Nearly 900 arrests and 7.7 tonnes of drugs seized. These are but two of the final results from Operation Blue Amber, a series of international actions in 2015 led by EU Member States and supported by Europol.
Operation Blue Amber led to law enforcement officers from 28 EU Member States, 31 non-EU countries and other international partners joining forces to disrupt organised crime groups and their criminal infrastructure across the year. In 2015, several simultaneous interventions and action weeks took place across the world.
Operation Blue Amber is a series of global actions design to target organised crime. The operation, which follows the successful one-week Operation Archimedes in 2014, focused on ‘EMPACT’ priority crime areas such as drug trafficking, irregular immigration, organised property crime and counterfeit goods. Co-ordinated interventions took place throughout 2015 at airports, border crossing points, at ports and specific crime hot spots in towns and cities.
The final results of Blue Amber include:
*Nearly 900 arrests made relating to drugs trafficking (257), property crime (281) and the facilitation of irregular immigration (60)
*263 arrests of fraudsters during the Global Airline Action Days which targeted criminals suspected of fraudulently purchasing plane tickets online using either stolen or fake credit card data
*Five tonnes of cocaine, 2.1 tonnes of cannabis, 280 kg of synthetic drugs and 82 kg of heroin seized
*254 vehicles, 190 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides and almost EUR 140 000 euros in cash confiscated
*1,400 tonnes of stolen metal seized
Focusing on vehicle theft
The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU organised Operation Luxcar, focusing on vehicle theft.
“More than 250 stolen vehicles were seized in a two-day international co-ordinated action and several new investigations were initiated with the support of many police officers in the EU as well as the backing of Europol’s experts,” explained Steve Schmitz, the co-ordinator of Luxcar for the Luxembourg Police. “Property crime, and more specifically vehicle crime, continues to pose a huge threat to all EU citizens.”
Operation Blue Amber also included two Drugs Action Weeks. Synthetic drugs trafficking and the use of small postal parcels to traffic the drugs is a key issue for many European countries.
“During the Blue Amber Drugs Action Weeks,” stated Johan Nooijens (Chief Inspector of the National Police Agency in the Netherlands and co-driver for ‘Empact Synthetic Drugs’), “the focus was specifically on this modus operandi of trafficking. In total, nearly 300 kg of synthetics were seized in and outside of the European Union.”
Nooijens added: “The Joint Action Days on drugs were successful for us. International information exchange and co-ordination is the key to success against these types of international organised crimes. Under the upcoming Dutch Presidency, Joint Action Days on drugs will be organised and strongly supported once again.”
Liaison officers from the EU Member States and colleagues from other international partners co-ordinated the exchange of information and intelligence between national law enforcement authorities from a 24/7 Operations Centre located at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague. Europol specialists and analysts provided support from its headquarters and also ‘on the spot’ in various EU Member States.
Continued support for investigations
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, is determined to continue to support such investigations in the future:
“Criminals don’t take borders into account and they need to know that they’re no longer safe anywhere,” explained Wainwright. “As law enforcement agencies, it’s our ongoing duty to continue this international co-operation which is aimed at tackling organised crime. Europol is fully committed to supporting national law enforcement agencies with its unique intelligence and technical capabilities.”
The whole operation was overseen by the EU’s Standing Committee on Operational Co-operation for Internal Security (COSI) of the Council of the EU.
Chairman Ms Andrée Colas commented: “The EMPACT Joint Action Days are a good example in terms of demonstrating how the enhanced co-ordination of law enforcement operations leads to concrete operational results. As chairman of COSI, the Standing Committee providing strategic guidance around the planning of the Joint Action Days, I’m very pleased with the outcome of Blue Amber and would encourage all EU Policy Cycle partners to develop the concept still further.”