French National Police arrest 13 intercontinental car traffickers

 On 12 September 2023, French National Judicial police arrested 13 members of a criminal network specialised in the theft and trafficking of cars to West Africa. Various European countries, INTERPOL, and Europol supported the investigation, which was launched in summer 2021. This collaborative law enforcement effort led to the identification of a large, mobile and flexible criminal structure, which consisted mainly of French, Gambian and Senegalese nationals. In order to obtain recent car models, several “coordinators” relied on groups of car thieves located across France. The criminal network also recruited minors to drive the valuable stolen vehicles to various European ports. From there, the cars were concealed in cargo containers and shipped to West Africa. In total, law enforcement identified more than 170 vehicles transported from Belgian, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish ports through this modus operandi.

This major coordinated and complex law enforcement operation was carried out in several locations across France. More than 110 French police officers, including tactical and canine units, arrested 13 members of the criminal network. Supported by Europol and INTERPOL analysts and in coordination with international police forces, law enforcement took the two main network coordinators in France, logisticians and car thieves into custody. The deployed officers searched various houses and seized tools and material used for car theft including illicit on-board diagnostic (OBD) port software, vehicle documents and cash. Real-time analysis of several seized mobile phones led to the identification of two containers carrying nine stolen cars, which were immediately intercepted at the ports of Le Havre, France, and Las Palmas, Spain. 

Europol’s role

Europol participated in two operational meetings, contributing analytical findings related to the main suspects in the investigation and information on overlaps with other cases. Europol’s analysts carried out multiple crosschecks and a staff member with a mobile office was deployed to France to support the action day. 

This international police operation was carried out under the umbrella of EMPACT. This enabled the participating law enforcement authorities to regularly exchange concrete information during multiple operational meetings and to coordinate the action, ultimately resulting in the dismantling of this highly active criminal network.

Organised property crime is one of the EMPACT priorities and Europol's operational activities in this field are carried out within Analysis Project Furtum. Its broad mandate covers all aspects of property crime such as major burglaries, armed robberies (banks, jewellery, money transporters and depots), motor vehicle crimes, cargo crime, metal theft, or organised pick pocketing.

Participating countries:

France: Judicial Police, Central Office fighting against Organized Crime (Direction nationale de la Police judiciaire - Office central de lutte contre le crime organisé (OCLCO – BNRBT))

Germany: Central Criminal Inspectorate Oldenburg (Zentrale Kriminalinspektion Oldenburg), Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt)

Netherlands: National Police, Central Unit (Politie)

Spain: National Police (Policía Nacional, Unidad Trafico Ilicito Vehiculos)

Sweden: Swedish Police (Polisen)

Switzerland: Federal Office of Police (fedpol), Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) and various Cantonal police agencies

Participating agencies: