European Commission
Commission proposes to empower Eurojust to collect, preserve and share evidence on war crimes
The Commission published a proposal to amend the mandate of Eurojust (the EU Agency for Criminal Justice) to legally empower the agency to collect, preserve and share evidence on war crimes. The move follows a request from Commission President von der Leyen to Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, to enhance and coordinate EU efforts to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine during the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. The proposal aims to provide the legal basis for Eurojust to collect, analyse and preserve evidence in relation to core international war crimes in Ukraine. Further, the Commission notes that “satellite images, photographs, videos and audio recordings can be useful to demonstrate the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and related criminal offences. Therefore, Eurojust should be able to process and store such data in relation to this purpose.”

Worth noting that the Ukrainian Prosecution Office has set up a webpage requesting citizens to register and document war crimes as and when they occur. At least 6000 war crimes have been registered on this portal thus far. Finally, more information on Eurojust’s response to investigating war crimes in Ukraine can be accessed here. (link)

EU lawmakers support limited ban on AI-powered predictive policing tools
On 20 April, MEP Dragoş Tudorache, co-rapporteur on behalf of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee, and Brando Benifei, co-rapporteur on behalf of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee, published their draft report on the Artificial Intelligence Act (AIA). Both MEPs confirmed their support for a partial ban on predictive policing tools powered by AI, arguing they should be banned on the basis that they violate fundamental rights such as human dignity and the presumption of innocence. However, this ban would only extend to systems that predict the likelihood of an individual committing a crime or committing a crime again, and not to predictive location-based systems used to profile areas and locations, which the NGOs argue will further increase discriminatory policing of racial and poor communities. Apart from amendments relating to predictive policing, the text of the draft report includes a number of further changes to the AI Act such as a wider mechanism for redress that include the right for people to complain to supervisory authorities and a number of obligations for public authorities. (link)

Country News:

·        Belgium: Authorities in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have arrested 19 people following an international investigation of a major cocaine trafficking network coordinated by Europol. (link)

·        Czechia: Czech police have started investigating suspected war crimes in Ukraine by gathering testimonies from refugees who fled the country to the Czech Republic. (link)

·        Estonia: With Victory Day approaching on 9 May, Estonian police are extending a prohibition on public gatherings that may encourage hatred or include the exhibition of aggressive symbols across the entire country. (link)

·        Finland: Authorities in Finland and other EU countries took part in a major investigation involving an online cryptocurrency investment fraud scheme taken down by Eurojust and Europol on 25 April. (link)

·        Germany: German authorities raided alleged neo-Nazi militant cells and detained four men as part of an intensified crackdown on far-right extremists in the country. (link)

·        Lithuania: The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe has called for further measures to be taken in Lithuania to prevent corruption among top executive functions. (link)

·        Netherlands: Following the country’s first major #MeToo incident earlier this year, Dutch prosecutors stated that a criminal investigation into alleged sexual misconduct associated to TV talent competition The Voice of Holland (TVOH) is underway. (link)

·        Romania: The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has produced a report on Romania underlining the ongoing issues facing the prison system. (link)

·        Spain: Spanish National Police has dismantled a criminal group that established companies used to regularize migrants and defraud social security. (link)

Other news
Maltese police are investigating corruption at Identity Malta in relation to cash for passports scheme
The Maltese Police’s economic crimes unit is investigating claims that between 2015 and 2018, senior officials at Identity Malta – the country’s identity management organization in terms of passports, eIDs and residence permits – took thousands of Euros in commissions relating to wealthy foreigners applying for Maltese passports. The allegations are that senior Identity Malta officials passed background data on the wealthy applicants to a specific real estate agency, which then helped these applicants to purchase high value properties all over Malta. The Identity Malta officials were then paid substantial sums whenever a sale or lease agreement was made. The same officials then invested the money in bonds or other properties, to evade financial scrutiny. A Maltese police spokesman stated that the claims are being investigated thoroughly, adding that “… obviously having first-hand information of those net-worth individuals looking around for high-end property in Malta made them [Identity Malta] very ‘popular’ with estate agents. If this is proved to be the case, Identity Malta officials would have acted illegally and will have to face the consequences.” (link)

Coordinated operation by Europol and five countries shuts down one of world’s largest hacking websites

Thanks to Operation TOURNIQUET, coordinated by Europol alongside independent investigations by the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal, and Romania, one of the world’s largest hacking forums – RaidForums – has been taken down. Launched in 2015, RaidForums had been used by hackers across the globe to sell access to large-scale database leaks which largely belonged to a number of US companies across different industries. The hacked databases included data for “millions of credit cards, bank account numbers and routing information, and the usernames and associated passwords needed to access online accounts,” according to Europol. Operation Tourniquet was spearheaded by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre and its constituent Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT). The US Department of Justice is now charging the website’s founder, 21-year-old Portuguese citizen Diogo Santos Coelho, on six criminal counts. (link)

Look Ahead :

–       3 April: European Parliament LIBE Committee meets to discuss application of the Schengen Information System in Cyprus.

–       2 May: European Parliament plenary scheduled to discuss and vote the proposal to strengthen Europol’s mandate, as regards cooperation with private parties, data processing and support for Research and Innovation.

–       2 May: Working Party on Cooperation in Criminal Matters (COPEN) meets to discuss establishing a collaboration platform to support the functioning of Joint Investigation Teams and amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1726. For context, Joint Investigation Teams involve two or more Member States collaborating legally in criminal investigations.

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