Transnational criminal networks have one thing in common: money. Most organised criminal activity is profit-driven and all criminal groups need resources to finance their activities. Criminals often move and spread their assets across different countries to try to avoid detection.
Tracing, freezing and confiscating money that has been acquired by breaking the law is crucial to stop criminal groups in their tracks and therefore a strategic priority in the EU's fight against organised crime.
Criminal financial investigations often occur in parallel in various countries and are often only one of the many aspects of a criminal case. To be successful, judicial authorities and police in the countries involved therefore must work very closely together.
In February 2019, Eurojust published an extensive analysis of Eurojust’s Casework in Asset Recovery (full version – short version ) in the period 1 January 2014 – 31 March 2018. It serves as a practical guide to best practice and to the various types of support Eurojust can provide:
Helping judicial authorities to quickly identify the right partner to work with and speed up the execution of different asset recovery measures
In one case, Eurojust’s 24/7 legal assistance service made possible the arrangement of the urgent execution of a freezing order for approximately EUR 26 million in less than 24 hours, which prevented the illegal profits from being transferred to other bank accounts.
Support for complex investigations, including the setting up of joint investigation teams and the organisation of coordinated action days
In 2014, Eurojust supported the cooperation and coordination of criminal and financial investigations involving Italy, Malta, Romania, Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Germany and Greece in a large-scale fraud case.
On the action day, Eurojust set up a coordination centre for the national authorities of the involved Member States, as well as OLAF and Europol, to coordinate the joint action and simultaneously execute 61 coordinated searches and 43 freezing orders.
As a result, over EUR 2.8 million in criminal proceeds was recovered.
Contacts beyond EU borders to mobilise foreign judicial authorities
In a major bribery case involving state-owned licences to access the telecommunications market in Uzbekistan, Eurojust organised coordination meetings between the eight States involved, including both EU and non-EU participants.
Thus, coordination of the parallel investigations was made possible.
Eurojust also facilitated meetings between Uzbek representatives and national authorities of the EU Member States to build mutual trust and understanding.
As a result, over EUR 1.2 billion in criminal assets was frozen in 12 countries.
In 2018, the European Union agreed on new rules concerning the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. The new rules will apply to the Member States bound by it as of 19 December 2020 and will introduce a single Regulation covering freezing and confiscation orders, directly applicable in the Member States and based on the principle of mutual recognition. The new regulation will complement the 2014 directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime.