The Coronavirus pandemic already has a significant impact on the serious and organised crime landscape in Europe even as illegal drug trade dominate the crime scene in the Continent, according to a new assessment of EUROPOL.
In the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment report, EUROPOL says that COVID-19 pandemic and the potential economic and social fallout could create ideal conditions for organised crime in the EU and beyond. EUROPOL is European Union’s law enforcement agency.
On the assessment, EUROPOL Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said that the analysis indicated that criminal structures were more fluid and flexible than previously thought. “I am concerned by the impact of serious and organised crime on the daily lives of Europeans, the growth of our economy, and the strength and resilience of our state institutions. I am also concerned by the potential of these phenomena to undermine the rule of law,” she said.
EUROPOL also says that much of the violence associated with serious and organised crime is related to the trade in drugs. It said that a key characteristic of criminal networks more confirmed by the pandemic was their agility in adapting to and capitalising on changes in the environment in which they operate.
- Production and trafficking of drugs remains the largest criminal business in the EU with nearly 40 percent of the criminal networks active in drugs trafficking
- Trafficking and exploitation of human beings, migrant smuggling, online and offline frauds and property Crime pose significant threats to citizens.
- Almost 60 per cent criminal networks reported engage in corruption.
- Criminals make and launder billions of euros annually.
- Professional money launderers have established a parallel underground financial system and use any means to infiltrate and undermine Europe’s economies and societies.
- Legal business structures used to facilitate all types of criminal activities.
- More than 80 percent of criminal networks use legal business structures for their criminal activities.
- The use of violence by criminals increased in terms of the frequency of use and its severity.
- The threat from violent incidents augmented by frequent use of firearms or explosives in public spaces.
- Criminals are digital natives. Virtually all criminal activities now feature some online component and many crimes have fully migrated online. Criminals exploit encrypted communications to network each other, use social media and instant messaging services to reach a larger audience to advertise illegal goods, or spread disinformation.