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Operational investigation methods
To define a method of simultaneous investigation for identifying activities relating to drug trafficking and the financial structures and assets enjoyed by persons related to trafficking.
Council Recommendation of 25 April 2002 on improving investigation methods in the fight against organised crime linked to organised drug trafficking: simultaneous investigations into drug trafficking by criminal organisations and their finances/assets [Official Journal C 114 of 15.05.2002].
Under point 43 of the conclusions of the Tampere European Council and point 126.96.36.199 of the European Union action plan to combat drugs 2000 - 2004, the Member States were invited to step up cooperation in the fight against crime. Three initial priorities were set: to combat drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings and terrorism. The European Union has shown its firm determination to fight all types of crime on several occasions:
- the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, held in Palermo from 12 to 15 December 2000;
- adoption of the Council Framework Decision on money laundering, the identification, tracing, freezing, seizing and confiscation of instrumentalities and the proceeds of crime;
- a number of initiatives by Member States concerning inter aliaillicit drug trafficking on the high seas, the establishment of a European network of laboratories analysing synthetic drugs and the establishment of joint investigation teams.
Given that drug trafficking generates considerable assets for criminals, which are then used to finance other criminal activities, the European Union suggests establishing a technique of "simultaneous investigation", whereby investigations are conducted at the same time into illicit drug trafficking and into the assets held by criminal organisations and those acquired during the investigations, the owners of those assets being identified. This method of "investigating assets", on the basis of systematic searches in all public or private databases, will make it possible to identify the assets held by criminals ("assets" meaning the collective property and financial rights owned by a person).
There are several advantages of employing the technique of simultaneous investigation. Once the assets held by criminal organisations have been identified, investigators can:
- decide to seize property to prevent it being sold or put to other uses;
- identify the persons involved in trafficking and any other persons benefiting from the proceeds of criminal activities;
- make good any damage caused and possibly compensate victims.
Because drug trafficking activities often extend across borders, the competent law enforcement, court and tax authorities must cooperate in order to identify data on the ownership of assets.
The Council therefore invites the Member States to:
- apply this method where it proves useful for the purposes of investigations;
- promote the creation of joint investigative teams where investigations affect more than one Member State;
- encourage the setting-up of permanent or temporary groups specialised in asset investigation;
- request the support and cooperation of Europol and the European Police College (CEPOL).