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19 June 2013

Police arrest high-level organized crime members in Italian-led action

Operation supported by INTERPOL and Europol

LYON, France – An operation led by Italian law enforcement, supported by INTERPOL and Europol, targeting a Georgian criminal organization linked to the transnational Eurasian organized crime phenomenon of ‘Thieves in Law’ has led to the arrest of 19 suspects across Europe.

During the operation on 18 June, police in six countries – Italy, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Lithuania and Portugal – held coordinated actions to arrest the suspects, belonging to the Kutaisi clan, a dangerous criminal network composed of mainly Georgian nationals associated with corruption and the use of violence. Weapons and drugs were also seized.

The majority of those arrested are ‘Thieves in Law’, or gang members at the highest level in the Eurasian criminal hierarchy who control the activities of other criminal groups lower down. The influence of the ‘Thieves in Law’ extends across groups engaging in a wide variety of crimes, such as trafficking in drugs, human beings, stolen vehicles, property crime and murder.

The investigation, led by the Italian State Police, was supported from the early stages by INTERPOL and Europol. Through its Project Millennium team, which targets transnational Eurasian organized crime, INTERPOL provided information and expertise on the phenomenon to investigators.

During the operational phase INTERPOL, in particular through its National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in Rome and Vilnius, provided on-site support assisting the identification of those arrested through fingerprint analysis and provision of access to its global databases.

Among those arrested was Merab Dzhangveladze, a Russian and Georgian citizen who is a leader of the Kutaisi clan and had been under investigation by law enforcement in multiple European countries for some time.

Investigations are continuing, and further arrests are expected.