Situation report on organized crime: The difficult fight against illegal billion-euro businesses

The authorities in Germany are fighting organized crime with more and more investigations. This is shown by the current “Federal Situation Report on Organized Crime”, which Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Holger Münch, President of the Federal Criminal Police Office, presented in Berlin on Wednesday.

The investigative pressure is higher than ever, said Faeser. Organized crime penetrates people’s everyday lives, for example when rockers endanger bystanders in clashes on the street. Unlike terrorism, it would not be about events that remain in the collective memory. Organized crime is less visible but a “growing problem”. Faeser announced that he intends to submit proposals to be able to skim off the profits of criminal gangs even better in the future and to fight organized crime more effectively overall.

Nancy Faeser (SPD), Federal Minister of the Interior, and Holger Münch, President of the Federal Criminal Police Office, present the situation report on organized crime published by the Federal Criminal Police Office before the federal press conference.
Nancy Faeser (SPD), Federal Minister of the Interior, and Holger Münch, President of the Federal Criminal Police Office, present the situation report on organized crime published by the Federal Criminal Police Office before the federal press conference.
© Photo: dpa/Wolfgang Kumm

Statistics: In 2021 there were 696 procedures, around 100 more than in the previous year (594 procedures). The amount of damage determined rose sharply, from 837 million euros to a maximum of 2.2 billion euros. Damage means the market value of captured goods. In drug trafficking, which is illegal per se, there is no harm, only criminal profit. The criminal proceeds determined have risen from a good one billion euros to more than 1.4 billion euros.

Drug trafficking and smuggling is the defining area of ​​crime. This accounts for almost half of all investigations. Many other areas of crime belong to the subject area, from human trafficking to money laundering and counterfeiting to corruption.

BKA President Münch said that the development made him “really worried” in parts. Last year, it was possible to gain deeper insights into the previous dark field. Nevertheless, he was convinced that “still only the tip of the iceberg” was known. Criminal gangs are increasingly willing to use drastic violence. Drug trafficking is the main source of income, and countering it must be the central starting point in the fight against organized crime.

In 2021, 7,503 suspects were identified, almost 15 percent more than in the previous year. Of these, almost 40 percent were Germans, a good 55 percent were non-Germans and five percent were stateless or had unclear citizenship. More than two-thirds of investigations involve cross-border crime.

The authorities use the politically controversial concept of clan crime for their picture of the situation. 47 organized crime groups are assigned to this area, 27 of them the Lebanese-Kurdish Mhallamiye. According to the situation report, the arrival of many refugees in 2015 had no relevant impact on organized crime.

46 procedures were related to the corona pandemic, twelve of them related to the economy. It was mostly about the fact that Corona emergency aid was wrongly received.

The dispute over data retention is rekindled by the report

Minister Faeser and BKA President Münch used the presentation of the numbers to once again promote data retention. On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice delivered a long-awaited judgment and ruled that data retention is illegal in principle, but that there may be exceptions to combat serious crime.

Faeser and Münch again advocated storing at least IP addresses without cause, which also makes the current judgment possible. “That would be a huge win,” said the BKA President. Without being able to decode the gangs’ digital communication, the police “can no longer effectively illuminate the criminal dark field”. However, the authorities are currently dependent on help from others: Münch also attributed the sharp increase in the number of investigations to the fact that Germany had received data from the originally encrypted communication of criminals from international partner authorities. More than a quarter of all investigations go back to secured EncroChat data. This communication service had been used by many criminals until it was infiltrated by security agencies.

However, there is deep disagreement in the governing coalition on the subject of data retention. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) rejects data retention. He can refer to the fact that the coalition agreement only agreed to store data on a case-by-case basis. Faeser, on the other hand, would like to exploit the leeway that the current judgment allows. She said you have to be “a bit honest” in this debate. It is problematic to use data from other countries in the investigations that were acquired in a way “that may not correspond to our freedom rights” instead of designing and using the investigation methods in a legally clean manner. On Wednesday, Faeser was optimistic that an agreement would be reached between her and Buschmann – but the factual differences in the positions are large.

Alexander Throm, domestic policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, demanded on Wednesday that Faeser had to “finally prevail” over her cabinet colleague Buschmann. He also criticized what he saw as the insufficient equipment of the investigative authorities: “In order to keep the investigative pressure high, the security authorities must be given the necessary human, technical and financial resources.”

Marcel Emmerich, chairman of the Greens in the Bundestag Committee on Home Affairs and Homeland, said on Wednesday, probably to Faeser, that the announcement of a strategy paper alone would not solve any problems. The existing coordination center at the BKA must be developed quickly. The public prosecution of crimes by members of so-called clans is loud and conspicuous, but the billions are being generated in secret by others.

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