WELCOME to the Q1 2020 edition of the Eurojust newsletter, a quarterly platform keeping judicial practitioners and our other partners up to date with recent developments at Eurojust as well as with our latest publications.

In this newsletter...
 

- Eurojust fully operational during coronavirus 
- Action against criminal groups abusing corona crisis

- 2019 Annual Report: sharp growth in activity

 

- Eurojust helps to tackle major cyber-trading fraud
- Authorities use JIT to dismantle truck-theft OCG
- Eurojust helps authorities take down pickpockets
- Decisive action against drug traffickers 
- Major migrant-smuggling operation halted
- Action against bitcoin fraud in France and Belgium

 
- Updated tool to support use of the EAW
- New tool to manage coordination during COVID-19
- Temporary changes to the JITs funding process

 
- What's been happening at Eurojust?
 
- 2019 Eurojust Annual Report 
- Questionnaire: independence of issuing authorities
- 2nd report of the observatory function on encryption
- Summary of 7th plenary meeting of the EJCN 

 
- What to watch out for in Q2 2020

Eurojust fully operational during coronavirus


'While we are in the middle of a global health crisis, Eurojust is committed to ensuring that also in these extraordinary times, we do not allow criminals to escape justice. In the past weeks, we have continued to bring prosecutors from all over the EU together in a virtual way. This reinforces our belief that the fight against cross-border organised crime calls for a profound digitalisation of the way we work, bridging any distance by using secure connections for videoconferencing and data exchange. Justice needs to be done under all circumstances.'

         


Eurojust has remained fully operational since the start of the coronavirus crisis, providing unwavering support to national authorities in the fight against cross-border crime. 202 new cases were opened between 12 and 31 March. Eight coordination meetings also took place during the period, seven via secure video conferencing, as well as a coordination centre to support a joint action day. 42 new grants for joint investigation teams (JITs) were also awarded by Eurojust, while agreements were reached on two new JITs.

Meanwhile, the Agency has stepped up efforts to support judicial authorities, to ensure criminals do not evade justice during the pandemic. During the past weeks, Eurojust has worked closely with the European Judicial Network (EJN) and Member States to map out the practical implications for judicial cooperation in the current situation, notably for the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). The first results were presented in an informal meeting of EU Ministers of Justice on 6 April, who welcomed the initiative and asked the Agency and EJN to continue monitoring the situation. The European Commission will set up an EAW crisis group, in which Eurojust, EJN and the General Secretariat of the Council will participate.

Find out more about Eurojust's efforts to support authorities during the crisis here.

Swift action against criminal groups abusing corona crisis


Eurojust has helped judicial authorities throughout Europe take action in various cases of online fraud and computer hacking by criminal organisations abusing the current health crisis. In Germany, for instance, the authorities uncovered a large-scale fraud with an offer of ten million face masks for a price of EUR 15 million, for which one German state had shown an interest. The German desk at Eurojust provided active support to investigations, ensuring judicial cooperation with three countries. Two suspects have been arrested in The Netherlands and over EUR 2 million have been frozen in assets.

Eurojust has also been assisting authorities following the hacking of a Czech hospital’s computer system by a criminal organisation, which had encrypted the communications. Via Eurojust, European Investigation Orders (EIOs) and requests for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) have been issued to France and Switzerland to follow up investigations.

Read more about these and other investigations here

Eurojust 2019 Annual Report highlights sharp growth in activity


Eurojust has launched its new annual report, marking a momentous year for our Agency in which we were part of an intensified judicial response to serious cross-border crimes. During 2019, Eurojust provided practical support to nearly 8 000 investigations of organised cross-border crime, an increase of 17% compared with the previous year.



Working together through Eurojust, national judicial authorities achieved impressive on-the-ground results across a wide range of crime areas. These achievements include the freezing of approximately EUR 2 billion in criminal assets, bringing illicit drug trafficking worth over EUR 2.8 billion to a halt, and the arrest of nearly 2 700 suspects. 2019 also saw Eurojust expand cooperation with key institutional partners and third States, creating a gateway to 52 jurisdictions around the world, including through new cooperation agreements with Serbia and Georgia. 

Mr Ladislav Hamran, President of Eurojust, said: ‘This annual report is a vivid testimony to what prosecutors from across the EU and beyond can achieve when they join forces in the fight against organised crime and terrorism. I am incredibly proud of the impressive results that the Member States and Eurojust jointly accomplished in the past year.’

Mr Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice, added: ‘…Eurojust has also quickly adapted its support to respond to judicial cooperation needs in the light of the current coronavirus pandemic, which further underlines the unwavering commitment of the Agency to make sure criminals cannot hide behind national borders.’

See more highlights from the 2019 Eurojust Annual Report here, or download the report here

Eurojust facilitates action day to tackle major cyber-trading fraud 


Despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus crisis, in April Eurojust supported national authorities in a joint action day to take down two organised criminal groups (OCGs) suspected of large-scale investment fraud in cyber-trading. Culminating in four arrests, the operations were part of a long-term investigation conducted by national authorities in Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Serbia. Eurojust also assisted the investigation by funding a joint investigation team (JIT) and by organising a coordination meeting at its premises in The Hague via a videoconference.

Read more about Eurojust’s role in the investigation here.

JIT brings down truck-theft gang with Eurojust's support


A JIT supported financially and operationally by Eurojust provided the basis for a major action against an OCG accused of stealing high-grade goods from lorries on motorways during transit. To prepare for the action, the JIT partners took part in two coordination meetings organised by Eurojust in The Hague. These preparations led to multiple house arrests and asset seizures, resulting in charges being brought against 71 suspects. Further to facilitating the JIT, Eurojust actively supported judicial cooperation and coordination throughout the investigation, with Europol providing analytical support.

Learn more about the case here.

Eurojust helps authorities take down major cross-border pickpocketing gang 

An action coordinated by Eurojust helped authorities arrest 42 suspected members of an OCG involved in large-scale pickpocketing in Spain. The joint action was supported by a coordination centre, set up by Eurojust in close cooperation with the Spanish authorities. The Agency also assisted during the coordination centre, during which two new European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) were drafted on the spot and the case was extended to include two further Member States: Romania and Portugal. 

The subsequent operation, carried out by the Spanish Policia Nacional in cooperation with authorities in Romania, resulted in 12 house searches as well as the seizure of large amounts of cash, jewellery and other valuable items. At the request of the Spanish authorities, Eurojust also organised and hosted three coordination meetings in the build-up to the action day. 

Read more about the part Eurojust played in the developments here

Eurojust supports decisive action against drug traffickers


Two major drug trafficking cases were dismantled with the help of Eurojust in Q1. In the first case, a Swedish man was arrested on suspicion of a large-scale sale of illicit drugs via the illegal darknet. Eurojust supported the Swedish authorities by facilitating European Investigation Orders (EIOs) and letters rogatory to Germany and the Netherlands as well as third countries. The Spanish desk at Eurojust assisted by connecting the Swedish and Panamanian authorities and providing judicial advice. Further information on the case and its outcomes can be found here.

March brought the conclusion of a long-running investigation into an OCG involved in trafficking illicit drugs between Germany and Norway. Eurojust coordinated investigations and actions between the two countries, with the involvement of the German desk and Norwegian Liaison Prosecutor at the Agency. Eurojust organised a coordination meeting at its premises and assisted in overcoming legal obstacles, providing judicial advice, including on the agreements of where to prosecute. Read more about Eurojust’s role here.

Eurojust helps authorities halt major cross-channel migrant-smuggling ring

In January, a joint action coordinated by Eurojust led to the arrest of 23 individuals suspected of trafficking 10 000 Kurdish migrants from France to the United Kingdom. Eurojust financed a JIT and set up a coordination centre to help the French and Dutch authorities roll out actions on the ground. Two coordination meetings were organised to prepare the operation, with Eurojust also facilitating the execution of EAWs.

Find out more about the case here.

Action against bitcoin fraud in France and Belgium 

Eurojust assisted French and Belgian authorities in successfully concluding an investigation into a criminal network committing large-scale international fraud with the sale of bitcoins and other crypto-currencies. Eurojust assisted the investigation by setting up and financing a JIT and organising a coordination meeting. In total, 10 suspects were arrested, with assets worth EUR 1 million seized. 

Read more here

In addition to the cases presented above, Eurojust has coordinated a number of additional major criminal investigations and prosecutions over the past few months. Please visit our website to explore Eurojust’s wider casework during Q1.

Updated tool supporting the use the European Arrest Warrant 


Eurojust, together with the European Judicial Network (EJN) and the Council of the European Union, has drawn up a new version of the country-by-country overview on the position of public prosecutors in relation to the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). The updated tool offers judicial authorities concise information on judicial protection and the possibility to contest a prosecutor’s decision to issue an EAW. 

The tool can be accessed here.  

New tool for national judicial authorities to deal with coordination measures in times of COVID-19 


Eurojust has stepped up its support to judicial authorities to execute the EAW during the coronavirus pandemic. A full mapping out of practical implications for prosecutors in the Member States has taken place, in close cooperation with the EJN.

Find out more about the new tool here.

Temporary changes to the JITs funding process due to COVID-19


Eurojust has implemented temporary changes to the Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) funding process to enable the continued availability of financing during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the successful continuation of JIT operations. Among other measures, the temporary changes include the possibility of requesting an extension of the action period via email.

View the changes in full here, together with instructions for JIT funding beneficiaries.

What's been happening at Eurojust?

Serbian Liaison Prosecutor takes up role at Eurojust – 10 March
 

On 10 March, Ms Gordana Janicijevic took up her duties as Liaison Prosecutor for Serbia at Eurojust. The appointment coincided with a visit of Serbian Republic Public Prosecutor Ms Zagorka Dolovac to Eurojust and follows the recent signing of a cooperation agreement between Serbia and Eurojust. Ms Janicijevic stated: ‘I look forward to a close cooperation with all the countries represented at Eurojust, and I expect an increased exchange of information and the most efficient coordination.

Read more about Ms Janicijevic’s appointment here.

New European Public Prosecutor discusses cooperation with Eurojust – 05 March


The future cooperation between Eurojust and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was discussed during a visit by the first European Public Prosecutor Ms Laura Kövesi to The Hague in March. Ms Kövesi has a seven-year mandate to lead the EPPO in Luxembourg, with operations expected to commence in November 2020.

Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran stated: ‘With the establishment of the EPPO, we are entering a new phase in the efforts to combat crimes against the financial interest of the EU. In this new phase, the EPPO and Eurojust will have a joint responsibility and I look forward to working together harmoniously as two strong institutions.’

Read more about the visit here.

Eurojust welcomes European Data Protection Supervisor – 11 February


In February, Eurojust welcomed the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Mr Wojciech Wiewiórowski, on his first official visit to The Hague. The visit followed the introduction of a new data protection regime in accordance with the new Eurojust Regulation. Mr Wojciech Wiewiórowski said: Strong cooperation between the EDPS and Eurojust is essential in order to truly understand the character of Eurojust’s work and to ensure better protection of fundamental rights […] it is crucial to build a constructive and forward-looking dialogue with those who work at the heart of Eurojust's activities.’

Read more here.

Eurojust Vice-President calls for new EU strategy against organised crime – 10 February

Eurojust’s Vice-President and National Member for Italy, Mr Filippo Spiezia, has called for a new EU-wide strategy to combat criminal organisations such as the ‘Ndrangetha, the Mafia or the Camorra. Speaking at a conference on organised crime at the European Parliament in Brussels, Mr Spiezia outlined the need for a new European legal instrument, including a legal framework for collaboration with cooperating former members of criminal organisations. He also emphasised Eurojust’s growing importance as the epicentre of judicial cooperation.

Find out more here.

                  

Commander General of Italian Guardia di Finanza visits Eurojust – 29 January

 
Commander General of the Italian Guardia di Finanza, Mr Giuseppe Zafarana, visited Eurojust in January to discuss strengthening the collaboration between the Italian authorities and EU judicial systems. During the visit, General Zafarana met with Eurojust’s President, Mr Ladislav Harman, and Vice-President and National Member for Italy, Mr Filippo Spiezia, and was introduced to the operational achievements of Eurojust and multiple services made available to national authorities through Eurojust’s recently reinforced legal framework.

Read more about the visit of General Zafarana here.

Eurojust Annual Report 2019

Published in April, the 2019 Eurojust Annual Report provides a snapshot of Eurojust's activities to combat cross-border crime over the past year, including through detailed casework statistics and overviews of successful investigations and prosecutions supported by the Agency. 

Click here for further information, or download the report here


 

Questionnaire on the CJEU’s judgments in relation to the independence of issuing judicial authorities and effective judicial protection

 

In October and December 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) provided further guidance on the independence of the ‘issuing judicial authority’ and on the requirement of effective judicial protection, which must be afforded to persons subject to such an arrest.

In response to the guidance, Eurojust and the European Judicial Network (EJN) have prepared a new update of the questionnaire on the topic. The updated compilation of replies and certificates can be downloaded in English here. The Executive Summary pertaining to the questionnaire is also available in all EU languages here.
 

Second report of the observatory function on encryption

 

In January, Eurojust and Europol jointly published the Second report of the observatory function on encryption. The latest report provides further insight into the potential threat posed by quantum computing to encryption. It includes an update on relevant statements or propositions regarding how law enforcement can potentially cope with encryption and its related challenges.

The report can be downloaded here.
 

European Judicial Cybercrime Network – summary of the outcome of its 7th plenary meeting

 

Eurojust and the European Judicial Cybercrime Network (EJCN) have published a report on
the 7th plenary meeting, which took place during 14-15 November 2019 at Eurojust’s premises in The Hague. The report reflects outcomes of topical discussions conducted during the meeting, as well as separate subgroup meetings, including data retention, e-evidence, case-building, training and virtual currencies, among other topics.

The report is available for download here.

 

What to watch out for in Q2 2020


Pending developments related to COVID-19, please note that there is a possibility of certain events being cancelled. Events may also take place in a virtual environment where possible. 

 

April

  • Workshop on International Humanitarian Law and Domestic Prosecution of International Crimes - 21 April.

May

  • Case Law by the Court of Justice of the European Union on the European Arrest Warrant
  • Case Law by the Court of Justice of the European Union on the Principle of Ne Bis in Idem in Criminal Matters
  • EU Day Against Impunity - 26 May

June

  • 8th plenary meeting of the European Judicial Cybercrime Network - 11-12 June

 
Visit the Eurojust website by clicking on the following link www.eurojust.europa.eu

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