Operational Assistance in Moldova Initiative

Combating organized crime, terrorism and firearms trafficking in Moldova

Timeframe: October 2022 – February 2024
Budget: EUR 2 million
Donor: German Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The situation

Moldova faces serious security challenges ranging from travel document fraud and crimes against children, through human and firearms trafficking, to smuggling of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) materials. The country has also served as a transit corridor for foreign fighters. Located on the very edge of the European Union, Moldova’s geographical location is attractive to international organized crime groups wishing to smuggle illicit goods between Europe and Asia.

Among the emerging threats due to the conflict in Ukraine, we are seeing human traffickers and smugglers taking advantage of vulnerable populations at various border control checkpoints. Human trafficking in Moldova encompasses both domestic and crossborder trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation. Children and unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and traffickers.

Organized crime has a negative impact on entire regions and produces significant amounts of illicit revenue and proceeds. Illicit financial flows have caused significant damage to the economy, society, and development in Moldova. Organized crime groups often use illicitly obtained revenue generated from one crime to fund and sponsor other serious crimes.

Project aims

The project supports law enforcement agencies in tackling organized crime and emerging threats. It also helps in developing long-term cooperation in the region.  

As part of this, the project:

  1. Provides operational assistance and strengthens national efforts to combat transnational organized crime, with a specific focus on migrant smuggling, human trafficking, protection from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment (PSEAH), terrorism and firearms trafficking;
  2. Enhances national and transborder cooperation between law enforcement agencies, international organizations and the aid sector/non-governmental organizations. Improved international police cooperation also ensures the effective exchange of information in the region.
INTERPOL officials visit the border control check points with Ukraine, November 2022.
INTERPOL officials visit the border control check points with Ukraine, November 2022.

Project activities

  • Operational and analytical support to identify and investigate organized crime groups related to human and firearms trafficking, terrorism and violent extremism. This includes an exchange of operational data and best practices aimed at dismantling specific criminal groups. INTERPOL officials also help enhance law enforcement agencies in Moldova with operational and analytical skills to conduct effective investigations;
  • Detection of suspected individuals at control points – This includes crosschecking biometrics from suspected individuals against INTERPOL databases during HOTSPOT operations;
  • Assessing Moldova’s ability to detect and interdict CBRNE material at border crossing points, and response mechanisms;
  • On-the job support and mentorship programmes – This helps integrate best practices, increase alertness and immediate response to firearms trafficking. These programmes also assist national authorities in conducting criminal intelligence analysis as well as identifying and tracing firearms;
  • Assisting law enforcement agencies in accessing INTERPOL databases and supporting deployment of INTERPOL’s Operational Support Teams (OST) for transnational cases.

Project updates

September 2023
International operation leads to rescue of two victims and arrest of two offenders

An international operation resulted in the rescue of two victims and the arrest of two offenders involved in contract killing. The operation brought together INTERPOL and Europol, as well as Ukrainian and Moldovan national authorities. Information exchange and police collaboration was essential in the successful completion of this transnational action.

Coordinated action between INTERPOL and Europol, September 2023.

July 2023
Meetings with regional and international organizations

Our biannual meetings help strengthen national efforts to counter security threats as well as increase cooperation between regional and international stakeholders in Moldova. The first meeting took place on 5 July 2023 and brought together more than forty participants from twelve organizations. The next meeting will be held in December 2023.

June – July 2023
Operation HOTSPOT

This operation took place in the context of the current refugee crisis.  We cooperated closely with national law enforcement agencies to carry out biometric checks against INTERPOL databases. Some 80 law enforcement officers participated in the operation.

Operation Hotspot, Chisinau, Moldova, June 2023.
Operation Hotspot, Chisinau, Moldova, June 2023.

February – October 2023
Training courses

We have provided training to more than 200 law enforcement officers on subjects such as INTERPOL databases and policing capabilities, open-source investigations, child sexual exploitation, the use of the Dark web for victim identification and tackling serious organized crime.

Multi-Agency training on protection against sexual exploitation and abuse, Moldova, October 2023.
INTERPOL and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Romania deliver workshop on strategic and risk analysis, October 2023.
INTERPOL and NCB Chisinau deliver iARMS training, 21-22 March, 2023.

January 2023
Establishing points of contact

We established points of contacts to support project management and target crime areas in Moldova. These experts are helping to raise awareness of INTERPOL tools and capabilities as well as counter-terrorism activities.

October 2022
Operational support and needs assessment

We supported local law enforcement officers to combat migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings. Specifically, we assessed the following:

  • Risks posed by migration flows and threats faced by displaced people;
  • Needs of law enforcement in dealing with identification, investigation and prosecution of crimes related to human trafficking and smuggling, irregular migration, displaced people and asylum seekers.

November 2022
Second deployment of experts

Experts worked closely with Moldovan authorities to:

  • Assess information systems, infrastructure and access to INTERPOL databases;
  • Present INTERPOL tools and capabilities, counter-terrorism activities and the HOTSPOT concept;
  • Assess the capacity of national law enforcement agencies to tackle firearms related organized crime;
  • Establish a network of firearms contact points in Moldova consisting of relevant institutions, departments and individuals.

December 2022
Working Group Meeting

A Working Group Meeting was held to share the initial findings from INTERPOL’s assessment missions completed in October and November 2022. This meeting defined needs and agreed on the plan of activities for the next seven months.