The 2021 Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) from Europol, the EU’s policing agency, made for sombre reading. According to the report, organised criminality in Europe is more complex and fluid than ever before, with different criminal gangs working together ‘as needed’, on the basis of mutual self-interest.
Unlike the old-fashioned ‘Godfather’ model of organised criminality imagined in films and TV, modern master criminals are now as agile and collaborative as the entrepreneurs of the technology sector.
Laundering the funds generated by these illicit criminal activities has become as equally sophisticated as the predicate crimes themselves, with professionalised networks, often operating through legitimate business structures, insulated from effective disruption by systemic corruption of individuals in the public sector, financial institutions and professions.
As a consequence, the management of illicit finance has become deeply rooted in societies and economies, with its scale and complexity probably significantly greater than previously thought.
In this interview, we explore these issues in depth with Burkhard Mühl, since December 2020 the Head of the newly created European Financial & Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) at Europol. Herr Mühl – a 35-year veteran of Austrian and European law enforcement – believes that serious and organised crime and illicit finance are now major challenges for the EU, and therefore need to be addressed not only with new vigour, but a more strategic approach that targets the ‘high value’ kingpins at the centres of the networks. He also contends that to put organised criminals and money launderers on the defensive, law enforcement agencies and their partners in the private sector will need to learn lessons from their opponents’ success – by becoming ‘masters of collaboration’ in their own right.
Interview with Burkhard Mühl, Head of European Financial & Economic Crime Centre, Europol