During the week, a lot of attention has been related to the insights that Europol released with their strategic product, the Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) 2021. Much has changed since the previous release in 2017, and there are some key takeaways that we see correlating with many other sources. It is clear that Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) are increasingly involved in legitimate business structures and that the criminal-service-sector and the specialist support to aid rapid adaptation and facilitate new opportunities continue to evolve. Like many other law enforcement agencies and intelligence communities, Europol is monitoring the ongoing pandemic’s effect. The impact of Covid-19 on criminal operations will continue to prompt changes in modus operandi within the EU. The SOCTA covers a broad range of crime areas, and we are currently looking into how it affects our own threat catalogue.
Legal entities are critical components of criminal enterprises. More than 80% of OCGs use legal businesses, either set up by themselves or procured as a service in the crime-as-a-service sector to commit a crime, for example, environmental crimes, or to launder criminal proceeds. The growing use of legal entities for unlawful purposes highlights the need to gather information and develop a better understanding of criminal characteristics, not only on individuals but also on legal businesses.
Accessing specialists and their knowledge and expertise is crucial in more sophisticated money laundering schemes. Specialists can be of a wide variety of skillsets, including lawyers and accountants that bring in information and financial expertise, logistics personnel and many more. In addition, brokers and intermediaries who focus on networking and connecting have become crucial in facilitating criminal activity and sometimes serve as the bridge between criminals and specialists. This fluid-network effect has evolved over the past years and has been proven successful for OCGs since they can quickly adapt or switch crime areas and schemes when an opportunity arises.
The ongoing global pandemic and the negative economic impact have led to changes and new modus operandi in several crime areas. They will continue to change how OCGs work within the European Union, potentially exacerbating negative economic fallouts. The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment 2021 sees the economic downturn due to COVID-19 as a transnational threat not only fuelling crime but creating or worsening instability in many more areas.
So grab some good weekend reading by looking into the latest SOCTA from Europol and the ATA-2021 from The Director of National Intelligence.
At Acuminor, we have troves of information and synthesised analysis on “specialists”, how businesses are misused by organised crime and the impacts of Covid-19 on precursor crimes to money laundering. If these topics tickle your fancy, head over to ThreatView on our webpage for more in-depth knowledge and weekend reading. Alos, check out our report on “Specialists”.