Joint investigations prized by SELEC

As an appreciation for the outstanding results and effective international cooperation, SELEC awarded the most noteworthy joint investigations carried out with SELEC’s support by the law enforcement authorities of our Member States 

The following joint investigations developed in the second semester of 2017 were prized:

First place 

Joint investigation PRATKA/VIRUS targeted dismantling an organized crime group that 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 corrupting Customs officers in all involved countries with the purpose to infiltrate a virus in the Customs’ computerized systems in order to avoid and save taxes. 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 or being former Bulgarian Customs officers. As result of this criminal activity the damages recorded by the Customs Agency, only for year 2015, was around 5 million Euro. It was determined that the members of the organized crime group invested the money obtained from these illegal activities in bitcoins; around 200,000 being found in the virtual space.

Joint investigation DARDANELI conducted among the competent authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Croatia and Montenegro, targeted an organized crime group involved in smuggling of migrants from Republic of Turkey through Bosnia and Herzegovina to Republic of Croatia and then further to the countries of the European Union. During May-June 2017, this organized crime group smuggled more than 100 illegal migrants, mostly citizens of Republic of Turkey, but also a group of Syrian citizens. The following modus operandi was identified: migrants were illegally smuggled across the border line bypassing border crossings, with the help of local guides who were members of the organized group. Turkish citizens legally entered into Bosnia and Herzegovina based on the free visa regime. The operation was successfully finalized, 21 persons being arrested. 

Second place 

Joint investigation PICASSO was successfully concluded following the swift exchange of information and 24/7 support provided by the Liaison Officers posted at SELEC, in July 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. Following the checks, 10 kg of heroin were found in a special concealment of a car, the traffickers being detained and the amount seized by the competent authorities. The following day, Turkish Police confiscated 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. This joint investigation codenamed PICASSO is still ongoing, further results being expected. 

Joint investigation COCKTAIL/ASPERA targeted dismantling an organized crime group involved in the smuggling of migrants predominantly coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The modus operandi was using facilitators and guides, the migrants being transported by cars on certain parts of the routes, via Republic of Serbia to Hungary, Austria and Germany. Several transports were stopped, part of the smugglers apprehended and close to 200 migrants were rescued by Hungarian and Serbian authorities. 

Third place

Joint investigation KIPE was an operation involving Romania and Republic of Moldova regarding an investigation against several suspects of Moldovan and Romanian nationality involved in installing skimming devices at ATMs from Bucharest. The purpose was to clone the information contained on credit cards and illegally withdraw money from the victims’ accounts, the estimated prejudice amounting 100,000 USD. During the searches three skimming devices and all necessary items for performing the fraudulent collection of data from ATMs were found at the suspects ‘residence. The data obtained illegally was transferred to other members of the organized crime group that performed illicit withdraws in USA, Peru and Australia. Five members of the organized crime group were apprehended.

Joint investigation EMANUIL developed between the competent authorities from The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Republic of Serbia dismantled an international organized crime group involved in the production, trade and transport of synthetic drugs, as well as illegal trafficking in precursors, with destination Republic and Turkey and probably Middle East. The exchange of information in this case was done through SELEC channel, which also supported several operational meetings between the involved case officers.

During the searches that were carried out in Tetovo/The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Police found a laboratory with sophisticated equipment for illicit production of synthetic drugs, a large quantity of pills and other raw materials, as well as a gun, two pistols and ammunition being seized. Two additional searches in the area of Skopje were performed during which other equipment (machines) was found, as well as 64 pills, 98 bags with powder substance, one pistol and ammunition. The illegal laboratory discovered in Tetovo is one of the biggest laboratories for illegal production of precursors and synthetic drugs discovered lately in South East Europe.
Following the forensic examination it was determined that the active component is Amphetamine, the pills being marked as “Kaptagon“.

The total amount of different substances seized is to be determined, until now 204,696 pills and 67 packs with a net weight of 35044 gr. were examined.

At the same time, within the coordinated joint action, in Republic of Serbia another illegal laboratory was found where the members of the organized crime group produced synthetic drugs, which were subsequently smuggled in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to be processed as pills.

7 members of the organized crime group are presently detained; the judicial procedures are still ongoing.