Three agreements between the Republic of Serbia and the Argentine Republic incorporated into national legislation

Three agreements between the Republic of Serbia and the Argentine Republic incorporated into national legislation

Extradition of defendants and convicted persons is one of the burning issues when speaking about the fight against transnational organised crime. Back in 2018, the Ministry of Justice in Serbia was approached by the Europol counterpart, stressing involvement of Serbian citizens in criminal actions in South America, especially in Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru. The main precondition for breaking transnational organised crime is signing of agreements between relevant countries on mutual legal assistance, extradition, and transfer of sentenced persons.

The CSC WB project was able to support our partners in Serbia in fostering increased communication, coordination, and operationalisation with the Argentinean counterparts in order to create an environment for a closer, more active, and more efficient cooperation. In that manner, representatives of the Serbian Ministry of Justice visited their counterparts in Argentina, initiating this important journey towards a systemic approach to criminal groups in Argentina and Serbia. The first formal round of negotiations was held in 2018,  and in early 2019, the agreement was signed at the official visit by the Argentinian Minister of Justice to EUROJUST.

The efforts of negotiations and agreements reached between the two governments have recently resulted in incorporation of the agreements into the national legislation of Serbia:

  1. Extradition Treaty between the Republic of Serbia and the Argentine Republic
  2. Treaty between the Republic of Serbia and the Argentine Republic on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters
  3. Treaty between the Republic of Serbia and the Argentine Republic on the transfer of sentenced persons and on cooperation in the enforcement of penal sentences

The positive effects of such bilateral agreements are not only affecting Serbia and/or Argentina and their neighbouring countries, but the effect goes beyond: According to EUROPOL, the drugs which would have been smuggled from South America tend to be transported to the EU countries as their final destination. Smugglers often come from the Western Balkans region[1], and very often have dual citizenship, of which Serbian is one.

Bilateral agreements constitute the legal basis for acting in the field of international legal assistance with other countries, where special emphasis is put on the countries where the track record of cooperation is growing, or where cases are very serious, especially when serious criminal offenses are concerned. The CSC WB project is consciously committed in fostering networking and strategic cooperation among relevant counterparts of the Western Balkans, the EU and on the international level.

[1] SOCTA report 2021, page 19: “More than 50 % of all reported suspected organised criminals active in the EU are non-EU nationals. Half of these non-EU nationals originate from countries in the EU’s neighbourhood, such as the Western Balkan region, eastern European countries, and North Africa.”12 April 2021. European Union serious and organised crime threat assessment | Europol (europa.eu). Accessed 24 June 2021.

 

New Head of Project meets the Chief Prosecutor in Bosnia-Herzegovina

New Head of Project meets the Chief Prosecutor in Bosnia-Herzegovina

On 22.6.2021 Mr Oliver Janser, the new Head of the Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019 (CSC WB) project met the Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms Gordana Tadić and her associates. The Resident EU Prosecutor, as a member of the project’s Embedded Country Team in Bosnia-Herzegovina, attended the meeting as well. The role of the Resident EU Prosecutor was praised by the Chief Prosecutor, as the expert support on concrete cases provided so far has been highly efficient and coherent. The overall cooperation between the CSC WB project and the Prosecution has been presented as trustful and professional, with the outlook to continuously and systematically combat serious and organised crime in the Western Balkans by strengthening the capacities and involvement of each Western Balkan country into EU and international networks, platforms and overall cooperation in the field of countering serious and organised crime.

Photo Source: Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fact-finding visit of Albanian State Police delegation at International Operations Room, Italy

Fact-finding visit of Albanian State Police delegation at International Operations Room, Italy

The CSC WB project organised a four-day fact-finding visit from 15 – 18 June 2021 for the Albanian State Police delegation, visiting the Criminal Police Central Directorate and other relevant structures in Italy, in the framework of the project’s annual activity planning “Sharing of operational information and interoperability of systems and databases”. The Albanian beneficiary was represented by the Director of Information Technology Directorate, Director of Support Services Department, and the Head of the Support Services Sector.

During the fact-finding visit the participants had the opportunity to exchange and find new insights into the strategic approach to sharing of operational information and interoperability of systems and databases and gain practical knowledge through meetings that were held with the Italian counterparts related to the single point of contact (SPOC), interoperability of police databases, systems and methodologies applied in line with EU standards. One of CSC WB key objective is to facilitate partnerships amongst the Western Balkan countries and European countries and partner agencies This visit presented an excellent opportunity to expand networking between the Western Balkans and European partners and subsequently exchanging lessons learned.

Furthermore, through the on-site visits at various structures, such as the EUROPOL National Unit, Interpol Office, Data Processing Center, Cyber Security Operations Center, API/PNR Control Room, DNA division, Schengen Database, National Electronic Center, etc., it has been possible to closely observe the on-site and functioning of the afore-mentioned structures, organization, responsibilities and work procedures, hardware and software, cooperation and coordination mechanisms and instruments, etc.

On the other hand, the ASP representatives shared their experience, hindrances, and future expectations in this regard, which was also beneficial for the Italian counterparts.

Lastly, the Albanian delegation was received by the Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the Italian Republic, HE Anila Bitri, who emphasized the crucial importance of strong bilateral cooperation and partnership between the two countries’ security authorities and, congratulated both parties, the Albanian representatives of the State Police and the CSC WB Project, for the fruitful work done in this respect, hitherto.

As stated by the Director of Support Services Department, Ms. Nevila Xoxa, this visit will foster the    enhancement and highlight the importance for the Albanian SPOC and the related interoperability of systems and databases.

 

Photo Source: IMoI

From operative meetings to operative actions

From operative meetings to operative actions

 

The mutual cooperation between the CSC WB IPA 2019 Project and the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of North Macedonia continues to produce further operative and concrete results on the ground. To this name, in a jointly coordinated action on the territory of Austria by anti-drug police officers from the Department for Suppression of Organized and Serious Crime and the Federal Criminal Police of Austria, during the month of May in the vicinity of Vienna, three large illegal laboratories for production of marijuana were discovered and more than 2000 marijuana plants were seized. The labs were equipped with sophisticated equipment and located in the basement of three residential buildings.

The operative action comes on the back of an operative meeting held in Vienna from 3rd to 5th May where the Project supported North Macedonian police officers who provided operative information to their Austrian counterparts related to this concrete international organized crime group involved in illegal production and smuggling of narcotics, at the same time delivering exact locations of the suspected laboratories located in the outskirts of Vienna.

In the action, the Austrian police arrested three people who directly participated in the cultivation and further sale of the narcotic drug and are part of a larger international organized crime group, which operates in several countries in Europe. According to the Ministry of Interior of North Macedonia, the seized drug is a special hybrid variety of cannabis, with a high percentage of THC (psychoactive substance), with the street name “Amnesia”, which on the illegal drug market in Western European countries could reach a price of up to 10,000 euros per kilogram.

The CSC WB IPA 2019 Project continues to provide valuable support to the beneficiaries in their efforts to prevent, investigate, detect and prosecute organized criminal groups involved in transnational criminal activities.

The report by the North Macedonian police about the action can be found here: https://mvr.gov.mk/vest/16108

Photo source: Austrian Police

Visit of CSC WB experts in Kosovo* aiming at improving interoperability and SPOC enhancement

Visit of CSC WB experts in Kosovo* aiming at improving interoperability and SPOC enhancement

On 15 June 2021 a delegation of experts from the project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019 (CSC WB) has begun the second round of visits aimed at improving the beneficiaries’ abilities in the field of interoperability and SPOC (Single Point(s) of Contact) enhancement – by visiting Kosovo*. The delegation is meeting the representatives of the International Legal Cooperation Unit and of the IT sector who are responsible for the implementation of the database and system interoperability at an international level.

The importance of the interoperability in the field of fighting organized crime was stressed by the Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs Mr. Blerim Gashani: “The interoperability is important for Kosovo`s* law enforcement agencies as the increased flow of information sharing directly leads to the overall security increase”.

The in-depth analysis which will last from 15th to 18th June 2021 will provide an detailed outlook for the way forward, as stressed by Mr. Antonio Montanaro, deputy Project Leader of the CSC WB on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs: “ By working hand-in-hand with our project partners we expect to acquaint Kosovo`s* police databases with its systems state of art and compatibility, define the gaps for an efficient connection with the international databases and systems, assess the implementation costs and draw a timeline for concrete procurements.”

Despite the shortcomings related to the COVID 19 pandemic, it has been possible to realize the meetings in Kosovo*, especially due to the determination of the local authorities to introduce the delegation to all the interested parties as well as the stakeholders, which is highly appreciated.

In this regard, Kosovo* is the second beneficiary country to be visited. We have reported about our first visit to Albania here.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

Photo Source: Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs (IMoI)

50 kg marijuana seized in North Macedonia

50 kg marijuana seized in North Macedonia

On 10th June near Prilep, North Macedonia in an operative action performed by North Macedonian police officers, a suspected truck with Albanian plates was stopped and searched and as a result two large bags containing 50 packages with approximately 50 kg of the narcotic drug marijuana were discovered and seized. The drug, with final destination being Greece, is reported to be worth around 200.000 euro. The driver of the truck (MAN), an Albanian citizen B.J. (40) was arrested in the occasion, while the truck was also seized by the North Macedonian police. Criminal charges will be further pressed against the driver on the related criminal offences.

The operative action, resulting in seizures and arrests, was supported by CSC WB – IPA 2019 Project, as part of its efforts to foster regional security in the Western Balkans through strengthening the response of the Western Balkans institutions to fight transborder serious organised crime, supporting the respective police services of the beneficiary countries, Republic of North Macedonia and Republic of Albania.

The full report by the North Macedonian police about the action can be found here: https://mvr.gov.mk/vest/16031

Photo source: North Macedonian Police