Ballistic Information Exchange: to improve investigations and prosecutions

Over the last few years, ballistic information exchange has been a major concern at the European level. This is because several ballistic comparison and identification systems are currently in use in Europe, but their compatibility and interoperability have been not attained so far.

For this reason, a meeting of ballistics experts from all of Europe was organised by the Project, in cooperation with EMPACT Firearms, in Konjic, Bosnia from 12 – 13 September 2019.

During the meeting, two of the most commonly used ballistic identification systems were presented in detail, through their technical specifications and the experiences of the countries already using them. The current inability to crosscheck ballistic data between different systems to find ballistic comparison matches hampers the development of new investigative leads and the ability to solve important criminal cases, most of them violent.

The convened ballistic experts explained the main points of ballistic reports to delegated prosecutors working in the Western Balkans region, as understanding of ballistic reports was identified as a missing gap and crucial to improving the number and quality of prosecutions in the region.

The main goal of the meeting was to tailor a document containing recommendations about ballistic systems that the EMPACT Firearms, on behalf of all the EU Member States, will submit before the current Finish EU Council Presidency.


Training on Special Investigative Means: Strengthening Police Security Centers

From 11 – 13 September 2019, 49 police officers from Security Centers in the Montenegrin cities of Herceg Novi, Bar and Budva participated in a training about Special Investigative Means in southern Montenegro.

Police Directorate Training of Trainers delivered the training that covered the best practices for effective enforcement of legislation. The main topics included special investigation methods, crime intelligence, the use of analytical tools and working with operational connections. Practical knowledge of and technical recommendations for preparing cases in the pre-investigation phase were also discussed.


Bosnian Border Police arrest alleged migrant smugglers

On 9 September 2019 the Border Police of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior of Croatia and Europol, apprehended five citizens for the criminal offence of “people smuggling” in the International Operational Action “River”.

Those apprehended are thought to have smuggled at least 315 migrants from Serbia across BiH to Croatia, Slovenia and other European Union countries. 2,250 euros were seized by police, as well as other items that will be used as evidence in criminal procedure. The international operational action was realized under the supervision of the Bosnian Prosecutor`s Office and Court, with the aim to identify, detect and prosecute smugglers, and cut off the organised criminal groups.

For more information, please refer to the article published on the website of BiH Border Police or the website of the Bosnian Directorate for Coordination of Police Bodies (in Bosnian).


Slovenian and North Macedonian Ministries of Justice exchange expertise

A delegation of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of North Macedonia, including the MoJ State Secretary, visited its Slovenian counterpart to exchange knowledge in Mutual Legal Assistance and its EU ramifications. The event took place from 9 – 10 September 2019 and included visits to the Slovenian MoJ and Supreme Court.

The visit was supported by the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project and focused on both the national and EU aspects of international legal cooperation in criminal matters in Slovenia. Special attention was given to the practical implementation of associated EU legal instruments and institutionalized forms of cooperation, along with issues of the European Public Prosecution and its impact on national criminal law systems of EU Member States. The North Macedonian delegation presented the main features of prosecutorial investigations according to the reformed Macedonian Criminal Procedure Act adopted in 2010. The instrumentalities and potentials of EUROJUST were also discussed.

During the visit to the Supreme Court of Slovenia, the North Macedonian delegation had the opportunity to meet the Vice President of the Court, Mr. Đorđević and participate in a constructive discussion with Mag. Mr. Jasa Vrabec about the judicial system in the Republic of Slovenia and the well-devised PR campaign designed to increase the level of public trust in the judiciary.

All in all, the event was perceived by participants on both sides as a natural continuation of a well-established and on-going cooperation between the two Ministries that will continue and deepen in the future.


Operational Center at Europol: 30 countries team up to combat crime in the Western Balkans

From 5 – 8 September 2019, the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project participated in and supported the Joint Action Days (JAD) Western Balkans 2019.

JAD is an international operation, involving 6,758 law enforcement officers: 6,708 officers on the ground and 50 officers in the Operational Centre at Europol’s headquarters. Law enforcement officers from 30 countries, as well as 8 agencies and international organisations teamed up to tackle the 4 EMPACT (European Multidisciplinary Platform against Criminal Threats) priorities: firearms trafficking, illegal immigration, document fraud and drugs trafficking.

The preparatory phase began in early 2019 with several operational meetings and intelligence-gathering activities organised by all the participants, as well as controls at selected border control points. Europol coordinated the deployment of mobile offices on the request of countries to analyse information on-the-spot.

From 5 to 8 September 2019, a coordination centre was set up at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague to support the exchange of intelligence among the participants. During these days, 50 officers from almost all the EU Member States and Western Balkan countries, Europol, Frontex, INTERPOL and IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project intensified checks in areas identified as high-risk, based on information collected and analysed in the coordination centre.

In total, 214,147 persons, vehicles, and premises were checked during the JAD. 175 individuals were arrested (26 arrests were made in the intelligence phase and 149 in the operational phase).

The operation was coordinated under the umbrella of EMPACT as part of the EU Policy Cycle, a four-year plan for the fight against serious and organised crime. It brings together police and law enforcement authorities of EU Member States, European agencies and international organisations to jointly strengthen Europe’s borders and internal security. The results and intelligence gathered will help in ongoing and future investigations.

Find the full details on Europol’s website, or on the website of the Montenegrin Police Department.


Successful Meeting with General Director of Albanian State Police

On 10 September 2019 Resident Expert of Albania for the IPA 2017/Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project Marco Letizi met with the General Director of Albanian State Police Ardi Veliu. Marco Letizi described the activities the Project had supported in Albania since 2018 and the outcomes achieved. Mr. Ardi Veliu expressed his satisfaction with the cooperation between the Project and Albanian State Police and that he looks forward to future collaborations and taking steps together to reduce serious and organised crime in the country.


Sea Gate Operational Meeting held in Greece

On 28 August 2019 the Project organised an operational meeting with representatives of the Hellenic Coast Guard at their headquarters in Piraeus, Greece to discuss the possibility of establishing a partnership in the implementation of the Sea Gate Project. The aim of the Sea Gate Project is to enhance the international cooperation of competent law enforcement agencies involved in the fight against illicit trafficking taking place in the Adriatic Sea.

The meeting was attended by representative of the Head of the Drugs and Contraband Enforcement Directorate, Captain Spyridon A. Evangelidis, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, Lieutenant HCG Kanetis Loukas, and Maritime Border Security and Protection Directorate, Maria Kiposoglou. The Greek colleagues expressed their enthusiasm about the initiatives of the Sea Gate Project and stressed its strategic importance to security of the Adriatic Sea.


The Romanian Agency for Management of Seized Assets shares best practices

On 22 and 23 August 2019, North Macedonian Public Prosecutors, Police and representatives from the National Asset Management Office visited the Romanian Agency for Management of Seized Assets located in Bucharest, Romania.

During the visit, the North Macedonian participants met their Romanian colleagues and learned about the history, mandate and functioning of their agency. The host institution shared the lessons they have learned in their day-to-day operations regarding the management of seized and confiscated assets, the recovery of assets, and inter-agency cooperation. The North Macedonian and Romanian colleagues then engaged in a lively discussion about their practical work in financial investigations of criminal cases and related these topics to their current or aspiring membership of the European Union.

North Macedonian Public Prosecutor, Ms. Anita Topolova, took part in the study visit as an Asset Recovery Office (ARO) representative and CARIN (Camden Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network) Contact Point amid her appointment as Head of ARO of North Macedonia in March 2019. Ms. Topolova had the opportunity to meet her Romanian counterpart in person and obtain hands-on technical advice and guidance on putting the North Macedonian system of asset recovery in motion.

The IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project supported the process of establishing the North Macedonian ARO and together with its partners will continue to address national and regional efforts in efficient management and recovery of seized and confiscated assets.


Save the Date: SPIDER WEB Conference to take place in November

The SPIDER WEB Conference “Building Future Resilience to Detect and Disrupt Environmental Crime” will take place on 12 and 13 November 2019 in Croatia.

The SPIDER WEB Project aims to increase the awareness and the skillset of all actors in the environmental law enforcement chain to successfully disrupt and prosecute illegal behaviour and limit the negative impact of these behaviours on human health and the environment. Currently training sessions are being held in the 6 target countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Kosovo*, Montenegro and Serbia. The project outcomes thus far will be presented during the Conference, with an aim to reach conclusions and agree on recommendations to lead to further agreements to make environmental crime a top priority in the region.

The conference is organised by IMPEL (European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law). Find more details about the conference on the SPIDER WEB Website here. The registration procedure will open in September 2019. For any queries, please contact Ms. Pinar Topkaya at the IMPEL Secretariat (pinar.topkaya@impel.eu).

SPIDER WEB is jointly financed by the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany on the basis of a grant agreement with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) within the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Project.


Meeting with Albanian Chief Prosecutor ensures continued cooperation

One of the IPA/2017 Countering Serious Crime in the Western Balkans Management Team members, Mr. Eric Vincken, as well as members of the Project`s Embedded Country Team in Albania met with the Albanian Chief Prosecutor Ms. Donika Prela and two other prosecutors from the Serious Crime Prosecution Office on 26 July 2019. During this meeting a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, which stated that the Project will support the cooperation between the Albanian Serious Crime Prosecution Office and Italian Law Enforcement Agencies in a number of concrete investigations. During the meeting the Chief Prosecutor Ms. Prela expressed her sincere gratitude for the concrete assistance the Project has given to her office so far and she committed her office to continued cooperation in the future.