French and Romanian police have taken part in a joint Europol-backed operation that resulted in the dismantling of a transnational truck theft gang thought to have stolen goods worth more than €4 million.
Six members of the group were held in France in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The following day, law enforcement officers in Romania executed search warrants at 46 properties across the country, making a further 14 arrests.
In all, it is thought the organised criminal gang was made up of 28 Romanian nationals.
A number of items were seized during the searches, including electronic devices, documentation and bottles of perfume. The operation also involved raids on a number of warehouses in the Netherlands.
“Europol provided on-the-spot support to the Romanian authorities by deploying a property crime specialist equipped with a mobile office,” the law enforcement agency said in a statement.
“Representatives of the French Gendarmerie and a French magistrate also participated in the action.”
The gang is said to have operated in countries including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.
News of the gang’s activities comes at a time when the European trucking sector is facing increased security threats, including a string of terror attacks involving lorries, some of which had been stolen by Islamists intent on ploughing the vehicles into members of the public on some of the continent’s busiest city streets.
The terrorist behind December’s Berlin Christmas market attack hijacked the vehicle he used to slaughter 11 people, stabbing the truck’s Polish driver to death before committing the atrocity. In a similar vein, the suspected Islamist responsible for yesterday’s terror truck attack in Stockholm stole the brewery company lorry he used to mow down pedestrians in Sweden’s capital while its driver was making a delivery.
Concerns have also been raised over the safety of truck drivers passing through the port of Calais, who regularly face migrants attempting to force their way into their vehicles.
Haulage associations have urged truck drivers to be extra vigilant in the light of the increased threats they face. Speaking with the Mirror in the wake of the Berlin attack, Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association said: “Against the most determined terrorist… there is no absolute defence.
“Someone armed with a gun or knives is going to present an enormous problem for any lorry driver. However, there a number of measures which you can put in place to make it as difficult as possible – the message is extra vigilance, and greater care.”
In October last year, Transport security organisation TAPA called for security to be stepped up at European parking locations, noting that some 57% of thefts from trucks occur in non-secure areas.