|Vol.7, No.20, 17.5.01, p3
THE introduction of the euro could unleash an unprecedented crime wave by organised gangs, European banks and businesses are being warned.
A report by Europol, the Union's police coordination office, shows criminals are already planning to take advantage of the abundance of cash and confusion created by the currency changeover. It warns they are expected to pay "particular attention" to the transport of the new currency.
The confidential risk assessment has been circulated among national law enforcement agencies, as EU governments prepare to give Europol new powers to coordinate the massive security operation surrounding the euro launch.
The changes will allow the agency to act as an early warning system, sharing information including criminals' personal details and supervising joint operations between forces. Armed gangs are under surveillance in several countries, but no arrests have been made so far. "Groups are preparing to attack money transports," said Willy Bruggman, Europol's deputy director. "There will be much more money in shops - businesses will have to be extremely vigilant."
Companies ranging from banks to small businesses will be more vulnerable to counterfeiting and robberies during the changeover period - two months in most countries, longer in others - when two currencies will be in use simultaneously.
Europol is also monitoring a likely boom in counterfeiting; it expects to see a surge in phoney national bills when banks begin the huge task of exchanging them for euro within six months.
At least one such scheme is already being investigated. "Many people will test the system," said Bruggman. "But the response from banks and law enforcement agencies will show that adequate preparations have been made."
The crime opportunities will not be confined to the euro's geographical boundaries, however, with investigations understood to be under way outside the zone into fraudulent money exchange software.
Europol is to receive regular updates on euro crimes in third countries from its international counterpart, Interpol.
The proposal to boost Europol's remit to cover all serious crime is expected to win unanimous support from EU justice and interior ministers meeting on 28 May.
Germany is understood to have backed down from earlier threats to block the move over budgetary concerns.
French bank workers and security van drivers earlier this week threatened industrial action over fears for their safety during the transition to the euro.
Both the hard-line Force Ouvrière transport union and the more moderate CFDT said there could be strikes as a result of the government's failure to consult workers over the planned security operation by police and the military.
The unions warned the action could damage the currency launch.
The introduction of the euro could unleash an unprecedented crime wave by organised gangs, European banks and businesses are being warned. A report by Europol, the Union's police coordination office, shows criminals are already planning to take advantage of the abundance of cash and confusion created by the currency changeover. It warns they are expected to pay 'particular attention' to the transport of the new currency.
|Justice and Home Affairs