GIATOC Index: Crime remains at a high level in Romania

Gheorghe Iorgoveanu
English Section / 8 aprilie

Our country is part of the Eastern European cross-border route used by criminal networks for human trafficking. These networks introduce migrants from Ukraine, Turkey and Afghanistan into or through Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria or Poland, through trucks registered in Turkey.

Our country is part of the Eastern European cross-border route used by criminal networks for human trafficking. These networks introduce migrants from Ukraine, Turkey and Afghanistan into or through Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria or Poland, through trucks registered in Turkey.

Versiunea în limba română

We are in the top 5 European crimes related to human trafficking Our country has become a transit zone for arms trafficking and drug trafficking Cannabis consumption, increasing among young people Cybercrime, increasing after the start of the war in Ukraine

According to the crime index for last year published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, a non-governmental organization based in Switzerland, with a score of 4.58 our country ranks 27th out of 44 European states, 123rd in 193 globally and 15th out of 17 countries located in Central and Eastern Europe. In other words, we have a high crime rate, even if from the point of view of resilience - that is, of the functioning of state institutions to combat the criminal phenomenon, we are doing quite well, with a score of 6 points, which places us in 38th place in the world and 3rd place in Central and Eastern Europe.

According to the data analyzed by the experts who calculated the index, Romania is one of the main countries regarding the origin and destination of human trafficking and remains among the top five in the European Union regarding crimes in this field.

The quoted work shows: "Victims of human trafficking are usually exploited in the sex industry, agriculture, construction, domestic services, hotels, or for begging and forced theft, both in Romania and in other European countries. However, in recent years, due to the government's efforts to investigate more cases and convict more traffickers, the impact of the market has decreased slightly, but a problem remains the involvement of some local civil servants in human trafficking cases, ensuring them the moral complicity of criminals. In addition, children of Roma origin continue to be vulnerable, especially to sex trafficking, begging and theft. Extreme poverty and lack of education in rural areas allow human trafficking to remain among the most prolific criminal markets in Romania."

The authors of the report claim that our country is part of the Eastern European cross-border route used by criminal networks for human trafficking. These networks introduce migrants from Ukraine, Turkey and Afghanistan into or through Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria or Poland, via trucks registered in Turkey. Swiss NGO experts say that the western border of our country is the preferred place of activity for organized crime groups that intend to smuggle migrants from Asian countries, such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to Western European countries. These groups usually include Romanian and foreign citizens, although most of the facilitators of migrant trafficking on land are of Romanian nationality, the authors of the cited paper state.

Romania, transit hub for arms trafficking

Criminality is also high in trade, because Romania is "a transit hub in Eastern Europe for illegal weapons destined for the continent", claim the Swiss experts who mention: "The geographical position of the country makes it vulnerable to the trafficking of firearms, especially from south and east. Seizures usually involve small arms or gas pistols. Recent firearms seizures in Romania suggest an increase in illegal arms trafficking activity. Most of the weapons come from Turkey. Also, Romania becomes part of one of the main routes for the introduction and exit of weapons from Ukraine. Albanian-speaking organized crime groups, along with Balkan, Russian, Georgian and Turkish organized crime groups, are known to be active in arms trafficking from Romania. In the transactions of organized crime groups, firearms can be exchanged for other expensive and profitable goods such as drugs and grenade launchers."

Those from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GIATOC) also claim that our country is an entry point into the EU for counterfeit goods, such as car spare parts and accessories, toys, clothing, fashion items and cosmetics.

GIATOC experts state: "On the black market in Romania, counterfeit clothes and car products predominate, while fake luxury goods, such as watches or perfumes, are found on a smaller scale. Some counterfeit goods are also sold in Romania through online resale platforms. Regarding the illicit trade in excisable products, illicit tobacco products are widespread in Romania. In fact, there is a high demand for these products, as the country has a significantly low-income population, and the price of smuggled cigarettes is up to three times cheaper than that on the legal market. This results in a significant annual loss of tax revenue."

Index of crime in our country also considered crimes in the forestry field, illegal cutting of forests being strictly monitored by Swiss specialists, who state that more than 50% of the wood harvested in Romania every year is done illegally.

That's why GIATOC says: "This illegal market is probably one of the most substantial in the EU, given that the country is home to one of the largest remaining forests in the region. Most forests in Romania are privately owned, and the involvement of private corporations in the illegal forest industry, often in collaboration with organized criminal groups, has been documented. In addition, the forestry sector is affected by corruption, with the police working with illegal loggers and Romsilva employees in a system of blind complicity."

Our country, highway for drug trafficking in South America

Another sector of crime in our country analyzed in the index prepared by GIATOC is that of drug trafficking. Swiss specialists say that Romania is part of the Northern Balkans route used for heroin smuggling, which is trafficked from Georgian ports on the Black Sea by ferry to Odesa or other EU destinations such as Romania or Bulgaria, after which it enters the branch east of the main Balkan route for traffic to the Netherlands and other western countries.

In that paper it is also noted: "Romania has also become a highway for drugs from South America. The criminal infrastructure that was developed to traffic large quantities of heroin or synthetic drugs is now also used to traffic cocaine. Romanian citizens living in South America, as well as South Americans in Romania, create stable links for organized crime groups interested in developing new alternative routes. In recent years, criminal groups from the Balkans, such as the Albanian, Serbo-Montenegrin and Bulgarian groups, have been increasingly involved in cocaine smuggling on sea routes and in the Black Sea ports of Bulgaria and Romania. Although the country serves as a transit hub for the cocaine trade, there is no large domestic market; local demand is low due to the high price of the drug."

Instead, those from GIATOC claim that the consumption of cannabis has increased in our country, which is imported from Spain and the Netherlands, via Serbia, near the border crossing point at Stamora Moraviţa.

The quoted document states: "There has been an upward trend in the trade in cannabis recently and it continues to be the most commonly consumed drug in the country, mainly by young adults. There is an ongoing debate in Romania regarding the legalization of cannabis and cannabinoid substances for medical purposes. However, the Government and the Ministry of Health openly oppose this idea. Moreover, the synthetic drug market in Romania is expanding. There has been an increase in the production of amphetamines and ecstasy in recent years, and a decrease in prices, although data show that these drugs are still more expensive in Romania than in Western Europe. An increase in the use of synthetic drugs has been reported in locations such as university centers and Bucharest. Ecstasy (MDMA) is trafficked mainly to Romania from Germany and the Netherlands, and amphetamines from Germany, Belgium and Bulgaria".

Regarding cybercrime, GIATOC notes that it has increased in recent years in our country and that the recent cyberthreats we are facing are the distribution of malware and ransomware attacks.

The experts of the Swiss NGO state: "Ransomware attacks tend to target a specific victim profile in order to maximize profit. For example, government and private sector organizations, including critical infrastructure as well as hospital services, are increasingly targeted. Cybercrime has a relatively low profile for perpetrators and results in huge profits, making it particularly attractive to organized crime groups. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Romania experienced an increase in the number of cyber attacks on infrastructure".

They also note that our country, although not a major financial center, is vulnerable to financial crime, with reported cases of online financial fraud and the increase in the number of organized crime groups specializing in direct and complex attacks on ATMs or banking systems, such as and phishing scams and tax evasion.

Europol confirms crime index data

Europol confirms the data on our country from the crime index, as it appears from the report presented on Friday by the European institution regarding the largest criminal groups on the continent.

Regarding our country, Europol experts state that Romania is one of the European states where the Italian mafia carries out intense activity regarding drug trafficking (including cocaine, cannabis and heroin), extortion, kidnappings, waste trafficking, tobacco excise fraud . and money laundering. From the European Union, in addition to Romania, the Italian mafia also acts with intensity in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Malta and Spain, the cited report shows.

As far as criminal networks are concerned, they operate in our country in committing crimes related to property infringement (burglary, car crimes and robbery), subsidized fraud, VAT fraud and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation or labor exploitation. Criminal networks in our country commit crimes both domestically and in all European countries, the main states in which they operate being Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to the Europol report.