Europol: European Financial and Economic Crime Threat Assessment 2023

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Image source: Europol

The Europol report looks at current and emerging threats relating to financial and economic crime.  Overall, intellectual property crime and counterfeiting are hard to investigate, says Europol; as most of the counterfeited commodities traded within the EU originate from abroad, making the detection of the key players much harder.  Furthermore, the trade and transport has shifted from physical to online distribution, which often obfuscates the association between criminals and their activities.

As an example of Europol’s role in anti-piracy, its European Financial and Economic Crime Centre supported the 2023 Dutch investigation of a piracy operation that offered more than 10,000 live TV channels and 15,000 on-demand TV shows and film titles in the Netherlands, with analytical support.  This helped identify key targets and their criminal activity across Europe.

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Europol experts were deployed in various locations in the Netherlands during the action day to support the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) in its enforcement activities. While the FIOD estimated the number of end users in the “hundreds of thousands,” Europol thought it to be more than a million.

Distinction between physical and virtual

Europol segments intellectual property crimes, including infringement of copyrights, designs, geographical indications, patents, and trademarks, into two broad categories.  In the physical world, it affects many commodities (goods and services) and markets, from high-end consumer luxury goods to business-to-business products and common consumer products. Digital piracy affects diverse copyright-protected domains, including broadcasting channels, via Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), as well as audio-visual, literary and artistic content, etc.

Using insights and case examples from Europol’s dedicated crime centre, the report also analyses the threats posed by money laundering, criminal finances and corruption, and how they have evolved as a result of technological and geopolitical changes.

Further reading

The Other Side of the Coin: An Analysis of Financial and Economic Crime. Report. September 11, 2023. Europol

Netherlands: Illegal streaming service busted, leads to money laundering operation. Article. May 23, 2023. by Steven Hawley. Piracy Monitor

Why it matters

Anti-piracy is a team sport, with players that include rights-holders, distributors, technology suppliers, law enforcement, legal and judicial systems and regulators with international coordination. Europol plays a crucial role within the European Union and participates in anti-piracy operations worldwide.

Piracy networks use new technologies to conceal digital traces and they use proxy services to increase resilience, said Europol. The websites illegally distributing video content are hosted on servers across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, reducing costs. Much of the criminal profit is generated by online advertising, paid subscriptions, and malware attacks, they said.

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