Eurojust supported 10 105 cross-border criminal investigations in 2021, reaching the highest number of cases since starting operations twenty years ago. This milestone of over 10 000 cases is an increase of almost 50 times compared to 2002. Despite continued pandemic restrictions throughout last year, Eurojust’s casework load rose by 15% compared to 2020.
Eurojust participated in over 1 400 large-scale operations and sent nearly 2 000 rapid responses to judicial cooperation requests. As a result, EUR 7 billion of drugs were seized, EUR 2.8 billion of criminal assets were frozen, and 3 329 suspects were arrested or surrendered. Without the Agency’s involvement these results would not have be attained.
These are the main highlights of Eurojust’s Annual Report 2021, published today. Commenting on the occasion, Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran stated: ‘The level of judicial cooperation that we have helped to establish in the past two decades is unique in the world, and our Agency is widely acknowledged in Europe. We will continue to focus our attention on further digitalising the way European prosecutors and judges work together across borders. At the same time, we will keep strengthening and expanding our cooperation with third countries, making sure that the fight against organised crime and terrorism evolves from a regional to a global effort.’
Mr Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice said: ‘This year marks the 20th anniversary of Eurojust and in parallel we were able to negotiate the biggest budget in its history – 350 million euro for the next seven years. We have come a long way from an organisation that began as a small meeting of prosecutors around a table in Brussels to what we see in practice today. There will always be a need for the outstanding service Eurojust does for the safety of Europe and I look forward to seeing what will be achieved in the year to come.’
Working together via Eurojust, national judicial authorities achieved on-the-ground results across a wide range of crime areas in 2021, helping to deliver justice to almost 100 000 victims. To make this possible, the Agency supported Member States in the organisation of 457 coordination meetings, 22 action days, and provided operational and financial support to 254 joint investigation teams.
The largest number of cases concerned swindling, money laundering, drug trafficking, and cybercrime. Of all cases Eurojust registered last year, 81% covered crime areas considered as a priority by EMPACT (the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats – an initiative driven by Member States and supported by the Commission and Council, to identify and address threats posed by organised and serious international crime).
Throughout 2021, Eurojust continued to handle various cases related to the pandemic, such as sales of fictitious personal protective equipment. The Agency adapted to the crisis by introducing new secure online conferencing tools and adjusting its premises to accommodate hybrid meetings. It also laid down foundations for several projects last year to support the Commission’s digitalisation of justice initiative in which Eurojust will play a major role.
Eurojust’s successful results in 2021 are largely thanks to the excellent collaboration with its EU partners and fellow Justice and Home Affairs Agencies. This cooperation includes the newly operational European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Luxembourg, with whom a Working Agreement was signed, to start work on fighting crimes against the EU’s budget. Moreover, in 2021, Eurojust became actively connected to over sixty jurisdictions worldwide thanks to its new Contact Points in Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and the Republic of Maldives.
Major Eurojust cases in 2021:
· Criminal networks’ encrypted communications tool, Sky ECC, blocked: Investigators monitored the criminal use of the Sky ECC communication service tool, generating invaluable insights into hundreds of millions of messages exchanged between criminals, resulting in the collection of crucial information on over a hundred planned large-scale criminal operations, preventing potential life-threatening situations and possible victims. Eurojust supported a joint investigation team of the French, Belgian and Dutch authorities into this case.
· World’s most dangerous malware, EMOTET, disrupted: A dangerous and resilient malware created a large botnet that was offered for hire to cybercriminals to install other types of malware onto victims’ computers. The infected machines of victims were redirected towards a law enforcement-controlled infrastructure.
· Migrant smuggling with luxury vehicles in Greece halted with Eurojust support: An organised crime group transported around 350 irregular migrants within Greece, during 56 transfers. 11 suspects were arrested and 29 vehicles were seized, together with computer and GPS equipment, mobile phones, financial documents, cash and a mining tool for bitcoins.
· Online investment swindle defrauding victims for around EUR 30 million stopped: An organised crime group defrauded thousands of victims all over Europe through four different online investment scams, resulting in the arrest of six suspects and the seizure of properties, luxury cars and bank accounts.
· Syrian official sentenced to life for crimes against humanity with support of joint investigation team assisted by Eurojust: Building on the work of a joint investigation team supported by Eurojust last year and previously, in a landmark judgement in January 2022, the German Higher Regional Court of Koblenz sentenced a former high-ranking Syrian official to life imprisonment for his involvement in crimes against humanity. This followed the sentencing of his associate by the same court in 2021.