Europol strikes gold by breaking up organised crime group
by Dean Carroll
A large organised-crime network, made up of Georgian and Armenian nationals, has been broken up in the South of France by Europol and French police. The group was suspected of committing more than 1,000 offences in the Toulouse region - including residential and commercial theft. Europol revealed that much of the stolen property was then shipped abroad in containers and trucks. A large amount of stolen jewellery was also "on a regular basis and by the kilogram" sent to Antwerp, in Belgium, where it was sold openly.
Some 23 suspects were arrested in the joint operation and considerable amounts of gold and jewellery were recovered. Europol indicated that the operation was ongoing and further arrests were likely to follow. A spokesman for the agency said: "The organised crime group was hierarchically structured on several levels and under the coordination of at least one 'thief-in-law', which is a criminal with high-ranking status - who acts as a controller and regulator of Russian-speaking organised crime."
Europol claimed that it supported the work of the French Gendarmerie from the early stages of the investigation - facilitating the exchange of intelligence with other European Union member states and delivering analytical reports. The spokesman added: "During the operation, Europol also had two officers present in France who supported the operation via their mobile office. The assistance offered for this operation is ongoing and the results of the interviews, seizures and house searches will be processed to generate further intelligence and investigative leads."