Europol Director Wainwright to Deliver Keynote Speech at ASIS European Security Conference, April 1-3

By Mark Tarallo

Europol Director Rob Wainwright will deliver his keynote speech, “Organized Crime: The Scale of the Challenge Facing Europe,” at ASIS International’s 13th European Security Conference & Exhibition, to be held at the World Forum in The Hague, the Netherlands, April 1-3, 2014.        

Wainwright has been the director of Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, since April 2009. In this role, Wainwright leads a staff of more than 800 personnel who support law enforcement authorities in the 28 EU Member States. Europol handles more than 18,000 cross–border cases per year in operational areas such as: terrorism, drugs, human trafficking, facilitated illegal immigration, cybercrime, intellectual property crime, smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering.

Born in Carmarthen, Wales, Wainwright graduated in 1989 from the London School of Economics. After a decade’s work as an intelligence analyst in the United Kingdom in the fields of counterterrorism and organized crime, Wainwright served as the head of the U.K. Liaison Bureau at Europol from 2000 to 2003. In 2003, he became director international of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). From 2006 to 2009, he was chief of the International Department of the U.K. Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).

You hold a degree from the London School of Economics, but instead of going into business or politics, you chose security as a career. Why so?

It wasn’t planned years in advance. I just took a random career opportunity that was presented to me when I was young. But I am so pleased I did because it has been a hugely satisfying and interesting career for the past 25 years. I am passionate about my work in helping to protect society from dangerous security threats, so maybe working for the public good has always been a core part of my personality and nature – and that fate helped me to make the right decision all those years ago.

What topics will you be addressing in your keynote speech?

Based on Europol’s unique insight, I will talk about the latest threat developments in terms of serious organized crime and terrorism in the EU. Organized criminals are increasingly flexible and networked, and the traditional mafia stereotypes rarely apply these days. The terrorist threat is also evolving rapidly in the light of geopolitical, social, and technological developments.

I will also talk about what the international law enforcement community is doing to deal with these evolving threats, and perhaps what we should be doing differently as well. For example, investigators should make more systematic use of multilateral cooperation channels instead of relying on traditional bilateral contacts. And their bosses should work to streamline cooperation between Interpol and the regional law enforcement bodies, which are emerging around the world, following the good example set by Europol and Interpol in Europe.

What do you see as the main security threats facing Europe today?

Without laying all my cards on the table before my speech, it is safe to say that the threat of cybercrime is increasing exponentially. As more and more aspects of our lives are managed online, it is natural that crime also moves online. The rapid evolution of technology, as well as the largely ungoverned nature of the Internet, makes it very difficult for law enforcement to protect citizens and identify suspects.

Another emerging threat is the counterfeiting of an ever wider range of commodities: from designer handbags and DVDs to–more worryingly–cancer drugs, machine parts, and even food and drink. Citizens are also consumers, so this is probably among the criminal markets which are having the widest impact on the general public.

But these new trends should not hide the fact that we are still grappling with some more well-known crime threats. Despite a long list of enforcement successes, drug trafficking continues to generate huge profits for criminals. And organized crime gangs are taking advantage of poverty and insecurity to smuggle and traffic unlawful migrants into the EU, often in ways which pose real safety risks in transit—as we saw most tragically with the sinking of a boat carrying hundreds of migrants to Lampedusa last year—and which leave migrants vulnerable to criminal exploitation once they reach the EU.

The EU’s recent Anti-Corruption Report estimated that corruption is costing the EU an estimated 120 billion EUR per year. Is this a threat to European security?

Corruption poses both direct and indirect threats. In its own right, corruption is a serious crime with a major impact, because it sees huge sums of money moving into the underground economy.

But the indirect threat of corruption is, to my mind, even more pervasive. Many organized crime groups make use of corruptive influence to facilitate trafficking and other criminal enterprises. So corruption indirectly contributes to the scale of criminal phenomena such as illicit waste disposal, trafficking in endangered species, the facilitation of illegal immigration and weapons trafficking. Ultimately, corruption also leads to the distortion of legitimate competition and the erosion of trust in government authorities, thereby undermining essential functions of both state institutions and private business.

In which issue would you say that the most progress has been made in strengthening security in Europe? 

The establishment of Europol has been a significant step, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I? The possibility for law enforcement officers throughout Europe to exchange information in a secure way, and benefit from a range of expert services from us, has changed the face of international police cooperation. This was not achieved by flicking a switch in 1999; it took several years to establish the right policies at national level and to change policing habits to make best use of Europol. Among other things, we had to establish clear lines of cooperation between Europol and Interpol, something which took some time but is very effective now.

More recently, the establishment of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol, just over a year ago, is also a significant step. Crime in general is becoming more global but of course this is especially true for cybercrime, which is largely borderless. So EC3 is increasingly recognised as a key component of any country’s response to cybercrime.


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