FECL 21 (December 1993/January 1994):


At its special summit at the end of November, the EC agreed i.a. upon The Hague as the definitive site of Europol. The number of the 23 officers working provisionally in Strasbourg until now is to be threedubbled swiftly. In an interview with the Swiss daily, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the chief of Europol, Jürgen Storbeck talks about his work. The following is a summary of the article.

Jürgen Storbeck comes from the German BKA (Federal Office of criminal Investigation). In personal union, as the chief of Europol, he continues to be the BKA's deputy chief and also heads the German department of Interpol.

Storbeck describes Europol as an intelligence service that collects, evaluates and links information useful in investigating organised crime. In addition to this, Europol develops concepts aiming at generally improved efficiency in combatting organised crime.

At a first stage, Europol will deal with drug trafficking and related money laundering. At a second stage, activities shall be extended to other fileds of crime. The political will to do so exists since september 1992. At that time, the ministers responsible of security in the EC-member states demanded that Eurpol should aslo fight against organised crime, namely Mafia-type crime.

According to Storbeck, the expansion of Europol's competence should not pose big problems, as the working structures set up for the combat against drug related crime, can also be used for other domains.

The problems lie in the political and legal domain, Storbeck believes. Irresolution reigns with regard to the legal basis of Europol-activities. The setting up of a Convention will take three to five years. One cannot wait as long as that, Storbeck says, because in the meantime organised crime will have swept over everything, if this is not already happening now. This is why one has to proceed "pragmatically" at the present. For the time being, urgency is enough of a justification.

Storbeck expresses concern about "eastern crime". Eastern European crime syndicats are more "primitive" than their western Mafia and Cosa Nostra counterparts, but they are capable of "monstruous brutality" and thereby pose a much more direct threat to the security of average citizens. Storbeck stresses that there are indications already now that the underworld in eastern European capitals such as Prague and Budapest is being taken over by Russian gangs. Similar trends can be observed even in western cities, Storbeck says. In Berlin, gangsters throw handgrenades out of cars, use automatic weapons, and execute people with shots at the base of the skull.

He who has learned to kill people in Afghanistan and at the same time became a drug addict, or he who has learned conspirative behaviour in a Russian secret service or in fighting such a service, has an easy game in the West with its comparatively harmless underworld and and limited sense of security.

Storbeck gives an example of how Europol works:

"On a drug dealer a note-book is found with the phone number of mr.X. Maybe X just plays golf with the dealer, or has lent him some money. It could also be, that X is one of the "big bosses" or a money-launderer. Information at that stage is called "soft data", because it has not yet been verified. The police needs such data in order to be able to draw comparisons in a future case and eventually establish that a name has turned up in two cases, hence that there might be more in it. The officers who are sitting round the table at Europol, have dircet access to the police data bases in their country. Thus, when there is an investigation against X in Bayreuth, our people in Bayreuth say: we know that X once was in France. In the past, they would have asked only in France, arguing that one cannot ask in the in the whole world. Now, they go to Europol, and the Europol-officers check the data registers of the 12 states, and they establish in France: Yes, X live in Paris for three years and was associated with cocaine. The next answer comes from Spain: X owns two clubs in Marabella. Third answer from Italy: the name has already turned up several times, namely in Catania; conferences with the participation of Mafia bosses took place there. And the fourth answer from Great Britain is: We know X, we have a banker here under investigation in context with banks on the Bahamas. In that way the police will get a comprehensive picture and will forward it to the public prosecutor's office."

At the moment no other organisation is as fast as Europol in international networking and rapidly forwarding data collected this way, Storbeck underlines.

At Interpol, such work takes months, and sometimes years, and above all, no access to "soft data" is possible via Interpol [Interpol's statute prohibit it from handling non-verified intelligence]. Europol, for its part, is more "flexible". However, in the view of Europol's chief, efficiency could be further improved if Europol was equipped with a central computer and had the same powers as the BKA in Germany, at a first stage without an own investigation procedure.

Storbeck also advocates the creation of a special commission in charge of coordination of investigation carried out by the national police forces.

He is of the opinion that, in the long run, i.e. in four or five years, Europol must have its own power to leed investigations because of the increase of crime.

Asked about the necessity to set up a convention as a legal basis for European police cooperation, Storbeck points at a decision of the German Highest Court stating that information based on personal data may be communicated only, if this is expressly provided for by the law, i.e. a German law. As Europol involves foreign institutions, this calls for an agreement according to international law that must be ratified by the German parliament in order to become German law. This implies that Germany must either make separate agreements with all EC-member states or seek common agreement through a convention among the twelve.


Source: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 3.11.93