Europol Announces Operation to Hit Russian Sanctions-Evaders

European police have announced a major new operation designed to crack down on Russian oligarchs and businesses looking to circumvent sanctions.

Operation Oscar will run for at least a year as an umbrella initiative that will feature many separate investigations, Europol explained.

The policing organization’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre will work to exchange information and intelligence with partners and provide operational support in financial crime investigations.

A key focus appears to be on illicit flows of money, which Russian individuals and entities will be trying to move around the region in order to bypass sanctions imposed since President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Europol will centralize and analyze all information contributed under this operation to identify international links, criminal groups and suspects, as well as new criminal trends and patterns,” Europol said.

“Europol will further provide tailor-made analytical support to investigations, as well as operational coordination, forensics and technical expertise, and financial support to the relevant national authorities.”

The operation will include Eurojust, the EU agency for criminal justice cooperation, which will provide legal assistance and strengthen cooperation between partners. It will also coordinate with EU borders agency Frontex, which will be closely watching any sanctioned individuals hoping to sneak into the EU.

According to Europol, the operation will work similarly to Operation Sentinel, another wide-ranging initiative designed to crack down on attempts to defraud the EU’s massive COVID-19 recovery fund.

The EU has joined Britain, the US and others in imposing wide-ranging economic sanctions on Russian organizations and individuals. The pressure this is creating has also had a knock-on effect on the cybercrime underground in the country, researchers recently revealed.

Europol investigators will have their work cut out investigating sanctions-evading efforts. Despite occasional successes, the fight against money laundering remains one-sided. UN estimates suggest between 2-5% of global GDP is lost this way each year.

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