Most prolific international vehicle trafficking network dismantled

The French National police, together with other European police, coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL, dismantled a criminal network—made up of 13 very active members—specialised in the theft of luxury vehicles and their transportation from European ports to West Africa by means of cargo containers.

This collaborative police effort led to the identification of a large, mobile and flexible criminal structure, which was mainly composed of French, Gambian and Senegalese nationals.

To acquire the latest car models, a number of coordinators used groups of car thieves situated throughout France. The criminal network also recruited minors to drive the valuable stolen vehicles to different European ports. From there, the cars were hidden in cargo containers and shipped to West Africa. In total, law enforcement detected over 170 vehicles moved through this method from ports in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Spain.

This extensive, well-organised law enforcement operation was conducted simultaneously in various places throughout France. More than 110 French police officers, including tactical and canine units, arrested 13 members of the criminal network.

With the support of Europol and INTERPOL analysts, and in coordination with international police forces, law enforcement officers arrested the two main coordinators of the network in France, as well as logistics managers and car thieves. The deployed agents searched several houses and seized tools and material used for car theft, such as illicit on-board diagnostic (OBD) software, vehicle documents and cash. Immediate interception at the ports of Le Havre, France, and Las Palmas, Spain, occurred thanks to real-time analysis of several seized mobile phones, which led to the identification of two containers transporting nine stolen cars.

Europol took part in two operational meetings, providing analytical insights regarding the primary suspects in the inquiry and sharing details about connections with other cases. Europol analysts conducted multiple cross-checks and a staff member with a mobile office was sent to France to support the action day.

The international law enforcement operation was conducted within the framework of EMPACT. This allowed the participating police authorities to exchange concrete information regularly during multiple operational meetings and to coordinate action, resulting in the dismantling of this highly active criminal network.

Organised property crime is one of EMPACT’s priorities, and Europol’s operational activities in this area are conducted within the Analysis Project Furtum. Its broad mandate covers all aspects of property crime, such as large burglaries, armed robbery (banks, jewellery, money carriers and warehouses), motor vehicle crime, metal theft or organised petty theft.


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