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Europol analysis files - 146,183 personal records and counting
01 April 2004
"If a file reaches the size of a small or medium-sized city, it will hardly prove useful for efficient crime investigation" - Heiner Busch, CILIP
In December 2003, Europol had 19 analysis work files ("AWFs"), containing a total of 146,183 records on persons. The information came in a belated reply from Fritz Rudolf Körper, the permanent secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Interior, to a parliamentary question by Petra Pau, German Socialist MP (PDS - Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus). It is the first time that such a summary, albeit a short one, of Europol's analysis files has been published. During parliamentary questions on 24 September 2003, Mr. Körper explained that he had had to personally request consent of the other 14 Member States in order to be able to publish the number of recorded persons. A report from Europol dated 15 January 2004 agreed that "no obstacles" stood in the way of publication.
It was to be expected that the amount of personal records would be high because of the broad scope of Article 10 of the Europol Convention. This allows not only suspects and potential suspects to be recorded in analysis files, but also witnesses and potential witnesses, victims and potential victims, contacts and associates, and persons who can provide information on the criminal offences under consideration. The potential circle of people recorded is therefore almost unlimited. A breakdown of the 146,183 persons into these different categories is not provided in Körper's report.
Mrs Pau had also asked when the individual files were opened and which Member States were participating in the wider "analytical projects" but these questions also went unanswered. However, the "Kuala Lumpur" analysis file on credit card fraud by Malaysian groups notes that Germany is not involved, suggesting that German liaison officers are involved in all the remaining projects.
Closer scrutiny of the 19 AWFs show that almost half of the people are included in a single project - in the money laundering file SUSTRANS - a clear indication that reports on suspicious transactions on behalf of banks are quick to be made, but in reality rarely qualified. Similar doubts can be levelled against the other substantial files. If a file reaches the size of a small or medium-sized city, it will hardly prove useful for efficient crime investigation. This throws up the question, of course, as to whether it is necessary to include such a broad range of people. This is particularly the case if a person is included in connection to Islamic terrorism.
The file "Dolphin" concerns "criminal activities of [other] terrorist groups that were classified by the Council as posing a particular threat to the EU and Member States", in other words, groups that are included in the EU's list of terrorist organisations. According to Körper's, this file was only set up in the second half of 2003 and did not therefore contain any data on persons by December 2003.
A final observation is the scandalous admission that Europol continued collecting data on the "illegal immigration" of Iraqi and Kurdish people during the Iraq war.
Analysis file/ Concerned with/ Persons included
OMCG Monitor 2/ Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCG)/ 3,829
Latin American Project Cola/ Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs by Latin American Organisations/ 14, 601
Iraqi-Kurds/ Illegal Immigration of Iraqi Kurds/ 2,237
EEOC Top100/ Eastern European Organized Crime (EEOC) - Activities of leading Eastern European Groups/ 11,339
Mustard/ Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs by Turkish Groups/ 22,534
Islamic Terrorism/ Islamic Terrorism/ 9,888
Terminal/ Credit Card Forgery/ 394
Kuala Lumpur/ Fight Against Credit Card Crime of Malaysian Perpetrator Groups/ 340
Danube/ Euro Counterfeiting by Bulgarian Groups/ 2,256
Baltic Walker/ Money Counterfeiting by Lithuanian Groups/ 1,573
Partridge/ Trafficking of Indian Nationals/ 3,265