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Round Table: Organised Crime Threat Assessment
On 18 June 2010, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted a round table on “Organised Crime Threat Assessment”. The discussion took place in the Sredets Hall of the Sheraton hotel. The CSD presented its project aiming at developing a methodology for assessing the risks from organized crime and disseminated a reader, containing best models and national threat assessment reports Organized Crime Threat Assessment: Methodological Problems and International Experience. Experts representing the CSD, the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Ghent University (Belgium), Europol, and the UNODC, exchanged their views on the European law-enforcement policies and good practices in assessing the threats from organized crime.

The round table was opened by Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of the CSD, and by Mr. Tsvetan Tzvetanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. In his opening message Dr. Shentov outlined the main aim of the project, namely pioneering the instrument for measuring the threats levels generated by organized crime as a standard tool already in use in a number of EU Member States. He stressed the importance of such a step for Bulgaria as the introduction of threat assessment reports will be beneficial for asserting both government and civil control on the law-enforcement institutions, in addition to facilitating the process of defining the priorities in the fight against serious organized crime. According to Dr. Shentov, the chances for success of such initiative are particularly good due to the clear political will for change at the Ministry of Interior.

On his turn, Minister Tzvetan Tzvetanov congratulated the CSD for its initiative. He admitted that Bulgaria had lost valuable time after its accession to the EU in its efforts to assess organized crime, which gave the opportunity to criminals to infiltrate political parties and to join corruption networks. “Today more than ever we need such an assessment in a situation, when borders are being opened, when Bulgarian law-enforcement is trying its best to adapt itself to the integration process. If a country fails to cope with its organized crime, it becomes an exporter of organized criminals, outlined the Minister. He also stressed on the importance of applying multi-institutional approach in dealing with this problem; an approach that could lead to the much needed here introduction of faster judicial procedures, and to countering the present surge in cross-border crime, as well.

Mr. Philip Gounev, a researcher from CSD’s European Program, and Mr. Tihomir Bezlov, Chief Expert from the same program, offered insights into the process of assessing threats from organized crime. Mr. Gounev informed about the main types of reports and the analytical components that usually figure in such documents. In order to illustrate this process, the Mr. Bezlov presented an analysis of cigarette contraband in the country for 2010.

Mr. John Flint from UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SОCА) presented the work of this agency in the field of threat analysis in the UK. Mr. Flint outlined the fact that the UKTA report is addressed to the Interior Minister and aims at facilitating certain legal changes and defining priorities in the policy of countering organized crime. The UKTA report identifies the blank spots in the intelligence information about organized crime in need to be filled: “The more we know about a certain threat, the better we could cope with it”, said John Flint.

Mr. Tzvetlin Iovchev, Head of the State National Security Agency (SANS), supported the initiative about the introduction of a threat assessment report in Bulgaria. Organised crime, which underwent a significant evolution during last decade, continues to impact seriously on the country’s finances, in addition to the welfare and lives of ordinary citizens; its activities lead to a long-term undermining of social values and impress upon the way people reason and behave. Mr. Iovchev also stressed the necessity of introducing a systematic approach in the efforts of countering organized crime.

Mr. Jean-Dominique Nollet, who heads Europol’s “Analysis and Information” Department, expressed his agency’s support for the Ministry of Interior in its struggle against organized crime. Identifying a counter-strategy in its dealings with criminal phenomena is a main goal in the process of producing a threat assessment, stressed Mr. Nollet. In order to achieve it, one should have a clear picture of the global situation – a task, which in its turn necessitates a multi-institutional approach and a close interaction between Academic researchers and law-enforcement communities, in addition to the input of the judiciary and private business.

Professor Tom Vander Beken, Director of the Institute for international criminological research and policies at the Ghent University in Belgium, spoke about the role and participation of the academic circles, who work closely with national and European law-enforcement institutions. He focused on the relation between threat assessment as a knowledge asset, on the one hand, and the process of policies development, on the other. According to Professor Van der Beken threat assessment should be based on real data, which will permit to apply adequate measures in countering organised crime.

Mr. Peter Allan, a counselor at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, outlined the importance for every government to institutionalize the development of a threat assessment of organized crime. As a next step an adequate assessment will help better organize the work of different specialized bodies and to increase the effect of the struggle against organized crime. Disseminating such report will increase public awareness about the good will of the government to cope with insecurity in the country.

Mr. Vanio Tanov, Director of Customs Agency, shared his views on the subject. He presented a short analysis of threat assessment, taking as an example cigarette contraband. Mr. Tanov outlined the factors and bonds that influence the cigarettes’ market and the ways for countering this phenomenon. He also focused on the negative factors and conditions, created by the economic crisis, which are particularly harmful for the state’s excise policy.

Agenda (Adobe PDF, 50,8 KB)
CSD Policy Brief 24: Introducing Organized Crime Threat Assessment (Adobe PDF, 349 KB)
Media Coverage (in Bulgarian)

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