WELCOME to the Q2 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...
 

Update on Eurojust’s response to COVID-19

 

Following our reporting of Eurojust’s response to COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic (see Q1 2020 issue of this quarterly newsletter), the agency has remained fully operational and continued to support national authorities through its coordination of serious cross-border criminal investigations.

From 1 April to 30 June, Eurojust registered 845 cases, of which 85 are COVID-19 related, and awarded 33 new grants to joint investigation teams. Since lockdown restrictions were imposed in mid-March, 78 coordination meetings have been held and 6 coordination centres organised.

“Closed borders and lockdowns don’t stop criminals. They adapt quickly, and this is what we are witnessing now. Eurojust stands ready, as always, to combat cross-border crime regardless of the circumstances...” (Ladislav Hamran, President of Eurojust, addressing European Ministers in the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council on 4 June 2020).

Since March, Eurojust and the European Judicial Network (EJN) have been jointly collecting and compiling information on how the pandemic has impacted judicial cooperation in criminal matters in the European Union, covering such practical and legal issues as the European Arrest Warrant, extradition to/from third States, the European Investigation Orders, Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters, the transfer of sentenced persons, freezing and confiscation orders, and joint investigation teams. A summary of this information is available and regularly updated on the Eurojust and EJN websites.

Find out more about efforts to support Member State authorities during the crisis here.

JITs funding during the pandemic

The JITs Funding programme has continued to operate throughout the crisis.

During the period April-June 2020, two calls for proposals were published. Eurojust received and awarded 33 JITs funding applications, compared to 77 applications over the same period in 2019. While the current number of applications is lower, it is important to highlight that JITs continue to seek financial support even in difficult times.

Eurojust has been implementing temporary changes to the JITs funding process due to COVID-19. The most significant change is the simplified procedure to request the extension of a JIT grant. A simple email requesting this extension may be submitted just one working day before the end of the action period indicated in the Award Decision. The action period can be extended for an additional three months. Between April and June, Eurojust approved 41 requests for extension.

For more information, click here.

Stronger together: EU Agencies join forces to respond to COVID-19

As chair of the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Agencies Network in 2020, Eurojust has initiated a number of joint actions related to COVID-19, including the sharing of experiences in dealing with the pandemic and exploring avenues for closer cooperation among the agencies and with key stakeholders within and outside the EU. A joint paper on the COVID-19 response by JHA agencies was formally endorsed by the heads of the agencies during a videoconference held on 9 July.

Read more about how JHA agencies are working together to respond to COVID-19 here.

Germany assumes rotating six-month Presidency of the EU

“Together for Europe’s recovery” – this is the motto of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which began on 1 July 2020.

Eurojust welcomes the German Presidency’s commitment to strengthening cross-border cooperation.

"In these uniquely challenging times, the Covid crisis, its consequences and the recovery are the core issues for the next 6 months. The most important is that we continue to stay healthy and united… One main lesson learned from the past months is that the digitalization of justice needs to progress rapidly. I am very pleased that during the German Presidency, the Digital Criminal Justice Agenda will enter the next phase. Eurojust is the ideal catalyst for the European judicial criminal justice environment within this initiative and I and the Agency are looking forward to taking part." (Klaus Meyer Cabri, National Member for Germany and Vice President of Eurojust. For the full statement, click here).

To find out more about the Germany Presidency, click here.

Joint operation strikes major blow to organised crime

In a large-scale operation dating back to 2017, when French authorities began investigating the encrypted messaging service EncroChat, used widely by criminal networks across the world, a joint investigation team of police and judicial authorities from France and the Netherlands, supported by Eurojust and Europol, intercepted millions of messages exchanged between criminals.

The interception and analysis of these messages informed hundreds of ongoing investigations, providing insights into international criminal networks involved in drug smuggling, money laundering and other forms of serious and violent crime, such as murder, extortion, robbery, grievous assault and hostage taking.

During a joint press conference held at Eurojust on 2 July, French and Dutch law enforcement and judicial authorities, Europol and Eurojust presented the results of this extensive operation.

Read more about the case here, and watch the video recording of the press conference: EN, FR, NL
 

Interview with Michael Rothärmel

From getting lost in The Hague’s fog to building a bridge in the International Zone: Michael Rothärmel reflects on his time at Eurojust. Before he heads back to his home country to take up a new role, one of the Agency’s most seasoned experts shares his insights from two very different assignments: as a Seconded National Expert at the German Desk and as Eurojust Representative at the European Cybercrime Centre and in the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce.

Read more about Michael’s experience and what he calls ‘the magic of Eurojust and its unique dynamics’.

International drug trafficking ring taken down in Romania

In July, judicial and law enforcement authorities in Romania, with support from Eurojust and Europol, and the cooperation and assistance of national authorities from several countries, took down an organised criminal network involved in drug trafficking. 15 suspects were indicted and almost 2 tons of cocaine, with an estimated value of €600 million, were seized by the Romanian authorities. Eurojust had assisted the investigation through its financial and operational support to a joint investigation team. It also organised a coordination meeting and facilitated the execution of multiple European Investigation Orders and Mutual Legal Assistance requests.

Find out more about the case here.

Money laundering scheme uncovered

A joint investigation team between Belgian and Romanian authorities, supported financially and operationally by Eurojust and involving the European Anti-Fraud Office, uncovered a money-laundering scheme associated with an EU-funded railway infrastructure project in Romania. Four people were indicted for money laundering, influence peddling and tax evasion. Various assets were seized and bank accounts were frozen as a result of the investigation.

Find out more here.

Action taken against financial and cybercrime network

A transnational criminal network involved in large-scale financial fraud, cybercrime and money laundering was dismantled by judicial and law enforcement authorities in Italy and Romania, with support from Eurojust and Europol. Intensive cooperation between the authorities of both countries culminated in a joint action on 7 July, during which 12 suspects were arrested, properties were searched and assets seized. During the joint action day, Eurojust coordinated the execution of several European Arrest Warrants, European Investigation Orders and legal procedures for seizing the proceeds of crime.

Find out more about the action day here.

VAT carousel fraud unravelled

An operation involving Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Serbia, supported by Eurojust and Europol, led to the arrest in Hungary of two leaders of an organised crime group responsible for massive VAT fraud through sales of sugar and cooking oil. Simultaneous searches and witness hearings in the countries involved exposed a two-year scam to avoid payment of value-added tax to the Hungarian authorities, resulting in a loss of income of approximately EUR 10 million. Eurojust facilitated the execution of European Investigation Orders and other relevant judicial instruments.

Read more about the case here.

Major Albanian-Italian drug trafficking network dismantled

In a joint action coordinated by Eurojust, judicial authorities and police in Italy and Albania arrested 37 members of a powerful criminal organisation, and seized 3.5 tonnes of drugs with an estimated street value of more than €40 million, as well as various goods and assets. Eurojust assisted the investigation through its funding and support of a joint investigation team, organisation of several coordination meetings and preparation and execution of a European Arrest Warrant and a European Investigation Order.

Read more about the case and Eurojust’s role here.

Up to eight years in prison for leaders of car theft gang

#JusticeDone

In June, a court in Germany sentenced eleven members of a Lithuanian criminal organisation to serve prison sentences of up to eight years for the theft of luxury cars in Germany

Their trial followed a close and intensive cooperation between German and Lithuanian judicial and police authorities, and a carefully planned action day that resulted in the suspects’ arrest. Eurojust assisted the investigation by setting up and financing a joint investigation team, organising two coordination meetings and enabling the successful execution of European Investigation Orders and requests for Mutual Legal Assistance.

Find out more here.

Nine arrests for large-scale theft of industrial machinery

In a joint action on 17 June, judicial and law enforcement authorities in Italy and Bulgaria arrested nine members of an organised criminal group involved in the large-scale theft of high value industrial machinery. Eurojust coordinated the execution of European Arrest Warrants and simultaneous searches and seizures. Prior to this operation, Eurojust helped with coordinated information exchanges between the national authorities of both countries during the various phases of the investigation, including facilitating European Investigation Orders and requests for Mutual Legal Assistance.

Read more about the case here.

Major crackdown on digital piracy

In a coordinated operation supported by Eurojust and Europol, authorities in Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Germany arrested 11 suspects for offering illegal access to over 40 000 streaming services, subscription television channels and films, and violating audio-visual copyright on a large scale. 50 servers were taken down across numerous countries, through which an estimated 2 million subscribers worldwide had illegally viewed programmes and films. Properties were searched and assets seized. To prepare for the operation, Eurojust organised two coordination meetings and a coordination centre, and supported Spanish authorities with the execution of European Investigation Orders and requests for Mutual Legal Assistance.

Read more about the operation here.

Coordinated action against migrant smuggling group

On 26 May, in coordinated police raids in Belgium and France, 26 suspected members of an organised crime group involved in the smuggling of migrants, mainly from Asia, were arrested. The action was part of an ongoing cross-border investigation involving several countries and supported by Eurojust and Europol, which was prompted by the discovery in the UK of 39 deceased Vietnamese nationals inside a refrigerated trailer in October 2019.

Read more about the action here.

Support for joint investigation teams

Providing operational, legal and financial support to joint investigation teams (JITs) is a key part of Eurojust’s mission. Since 2005, the Agency has supported national authorities in the setting up and running of JITs. Eurojust has provided funding since 2009, and taken a leading role in promoting JITs and developing awareness and understanding around this tool and its use.

A factsheet on “Supporting judicial authorities in the use of joint investigation teams” was published in June, providing an overview of this important tool and practical guidance on its use.

Read/download the factsheet here.

Eurojust on YouTube

Eurojust launched its YouTube channel in May. This recent communication platform for the Agency is being used for a variety of messages and informative videos about its work in judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The channel has already proved very effective in communicating Eurojust’s work and contribution to some high-profile events, including the 5th EU Day against Impunity for War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide on 23 May.

Subscribe to Eurojust’s YouTube channel here.

SIRIUS e-Evidence Series – Episode VI

As part of the SIRIUS e-Evidence Series, launched by CEPOL in collaboration with Europol and Eurojust, a self-paced online training on “the efficiency of using JITs to gather and exchange evidence, in particular in cybercrime cases”, is being jointly organised by CEPOL and Eurojust.

To join the series, please click here. For further information, please visit the CEPOL website.

WHAT'S BEEN HAPPENING AT EUROJUST?

Eurojust and OLAF strengthen their ties

On 30 June, Eurojust provided training to approximately 50 OLAF investigators on strengthening judicial cooperation between the two institutions. Among the topics covered were the application of judicial cooperation tools – coordination meetings, coordination centres and joint investigation teams – best practices in judicial cooperation, and ways to enhance an already established cooperation between both institutions. The training was digitally hosted by OLAF.

Read more about the training and Eurojust-OLAF cooperation here.

Georgian Liaison Prosecutor is appointed to Eurojust

Mr Giorgi Gogadze took up his duties as the first Liaison Prosecutor for Georgia at Eurojust in early June. His appointment follows the signing of a cooperation agreement between Eurojust and Georgia in May 2019.

Read about Mr Gogadze’s appointment and Eurojust-Georgian relations here.

Photo: Mr Giorgi Gogadze (right) being welcomed by Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran.

Meeting of the European Judicial Cybercrime Network

The EJCN held its intermediary plenary meeting via videoconference on 11 June. The meeting addressed various legal and practical aspects of support to victims of malware and other forms of cybercrime. Also discussed were lessons learned from prosecutors involved in ‘Operation Cepheus’, the cross-border investigation that successfully took down the powerful computer-hijacking tool, RAT, in November 2019.

For more information about this meeting and the EJCN, click here.

Eurojust strengthens ties with judicial authorities in Latin America

In June, Eurojust and the Ibero-American Network of International Legal Cooperation (IberRed) signed an Implementing Arrangement to their 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (to see all languages, click here). As part of this arrangement, National Desks at Eurojust will have access to the Iber@Secure Communication System, which enables safe and real time exchanges of information with IberRed contact points in Latin America, who are experienced judges, prosecutors and central authorities with competence in international legal cooperation matters in their countries.

To find out more, click here
The Implementing Arrangement, available in all EU languages, can be downloaded here.

New Focus Group on Migrant Smuggling

The Focus Group was launched in May to further strengthen the EU’s fight against migrant smuggling. It will serve as an important hub, connecting Member State actors responsible for tackling migrant smuggling crimes, with a view to sharing best practices, analysing trends and developments in the operational tactics of organised crime groups active in migrant smuggling, studying the impact of shifts in migrant smuggling routes, and gathering information on the challenges and opportunities of judicial cooperation.

Read more about the Focus Group on Migrant Smuggling and related cases supported by Eurojust here.

5th EU Day against impunity for genocide, crimes against
humanity and war crimes

Co-organised by the Croatian Presidency of the EU, the European Commission, Eurojust and the Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the 5th EU Day against impunity took place on 23 May. Due to the health crisis caused by COVID-19, the event was organised digitally, with all presentations made available on Eurojust’s YouTube channel. The focus of the event and a report presented at this occasion was on the cumulative prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters for core international crimes and terrorism-related offences.

For more information about the 5th EU Day against impunity and to access the report, click here. Link to related YouTube playlist here.

Eurojust President interviewed

In May, Eurojust President, Mr Ladislav Hamran, was interviewed by the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP). In this interview, Mr Hamran shares, among others, his vision for improving international judicial cooperation and strengthening ties between Eurojust and the IAP. He also reflects on the most pressing issues facing prosecutors internationally, and offers some advice to young prosecutors embarking on their career.

Read the full interview here.

Translations of the Eurojust Annual Report 2019

The 2019 Annual Report is now available in all official EU languages. The various language versions of the report can be downloaded here.

Report on cumulative prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters

The report on “Cumulative prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters for core international crimes and terrorist-related offences” was published in May. It discusses opportunities for investigating and prosecuting foreign terrorist fighters not only for terrorist offences but also for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide (core international crimes). It presents existing jurisprudence and developing practice by national authorities.

Read the report here.

Factsheet on core international crimes

The factsheet on “Supporting judicial authorities in the fight against core international crimes”, co-produced by Eurojust and the EU Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, describes the EU’s response to core international crimes and role of the Network and Eurojust in this effort. It explains the practice of cumulative prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters, and provides concrete examples of cases where it has been applied.

Read the factsheet here.

Case law by the Court of Justice of the EU on the principle of
ne bis in idem in criminal matters

Published in April, the case-law overview, which is an update to a previous edition published in 2017, contains summaries of the CJEU’s judgments, categorised according to a set of important keywords that reflect the main elements of the principle of ne bis in idem. A table of keywords and a chronological list of judgments are also provided at the beginning of the document.

The case-law overview is available for download here.

Translated executive summaries (available in all EU languages) can be accessed here.

Case law by the Court of Justice of the EU on the European Arrest Warrant

Published in March, the case-law overview, which is an update to a previous edition published in 2018, contains summaries of the CJEU’s judgments categorised according to a set of important keywords that reflect the structure of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) and the surrender procedures between Member States. Topics discussed include: content, validity and lawfulness of the EAW, admissibility of a request for a preliminary ruling, scope of the EAW, obligation to execute an EAW, human rights scrutiny and more.

Read/download the case law overview here.

Access translated executive summaries (available in all EU languages) here.

Third JIT evaluation report

Published in March, the third joint investigation team (JIT) evaluation report presents the findings of 99 evaluations completed by JIT practitioners between November 2017 and No¬vember 2019. Part of the report addresses Eurojust’s experience in JITs with third States. Lessons learned and best practices are identified for different phases of a JIT, from the set-up phase, to the operational phase and prosecution phase.

Read the evaluation report here.

Access translated executive summaries (available in all EU languages) here.

What to watch out for in Q3 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.

  • Continued regular updates of the Eurojust-EJN compilation on The impact of Covid-19 on judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Click here to access these updates.
  • Eurojust participation in virtual open days of international organisations in The Hague. For information, click here.
  • Annual meeting of JITs national experts (dates to be confirmed)
  • Report on Eurojust’s Casework on Environmental Crime
  • Report on National Legislation and Eurojust Casework Analysis on Sham Marriages
  • Casework Report on the European Investigation Order
  • Eurojust Memorandum on Battlefield Evidence
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