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Security Brief: EUCOM/IFET/SOUTHCOM Week of January 3, 2022

Week of Monday, January 3, 2022 | Issue 1

Pètra van de Gevel, Federica Calissano, Martyna Dobrowolska, Iris Raith, EUCOM Team; Sara Kulic, Jennifer Kelly, Illicit Finance and Economic Threats Team; Benedetta Piva, Stacey Casas, Jhamil Moya, SOUTHCOM Team


Money Laundering[1]


Date: January 3, 2022

Location: Ireland

Parties involved: Irish art dealers; Irish Department of Justice; Ireland’s Minister for Justice Helen McEntee; Organized crime groups; Drug cartels; Irish law enforcement; Global law enforcement; The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol); Latin America; United Nations (UN); Terrorist organizations

The event: The Irish Department of Justice is taking new steps to intensify regulatory inspections of art traders and intermediaries against organized crime groups and drug cartels using high-value art purchases for money laundering and terrorism financing.[2] According to the UN, it is estimated that the money laundered globally in one year amounts to 2-5% of the global gross domestic product (GDP), and up to $2 trillion USD.[3] One of the greatest threats to government strategies to combat organized crime in Latin America has been inefficient regulation and corruption within their police forces.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Other European countries, such as France and Italy, are likely to follow suit and revise their laws regarding anti-art trafficking. Cooperation in Europe and globally will very likely intensify, with organizations such as Europol expanding their art-crime and terrorism financing task forces, very likely because of the difficulty to identify the individuals involved in these activities.

  • Organized crime groups very likely undertake art crime for its low risk of being intercepted, as they can mask themselves behind regular citizens when buying art and make high-profit businesses by laundering their profits.

  • Inefficient government regulations in countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Argentina have almost certainly strengthened corruption by individuals and organized crime groups seeking to exploit the political systems. Any attempt by the Irish Department of Justice to combat money laundering coming in from regions such as Latin America will likely be unsuccessful as political corruption provides a safe haven for organized criminal activity through bribery or violence. The inability of domestic governments and the international community to effectively reduce money laundering in Latin America very likely means economic issues will continue increasing in the region. Money flowing out of domestic economies almost certainly affects citizens the most as there is less money for social programs, such as education and healthcare.

  • Introducing stricter regulatory inspections on art dealers in Ireland will likely discourage some organized crime groups from conducting money laundering through the artwork. However, many organized crime groups will likely purchase art pieces below the allocated value of inspection to evade detection. Terrorist organizations will likely exploit the inspections loophole and utilize the profits to fund their campaigns across the globe, almost certainly increasing the risk of terrorist attacks.


Date: January 4, 2022

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Parties involved: Scottish law enforcement; French law enforcement; Scotland’s organized crime groups; South American drug traffickers; EncroChat; Port of Dover officials; Latin American countries; European drug market; Narco-terrorist organizations; Encriptados Colombia; Local police departments; Latin American security services

The event: A French law enforcement operation, which included police hacking into the encrypted messaging platform EncroChat, gathered a significant amount of evidence to disrupt organized criminal activities, including drugs and weapons trafficking across Europe. The intelligence from the French operation led to the seizure of £100 million sterling pound (GBP) worth of cocaine from South America to the port of Dover in England for its distribution in Scotland.[5] A similar Dutch-French operation had temporarily dismantled EncroChat in 2020, hindering criminal networks from carrying out crimes in Europe.[6] The same type of encryption used in the Glasgow case was found in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. It was in the latter that Encriptados Colombia, a company that provides encryption services, was found offering encrypted cell phones in Medellín, one of Colombia’s most crime-affected regions.[7]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Drug criminals will almost certainly continue to use encrypted messaging services to stay anonymous and hide their activities. As the European drug market will very likely evolve, encrypted messaging services and social media platforms will almost certainly become the main means of communication between criminals and their customers. As encryption very likely impedes the detection and prosecution of criminal activities, it is likely that European law enforcement will try to increase their inspections of encrypted traffic, likely mitigating the risks of security blind spots, which likely represent encryption threats, such as malware.

  • The French law enforcement’s interception of encrypted phone messages will likely affect narco-terrorist organizations operating in countries such as Brazil and Colombia, as the French police likely gathered a significant amount of information related to drug dealings from the Latin American region. However, lack of regulations by Latin American governments, in combination with technological limitations in their security services, will likely lead organized crime groups to continue to use these encrypted phones to coordinate their operations in the region. This situation is likely the consequence of both minimum government control and local police departments very likely lacking access to high technological tools to infiltrate the encrypted phone messages.

  • The cocaine seized very likely indicates cooperation between organized crime groups and port officials, with port officials very likely receiving bribes from these groups. Corruption and bribery, particularly among port and customs officials, will likely continue to impede the detection and disruption of illicit activities as many criminals will have the ability to transport drugs across borders with minimal resistance from corrupt border officials.

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________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Money in washing machine” by Africa Studio licensed under Shutterstock

[2] Art dealers urged to act against criminals looking to launder money, The Irish Times, January 2022, https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/art-dealers-urged-to-act-against-criminals-looking-to-launder-money-1.4767559

[3] Money Laundering, UNODC, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/money-laundering/overview.html#:~:text=The%20estimated%20amount%20of%20money,goes%20through%20the%20laundering%20cycle

[4] Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Financial Flows in Latin America, GCSP, June 2020, https://www.gcsp.ch/global-insights/transnational-organised-crime-and-illicit-financial-flows-latin-america

[5] Glasgow crime gangs dealt major blow after secret phone network infiltrated by detectives, Glasgow Live, January 2022, https://www.glasgowlive.co.uk/news/glasgow-news/glasgow-crime-gangs-dealt-major-22636500.amp

[6] Dismantling of an encrypted network sends shockwaves through organised crime groups across Europe, Eurojust, July 2020, https://www.eurojust.europa.eu/dismantling-encrypted-network-sends-shockwaves-through-organised-crime-groups-across-europe

[7] 10 Ciudades más peligrosas del Mundo, Dossier Interactivo, May 2021, https://dossierinteractivo.com/10-ciudades-mas-peligrosas-del-mundo/ (translated by Jhamil Moya)



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