68 arrested in takedown of European cargo theft network
An unprecedented law enforcement operation involving five countries has resulted in the takedown of one of the most active networks of cargo thieves operating across Europe, according to the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol).
“Composed of over 100 members, this organised crime group is believed to have committed over 150 acts of cargo theft for a total estimated damage worth in excess of €10 million,” the agency said in a statement.
The coordinated actions took place under the umbrella of a joint investigation, code-named ‘ARROW’, coordinated by Europol at the international level.
“The latest phase of Operation ARROW has resulted in the arrest today (10 March) in Romania of 37 members of this highly professional criminal syndicate. 73 house searches were carried out in the early hours of the morning across the country by the Romanian National Police (Poliția Română) and the French National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) with the support of Europol on-the-ground” the statement revealed.
Europol noted that thearrests this week in Romania follow those in other European countries of other members of the same criminal group. 10 suspects were arrested in France earlier this year by the French National Gendarmerie as part of a parallel action. A further 10 suspects were arrested in Spain, six in the Netherlands and five in Sweden. European arrests warrants have been issued for the remaining members at large.
The arrested individuals, who are originally from Romania, are suspected of carrying out thefts from moving lorries while driving cars at high speed on motorways.
“Executing such thefts requires a high degree of sophistication. One car would start to drive slowly in front of the lorry while two other cars held up the other traffic. A fourth car would drive up close behind the lorry,” Europol explained.
“One of the criminals would climb out of the car’s sunroof onto the bonnet and break open the lock on the lorry with an angle grinder. The valuable cargo would then either be transferred to their vehicle, or thrown on the side of the road to be picked up later. The driver of the lorry and other road-users were often completely unaware of what was going on.”
Participating in the investigation from its outset in December 2016, Europol brought together the different police forces involved “to help them connect the dots between their own national investigations and provided analytical support before and during the action days,”it added.