As the Tories tie themselves up in knots over Europe (again!) it is well worth pointing out one of the great, unsung success stories of the EU. Europol is the European Union’s law enforcement agency whose main goal is to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens. It does this by assisting the European Union’s Member States in their fight against serious international crime and terrorism.
Led by a British Director, Rob Wainwright, the agency uses its unique information capabilities and the expertise of its staff to identify and track the most dangerous criminal and terrorist networks in Europe. It deals with more than 13,000 investigations each year. Europol officers have no direct powers of arrest but support EU law enforcement colleagues by gathering, analysing and disseminating information and coordinating operations. Member states use the input to prevent, detect and investigate offences, and to track down and prosecute those who commit them.
Recent successes this year alone in the fight against crime include:
• Match fixing in football: In March 2013, Europol broke up a criminal syndicate who were involved in match-fixing in 380 top international FIFA and UEFA football games, including one Champions League tie in England. These shocking revelations of the grip of organised mafia crime syndicates would not have emerged if police just sat in their national offices.
• Credit Card Fraud: Also in March this year, Europol announced 44 arrests as part of an investigation into a massive credit card fraud network, much of which lay in the UK. Crooks had managed to tweak point of sale terminals in big shopping centres across Europe, using specially-created devices and software, to read people’s credit card numbers and PIN codes. It is believed 36,000 bank customers were affected by the credit card fraud. The mammoth law enforcement operation, which involved 400 police officers across the globe, also saw rafts on illegal electronic equipment, financial data, cloned cards and cash seized in the UK and Romania. • Human Trafficking: In February 2013, an organised criminal network, involved in illegally transporting Middle Eastern nationals via Turkey, Greece, France and Belgium into the UK, was dismantled in a joint action day. Member states conducted a successful joint police operation in Belgium, France and the UK. A total of 36 persons were arrested, 2 European Arrest Warrants were issued, and 45 premises were searched.
• Horsemeat Scandal: In February 2013, UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson met with Europol officials in The Hague to discuss meat fraud. After the meeting, he said: “I’m very pleased that Europol is formally involved in the investigation on meat fraud. I met with Europol, who offered their full support to the national law enforcement agencies involved in meat fraud across Europe. It’s clear that Europol is the right organisation to coordinate efforts to uncover all wrongdoing and bring criminals to justice.
I will be speaking to my European colleagues again to urge their enforcement agencies to follow our lead and share all information they have with Europol. Europol carries out vital work behind the scenes, day in day out, putting dangerous criminals where they belong – behind bars.The last point regarding the investigation by Europol into the so-called ‘horsemeat scandal’ has received a ringing endorsement by none other than a noted Eurosceptic Conservative cabinet minister. It is ludicrous that the Tories are dicing in this way with our national security and I sincerely hope pragmatism, as displayed by Mr Paterson’s statement above, wins out over this rather desperate pandering to UKIP.