Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by HM Revenue and Customs


  1.1.  Europol is the European Union (EU) law enforcement organisation that handles criminal intelligence. Its aim is to improve the effectiveness and co-operation between the competent authorities of the Member States in preventing and combating serious international organised crime and terrorism. The mission of Europol is to make a significant contribution to the European Union's law enforcement action against organised crime and terrorism with an emphasis on targeting criminal organisations.

  1.2.  HMRC regard Europol as a key law enforcement partner. We have two officers seconded to Europol and work closely with Europol in the development and exchange of intelligence. Europol also fulfil a valuable role in facilitating joint operational activity with European law enforcement agencies and assist us in developing knowledge and relationships.


  2.1.  Europol supports the law enforcement activities of the Member States against serious and organised crime that is crime where an organised criminal structure is involved and two or more Member States are affected.

  2.2.  Europol supports the law enforcement activities of the Member States by:

    —  facilitating the exchange of information between Europol and Europol Liaison Officers (ELOs). These ELOs are seconded to Europol by the Member States as representatives of their national law enforcement agencies, thus they are not under the command of Europol and its Director as such. Furthermore, they act in accordance with their national law.

    —  providing operational analysis and support to Member States' operations;

    —  providing expertise and technical support for investigations and operations carried out within the EU, under the supervision and the legal responsibility of the Member States;

    —  generating strategic reports (eg threat assessments) and crime analysis on the basis of information and intelligence supplied by Member States or gathered from other sources.


  3.1.  HMRC have a permanent Europol Liaison Officer seconded from the Criminal Investigation Directorate in HMRC to the UK Liaison Bureau at Europol (UKLB). The secondment is due to be reviewed in 2009. The Liaison Officer currently has responsibility for a number of so called Analytical Work Files (AWF). AWFs are European wide databases of criminal intelligence on specific crime areas. The Liaison Officer also represents HMRC and the UK Liaison Bureau, in other customs related issues such as alcohol smuggling, and seizures of drugs and weapons at ports and airports.

  3.2.  HMRC have also seconded a National Expert from Criminal Investigation to the Financial and Property Crime Unit at Europol. The purpose of this secondment was to ensure that MTIC (Missing Trader Intra Community) fraud featured in Europol's Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2007, which defines the crime areas Europol will focus on in the coming year. The secondee is currently on his second secondment and has been embedded with different Europol teams to facilitate the UK initiative to establish a new work file dealing with MTIC fraud.


  4.1.  The UKLB is a SOCA managed and lead office representing UK law enforcement authorities at Europol on a pan European level. The office maintains a multi agency approach with SOCA, HMRC, the Metropolitan Police and the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency all represented.

  4.2.  The Europol convention stipulates that each Liaison Bureau must have a Europol National Unit (ENU) for routing intelligence and support. The UK ENU is located at SOCA. The UKLB is able to facilitate bilateral and multilateral exchanges of intelligence with or without including the interaction of Europol.


  5.1.  The Liaison Bureaux at Europol facilitate the exchange of intelligence on a bilateral and multilateral basis, and also between Europol and the competent authorities in EU Member States. Europol is a multi-disciplinary agency, comprising not only regular police officers but staff members from the various law enforcement agencies of the Member States and covering specialised areas such as customs, immigration services, intelligence services, border and financial police.

  5.2.  In May 2007 Europol had 581 staff of which 116 were ELOs. The Liaison Bureaux currently has a total of 129 ELOs, representing 65 different law enforcement agencies from 34 countries.

  5.3.  One exceptional added value is that Europol helps to overcome the language barriers in international law enforcement co-operation. In practice this means that any law enforcement officer from a Member State can address a request to their ENU in their native language. The request is then translated for exchange at Europol where the daily working language is English.


  6.1.  All 27 Member States of the EU are represented in the Liaison Bureau Network. Europol also has a number of cooperation agreements with countries outside the EU and with other organisations. These fall into two categories, operational, where personal data can be exchanged, and strategic, which are limited to strategic intelligence exchanges such as trends and modus operandi.

  6.2.  The Information Management Operations Unit (IMT4) is the designated point of contact for Europol for the actual information exchange of information with Third Party countries and organisations. These are countries outside the EU, with either an operational agreement or a strategic agreement with Europol. IMT4 is the intelligence gateway, which authorises and registers the communication of data with Third Parties.


  7.1.  Information Exchange System (Info Ex)

  7.1.1.  The Information Exchange System (Info Ex) is Europol's in-house software system, which facilitates the exchange of intelligence between Member States, Europol and Third parties. It provides the possibility of storing, searching, and analysing information related to trans-national crimes, allowing law enforcement agencies across Europe to collaborate effectively in their investigations.

  7.1.2.  Data inserted in the Info Ex remains under the full control of the intelligence owner who is responsible for the accuracy, reliability and storage time limits of the data. If for example the UK wanted to access data exchanged between Europol, France and Poland, it could only do so by seeking permission from the country that owns the data.

  7.2.  Information System (IS)

  7.2.1.  The Information System (IS) is another in-house Europol software system. It holds a European wide data base of criminal intelligence, which supports automatic detection of possible hits between different investigations and facilitates the sharing of sensitive information in a secure and reliable way.

  7.2.2.  The types of data stored include: offences, people, means of transport, communication and payment, identity documents, drugs, firearms, currency, organisations, and of course the owner.

  7.2.3.  Some Member States utilise automatic data loaders in their ENUs, to populate the IS system with criminal intelligence from their country. This offers other law enforcement agencies around Europe a greater chance of obtaining hits against this intelligence. However the UK is not one of these countries.


  8.1.  This team are situated within Europol's Financial and Property Crime Unit (SC4) and assists investigations in tracking down and confiscating criminal finances and property. Among other things they manage the secretariat of the Camden Assets Recovery Inter-Agency Network (CARIN), an extensive network of financial investigators.

  8.2.  The primary aim of CARIN is to enhance the effectiveness of Member States efforts in depriving criminals of their illicit profits and to encourage cooperation with third countries in this regard. The group aims to improve cross-border and inter-agency cooperation as well as information exchange within and outside the EU. CARIN works on an informal non-coercive nature placing financial investigators in different countries in touch with one another.


  9.1.  Eurojust is an international organisation of 27 EU prosecutors and judges located in The Hague. It aims to improve legal co-operation between Member States, and to bring better co-ordination of cross-border investigations and prosecutions. It also facilitates the exchange of information and makes recommendations to change laws and to improve Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) and extradition arrangements. The UK has three representatives at Eurojust, Aled Williams from the Crown Prosecution Service, Phil Hicks from HMRC, and Lynne Barrie from The Crown Office. The UKLB and the UK representatives at Eurojust have regular interaction about cases concerning operational and legal advice.


  10.1.  AWF Smoke

The main area of work HMRC engage with Europol over is AWF Smoke. Prior to the secondment of an HMRC officer to Europol in June 2006, HMRC were contributing on a sporadic basis to AWF Smoke and were ranked at 5th from last among the Member States contributing to the work file. Since then the UK has consistently been in the top three and are currently the largest contributor of tobacco fraud intelligence in Europe with 36 out of 135 contributions (26.66%) in the last quarter of 2007. However there is still a strong reluctance from HMRC to share sensitive intelligence with other Member States through Europol channels. The Fiscal Crime Liaison Officer (FCLO) Network is the preferred route.

  10.2.  AWF MTIC

  AWF MTIC opened on 2 April 2008 and is a UK lead initiative to combat abuse of the tax system by organised criminal groups. The aim is to provide a European platform for collating and analysing data from Member States MTIC investigations.

  10.3.  Controlled deliveries[1]

  Since October 2006 the UKLB has facilitated a total of 40 controlled deliveries of drugs found in freight and parcel detections. 34 of these were found by HMRC in the UK and offered to Member States, mainly Spain, The Netherlands, Italy and Ireland. This cooperation has directly resulted in the seizure of 142.5 kilos of drugs and 53 arrests.

  10.4.  Cash detections

  Since July 2007 HMRC's Financial National intelligence Unit has regularly contributed intelligence from UK cash detections to AWF Sus-Trans. This work file aims to establish links between Member State money laundering investigations. However to date no links have been established.

  10.5.  HMRC training

  In March 2007 the HMRC secondee arranged for our Cyclamen National Intelligence Unit to provide counter terrorism and proliferation awareness training to Finland. The Finnish Board of Customs is planning to set up a similar awareness programme in their country, based on UK model principles.


  11.1.  HMRC welcome the new proposal for a Decision under Articles 30 and 34 of the TEC. This will provides a firmer legal basis for Europol than the current Convention as the Decision will be binding on member states whereas the Convention is not. As the opening section of the Explanatory Memorandum to the original version of the Proposal stated:

    "|Since its adoption in 1995, three different Protocols have been adopted to amend the Europol Convention, respectively in 2000, 2002 and 2003, which include provisions which will significantly improve Europol's effectiveness. At the time of writing, none of these instruments have entered into force yet, due to the fact that not all Member States have ratified them. In addition discussions on Europol's functioning have demonstrated that even after the entry into force of the three Protocols, further improvements to Europol's functioning are still desirable. This is partly due to the emergence or increase of new security threats such as terrorism, which pose new challenges to Europol and require novel approaches. Moreover, improved sharing of information and implementation of the principle of availability as supported in the Hague Programme, make it necessary to further adapt Europol's legal framework while maintaining an emphasis on robust data protection provisions. A significant change which is proposed is that Europol should be financed from the Community budget. This will put Europol on an equal footing with Eurojust and CEPOL and increase the role of the European Parliament in the control of Europol, thus enhancing democratic oversight over Europol at European level. Application of the EU Staff Regulations will also bring significant simplification. This is in line with the resolution adopted by the European Parliament. The current proposal aims at establishing Europol on the basis of a Council Decision, including all the amendments already incorporated in the three Protocols, as well as further improvements to address the new challenges faced by Europol|"

  11.2.  Section 3 of the EM also states (legal effect):

    "The proposal aims to replace the Europol Convention by a Council Decision. It incorporates the amendments to the convention introduced by the three Protocols such as extension of Europol's mandate and tasks to cover money laundering, assistance in the field of crime prevention, technical and forensic police methods, the possibility to participate in joint investigation teams or request Member States to conduct or coordinate investigations and greater information of the European Parliament|"


  12.1.  HMRC regard Europol as a valuable partner in the development and support of law enforcement intelligence and operations within Europe. We also support the proposal to place Europol on a firmer legal footing which can only benefit the work of Europol. We would be happy to provide further information to the Committee, if needed.

Andrew Lawrence

Deputy Head of Criminal & Enforcement Policy

28 April 2008

1   A controlled delivery is an investigative technique that allows specific consignments of illicit goods or controlled substances to pass through the territory of one or more country. The objective is to identify those persons involved in a transaction and to facilitate the arrest of the principals behind the operation. Back

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