Eurojust: Drug trafficking and hawala money laundering ring dismantled by joint investigation team

The Hague, 29 November

 

On 21 November, an organised crime group specialised in money laundering, whose members were active in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Morocco, was dismantled.

 

An investigative judge at the Court of Marseille had been investigating since 2015 into the activities of this complex structure involved in transporting the proceeds from drug trafficking, estimated that at least 300 Million EUR had already been laundered. The drugs were sold in France where the profits were collected and then transported to Belgium and the Netherlands. The criminals’ modus operandi involved the use of cash couriers traveling by car who would pick up the proceeds from drug trafficking throughout Western Europe (collection rate of over EUR 1 million per month) and transport the cash to Belgium and the Netherlands. The cash was there laundered to Morocco via the Middle East using unregulated financial channels (the Hawala system), thus leaving no tell-tale trail evidence for law enforcement investigators.

 

Belgian authorities reported 23 transports from Belgium to the Netherlands in a two-month period alone in early 2016.

 

Eurojust was requested to facilitate the transmission and execution of Letters of Request, and to assist a joint investigation team (JIT) between France, Belgium and the Netherlands. A coordination meeting with France, Belgium and the Netherlands was held at Eurojust in May 2016.

 

Europol employed mobile offices to assist national authorities during the action day, which was conducted by 450 police officers. 36 arrests took place simultaneously in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Over EUR 2 622 000 in France, EUR 2 800 000 in Belgium and EUR 85 000 in the Netherlands, in total, around 5.5 Million EUR, in cash has been seized, alongside drugs, e.g. 20 kilo cocaine in the Netherlands, a quantity of gold worth EUR 800 000, eight cars in Belgium, three semi-automatic weapons (one in France, one in Belgium, one in the Netherlands) and ammunition.

 

In all phases of this complex investigation, information exchange among national authorities, Eurojust and Europol was essential.

 

For questions relating to the involvement of Member States, please contact the relevant national authorities.

Source: Eurojust

By

Robert Williams

Editor in Chief

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