EU plans crackdown on organised crime

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The Independent Online

Moves to give police access to criminal records from all 25 European Union countries were proposed yesterday as part of a crackdown against an estimated 40,000 members of organised crime gangs in Europe.

The plan falls short of a blueprint for a single European database for criminal convictions, but that idea was also backed by Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner for justice and home affairs.

Civil liberties campaigners are alarmed at the implications of the new agenda. They say it raises concerns that poor quality information could circulate around Europe's security forces without sufficient controls.

Mr Frattini quoted figures from Europol which suggest that the number of criminal organisations in Europe increased from 3,000 in 2001 to 4,000 a year later. The gangs now involve no fewer than 40,000 people, he said.

The European Commission wants to make it easier to pursue organised crime by agreeing a common definition of a criminal organisation, making cross-border prosecutions easier. A minimum sentence of 10 years would be applicable for leaders of criminal gangs and at least five years for members. Tariffs would be reduced for those who co-operated with the authorities and prevented crimes or helped police to secure convictions.

The proposals require the approval of member states.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that the profits made by criminal syndicates constitute from 2 to 5 per cent of total gross domestic product in Europe.