“Technological evolution is fundamental for the future of police actions” – Expert visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina

“Technological evolution is fundamental for the future of police actions” – Expert visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina

The third round of visits aimed at improving the beneficiaries’ abilities in the field of interoperability and SPOC (Single Point(s) of Contact) enhancement is ongoing in Bosnia and Herzegovina from July 14th, 2021. A delegation of experts from the project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019 (CSC WB) is meeting the representatives of Directorate for Coordination of Police Bodies of Bosnia Herzegovina, Federal Police Administration, State Investigation and Protection Agency and Border Police and the respective IT sectors who are responsible for the implementation of the database and system interoperability at an international level. The next visit at Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republica Srpska and the Police of Brcko District will be held shortly after this one.

The in-depth analysis which will last until 16h July, 2021 will provide a first overview 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: “An efficient and thorough interoperability is deeply linked with the exploitation of national infrastructures.” The importance of the interoperability in the field of fighting organized crime was also highlighed by Mr. Samir Kavazovic, Assistant Director for Sector for International Police Cooperation as technological evolution is fundamental for the future of police actions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is the third beneficiary to be visited by the CSC WB experts from the Italian Ministry of Interior. We have reported about our first visit to Albania here and our second visit to Kosovo* here.

Link to the Article about the expert visit – Website of the Federal Police Administration: https://bit.ly/36D9I4b

Photo Source: Federal Police Administration

*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.

Macedonian and Serbian Ministries of Justice improve legal cooperation in criminal matters

Macedonian and Serbian Ministries of Justice improve legal cooperation in criminal matters

On 8th and 9th of July 2021, representatives of the Department for International Legal Cooperation of the Macedonian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) visited their Serbian counterparts in order to deepen their bilateral cooperation in criminal matters. Representatives of the Serbian MoJ hosted the meeting and presented the Serbian perspective  together with their colleagues from the Serbian Public Prosecution Service and the Ministry of Interior. This exchange was supported by CSC WB in its endeavour to support bilateral legal cooperation in criminal matters of WB countries to strengthen regional cooperation against organised crime.

The discussion topics were largely based on the implementation of the Bilateral agreement of international cooperation in criminal matters between the 2 countries. The participants discussed in detail about specific aspects of bilateral legal cooperation such as their organizational set-up; the issues of direct cooperation in criminal matters and that of reciprocity; the method of keeping criminal records and bilateral agreements with 3rd countries. Serbian colleagues elaborated on their experience with establishment and operation of Joint Investigation Teams (JITs). Both delegations agreed that JITs are useful but a not sufficiently used tool of international cooperation in joint cross-border investigations. Moreover, representatives of both countries exchanged on their lessons learnt and good practices of cooperation with and through the European Judicial Network (EJN) and the EUROJUST. Lastly, both parties agreed that this meeting will considerably strengthen their mutual cooperation and joint efforts in the fight against international organized crime.

The CSC WB project will continue to support the beneficiary countries’ bilateral legal cooperation by supporting the signature and implementation of their bilateral agreements on legal cooperation in criminal matters and empowering them to increase the use of direct cooperation and JITs while making use of the instruments EU judiciary networks and agencies can offer to the region.

 

Photo Source: CSC WB

Almost 63 % increase of newly registered cases with Serbian involvement at Eurojust

Almost 63 % increase of newly registered cases with Serbian involvement at Eurojust

During the joint annual review of implementation of the Cooperation Agreement between Serbia and Eurojust  which was signed in 2019, the Chief State Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia, Ms Dolovac, who led the negotiations and appointing of the Liaison Prosecutor, visited Eurojust Headquarters in late June 2021.

On this occasion, satisfaction with the cooperation was expressed by both sides, because of the significant increase of almost 63% of newly registered cases in 2020, since Serbia has seconded a full-time Liaison Prosecutor to Eurojust – Ms Gordana Janićijević, in March 2020. As reported by Eurojust, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 65 new cases originating from or concerning Serbia were supported by Eurojust in 2020. This is an increase of 62.5%. In addition to that, in 2020, Serbia participated in ten coordination meetings and two coordination centres. 20 new cases concerning Serbia were registered in 2021.

In light of the importance of improving judicial cooperation between the Western Balkan countries and  Eurojust, aiming towards stronger coordination of investigations and prosecutions, the role of the project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019 (CSC WB) has been highlighted by all parties, as the project is entrusted with providing support to negotiations and implementation of the Cooperation Agreement between the countries of the Western Balkans and Eurojust.

As stated by the Eurojust President, Mr Ladislav Hamran, the added value of the project CSC WB lies on both the operational and the strategic level – in setting the stage for the agreement signing through various coordination meetings and operational support, but also in supporting national counterparts in adopting new laws on data protection in line with the EU Acquis.

Through current and previous phases of the CSC WB project, support was provided to negotiation and implementation of four Cooperation Agreements with Eurojust: Montenegro and North Macedonia, and Serbia and Albania. The expectation that by having the Liaison Prosecutors located in The Hague, the cooperation with EUROJUST would be increased has proven right, so other Western Balkans countries will receive further support by the CSC WB to strengthen cooperation with Eurojust and other EU agencies and networks.

“At this place I will use this unique opportunity to thank the project Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans – IPA 2019, to the project management and the teams for their valuable support through the entire journey of signing the Cooperation Agreement and establishment of the Office of the Liaison prosecutor in the Hague, “ – as stated by Ms Janićijević, the Liaison Prosecutor at Eurojust during the yearly assessment visit of the Chief State Prosecutor of Serbia Ms. Dolovac to Eurojust.

Photo Source: Eurojust

 

Enfast Network and Fast Units – Workshop

Enfast Network and Fast Units – Workshop

The first virtual meeting on Fugitive Active Search Teams (FAST) was held on June 30th 2021 to share best practices and future plans between the Western Balkans and EU partners.  Possible strategies to strengthen the police cooperation aimed to trace and arrest serious criminal internationally wanted were discussed as well.

All the Western Balkans FAST Units were given the opportunity to present their teams, including organization, procedures and future perspectives. One of the key points of the discussion was the improving of the information exchange among the FAST Units in terms of quality of the information and security of the channels through which sending them.

In this light, the establishment of a regional FAST network is clearly possible to achieve. This topic is closely linked to the role of Western Balkans FAST Units within the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Team (ENFAST). This network was established in 2010 to boost the effectiveness of the European Arrest Warrant legal framework, substantially the idea was to set up a sort of fast track to exchange urgent and sensitive information aimed to locate and arrest serious criminals. In recent years, ENFAST opened to non-EU countries such as Western Balkans, which were enabled to operate through the network as observers, which means having the same operational capabilities of a member state, except the voting right in the annual General Assembly.

Therefore, the coordination between the FAST activity within the CSC WB project and all Western Balkans partner institutions and the European Network of Fugitive Active Search Team is paramount, as clearly underlined by FAST Spain, the current ENFAST rotating presidency, in the opening remarks. Much appreciated, among others – the intervention of the representatives from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), the Police Cooperation Convention for Southeast Europe (PCC SEE) and the Fugitive Investigative Support Unit of the Interpol General Secretariat.

The workshop flyer and the agenda provide further information about the workshop:

Workshop flyer

Workshop agenda

The relevance of Strategic Intelligence Analysis and the SOCTA process

The relevance of Strategic Intelligence Analysis and the SOCTA process

On June 30th, 2021 the project CSC WB and Europol organised the workshop “The Relevance of Strategic Intelligence Analysis and the SOCTA process”, aiming at strengthening the Western Balkans` capacity to conduct strategic and operational criminal analysis in an EU-harmonised manner.

The workshop aimed at highlighted insights and solutions that can facilitate the effective cooperation among the countries such as developing terms of reference, identifying customer requirements, knowing the strategic intelligence analysis process – what can assist the complex work done by the analysists, speed up the process and improve the quality of the assessments and reports.

In the context of the substantial role of the analysists in developing threat assessments, the participants had the opportunity to listen to the Europol analysts who presented the main concepts related to the strategic intelligence analysis, with a focus on the analysis and the SOCTA process, highlighting the relevance of the methodology.

The project CSC WB with its partner organisations such as Europol provides support to an effective cooperation between domestic law enforcement agencies and other relevant partners in the fight against serious and organised crime, by setting the scene for a methodological and process-oriented approach, but especially in prioritisation of serious and organised crime threads by the decision-makers, which is of high relevance for further actions in combatting serious and organised crime. The project is supporting the coordination, cooperation, networking and sharing of best practices on a common threat basis within the Western Balkans and with the EU, by supporting relevant law enforcement specialists of police departments in conducting strategic and operational criminal analysis.

The project team with the beneficiary institutions has already triggered key steps in developing the Western Balkans SOCTA, where workshops like this one also contribute to reach a common understanding and clarification of processes and roles and strengthen the networking with and to other partners.

“The Western Balkans SOCTA will be the product of the analysis of law enforcement information on criminal activities and groups affecting the region. It will identify a number of key priorities and a related set of recommendations and operational actions based on an in-depth analysis and increased on the major threats faced by the Western Balkans”, as stressed by Ms Anna Marinelli, component leader of the project on behalf on the Italian Ministry of Interior.

The workshop flyer and the agenda provide further information about the workshop:

Workshop agenda

Workshop flyer

 

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

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