized, in two cases, a total of 40,955 kg marijuana, while the Hellenic Republic authorities recorded 38 arrests and seized 316,181 kg of cannabis, as well as 166 cannabis plants, 2 speedboats and 70 cell-phones used to coordinate the illegal drug trafficking.

The investigation is still ongoing in two of the involved countries, additional results following to be reported.

Launching conference of the project SIRAS- Strengthening the fight against firearms trafficking in Southeastern Europe

On 8-9 June 2017, in Bucharest/Romania, took place the launching conference of the Project SIRAS- Strengthening the fight against the firearms trafficking in Southeastern Europe, and the first meeting of the Steering Committee back-to-back with the End-user group meeting, project funded by the European Union.

Project SIRAS, with a duration of 23 months, will be implemented by the Romanian Police, as lead partner,  together with SELEC and law enforcement authorities from Republic of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Bulgaria and Italian Republic.

The main objectives of the project are creating a network of experts in the field of combating the dark-net traffic of firearms, drafting a standard in this field that will be translated in all SELEC Member States’ languages and opening a training center where more than 50 officers from the Southeastern Europe will receive specialized training.

Further results of the joint investigation PEKOM in the field of cultural heritage smuggling

Joint investigation PEKOM, conducted by the Bulgarian and Turkish authorities, as mentioned in the post from February 2017, targeted dismantling an organized criminal group dealing with cultural heritage objects’ smuggling.

The joint investigation was initiated based on the intensive exchange of information done through the SELEC Channel and organization of several operational meetings supported by SELEC, during which the Bulgarian and Turkish law enforcement officers and prosecutors met in order to coordinate and decide on the proceedings.

The operation started with two suspects being arrested in France while trying to sell artifacts in an auction house. Within the operation, two seizures were made in Republic of Turkey with more than 800 artifacts and several arrests. Following these seizures, in both countries further searches were performed, during which more than 1400 historical and archeological artifacts were found in Republic of Bulgaria and 1600 in Republic of Turkey.  

In the last phase of the operation, in Republic of Bulgaria, on 26 May 2017, around 1500 artifacts were seized and 29 suspects have been detained, including the main organizer.

As an official estimation was not yet performed, from experts’ evaluation the value of the smuggled objects, on the black market, consist in millions of Euro.

The 14th session of the SELEC Council

The 14th session of the SELEC Council took place on May 30th 2017, at SELEC Headquarters located in Bucharest/Romania, with the participation of high-level representatives from SELEC Member States, Operational Partners and Observers, as well as from Republic of Belarus, Europol, Regional Cooperation Council, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and SEEPAG.

As the Chairmanship of the Council for the year 2017 belongs to Montenegro, Mr. Dejan Djurovic, Head of International Police Cooperation within the Ministry of Interior of Montenegro, chaired the meeting, being supported by the Croatian Vice-Chairman, Mr. Dalibor Juric, Head of Sector for Support of Criminal Police from the Ministry of Interior of Republic of Croatia.

The agenda, consisting mainly in items related to budgetary matters, projects’ applications, activities’ reporting and applications for Observer status, were presented by the Director General of SELEC, Mr. Toni Jakimovski, who also briefed the participants about the latest developments in SELEC.

The Annual report, reflecting the achievements of SELEC during 2016, was endorsed by the Council members, while the Action and Working Plan of SELEC for the year 2018 was approved unanimously.

Among the financial matters discussed, the Council approved SELEC’s Revised Budget for 2017, the Budget for 2018 and the Five-Year Financial Plan 2017-2021, documents needed for the proper execution of all activities of the organization and for assuring appropriate funding for the operational activities which represent the main goal of SELEC.

Following the decision of the Council, Republic of Belarus and GCC- Criminal Information Center to Combat Drugs joined SELEC as Observers, summing up to 20 the number of countries and organizations that were granted the Observer status with SELEC.

During the meeting, Europol’s representatives mentioned that Europol is ready to collaborate with SELEC, to share its expertise and offer its support, so as to join the efforts of both organizations in ensuring the security in the region.

The next Council session is tentatively planned to be held in the second half of November 2017.

More than 200,000 bitcoins in value of 500 million USD seized by the Bulgarian authorities

On May 19, 2017, with SELEC‘ support, the Bulgarian authorities successfully finalized the joint investigation PRATKA/VIRUS in the field of cybercrime, committed  by compromising the countries Customs computerized systems in order to avoid and save taxes. The organized criminal group consisted in Bulgarian nationals having connections in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hellenic Republic, Romania and Republic of Serbia. The modus operandi used was recruiting corrupted Customs officers in all involved countries with the purpose to infiltrate a virus in the Customs’ computerized systems. Once the virus installed, from distance, the offenders were able to finalize various transports, as in the Customs’ system appeared that the cargo was already checked and passed.

The Bulgarian authorities have searched more than 100 addresses, suspects and vehicles. A large quantity of money was seized, as well as equipment, devices for communication, computers, tablets, bank documents, etc. 23 suspects were arrested, 5 of them acting as Bulgarian Customs officers. As result of this criminal activity the damages recorded by the Customs Agency, only for year 2015, is around 10 million Euro. As well, up to now were found in the virtual space bitcoin wallets of the main suspects with a total value of 213,519 bitcoins. As a reference, the value of one bitcoin is rating to 2354 USD. The offenders choose the bitcoin way of investing/saving the money, because it is  rather difficult to be tracked and followed.

The judicial procedures against the offenders are currently ongoing, eight of them being already permanently detained.

Countering Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migration Task Force Meeting

Bucharest, May 24th, 2017 - The 24th Task Force Mirage on Countering Trafficking in Human Beings and Illegal Migration was held on 23 May 2017, at the SELEC premises in Bucharest/Romania, with the participation of law enforcement experts in the field from all SELEC Member States, as well as from Partner states and organizations.

Opening remarks were addressed by Mr. Romulus N. Ungureanu, Director for Operations and by Mr. Eliodor Tanislav, Mirage Task Force Manager, Romanian Liaison Officer posted at SELEC, who mentioned about the migration phenomenon that affected the region and about the potential connections to terrorist organizations, as emerged from the countries’ recent experiences.

SELEC support to its Member States and Partners in countering trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants was highlighted by Mr. Ungureanu, who encouraged the Member States to use SELEC channel and capabilities for the swift exchange of information, for the support in organizing joint investigations and regional operations and for the analytical products that are developed (read more) .