Serious and organised crime continues to threaten the internal security of the EU says a new report: The Other Side of the Coin: An Analysis of Financial and Economic Crime.
The criminal landscape constantly evolves, as criminals seek out new opportunities and exploit crises for their own interests.
Criminal actors involved in economic and financial crimes are highly adept at taking advantage of our economy for their purposes, and at targeting increasing numbers of victims.
They capitalise on vulnerabilities in society’s systems to generate billions in illicit profits, while applying various strategies, often cyber-enabled, to remain undetected and secure their earnings.
Financial crimes, and in particular money laundering, undermine our society not only by infiltrating the legal economy, but also by fostering the growth of a parallel underground society made of individuals who increasingly rely on organised crime for their economic sustenance and livelihood.
Vulnerable demographics, and especially vulnerable youngsters who are lacking trust in societal institutions and confidence in the rule of law, are the perfect target pool for such parallel underground society.
Due to their intrusive nature, financial and economic crimes are among the most challenging criminal activities to investigate and tackle.
A fragmented landscape sees different criminal actors interact with one another, making criminal operations more complex and tangled.
Key players typically remain anonymous and operate independently from established criminal structures, often from criminal safe havens.
Techniques and tools advance rapidly
Some recent investigations, including those exploring encrypted communications among criminals, gave unprecedented insight into the system that sustains the finances of organised crime.
While law enforcement is untangling the complexity of this underground financial ecosystem, information sharing, investigative focus on key criminal actors, development of technical knowledge and expertise, and public-private partnerships are essential tools for winning the fight against financial and economic crimes.
“In our globalised world, trade, technology and transport bring us closer together and create economic opportunities and prosperity. However, there is another side to the coin; our interconnected world is misused and abused by criminal actors involved in economic and financial crimes,” says Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol.
“In fact, organised crime has built a parallel global criminal economic and financial system around money laundering, illicit financial transfers and corruption. Criminals exploit these three practices to conceal, move, and ultimately benefit from their criminal profits.
The ability to launder illicit proceeds on an industrial scale, to move them through a web of criminal financial brokers, and to corrupt the relevant actors, has become indispensable for modern organised crime.”
The European Financial and Economic Crime Threat Assessment describes the complexities of financial and economic crimes, and the criminal ecosystem that virtually sustains and links all other criminal activities.
The report analyses all financial and economic crimes affecting the EU, such as money laundering, corruption, fraud, intellectual property crime, and commodity and currency counterfeiting.
It also illustrates the power of asset recovery in the fight against financial and economic crimes.
The analytical findings of the report rely on a combination of operational insights and strategic intelligence contributed to Europol by EU Member States and Europol’s partners, who provided crucial information regarding the criminals’ business models.
The report is intended to capture the pervasiveness and destructiveness of financial and economic crimes affecting the EU, and to support all relevant stakeholders in untangling the large variety of financial and economic crimes.
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