An organised crime group (OCG) specialised in ATM explosive attacks has been taken down by a coordinated cross-border police operation. 9 suspects were taken into custody after the action by a joint investigation team (JIT) between the Dutch and German authorities. The 18-month investigation was coordinated by Europol and Eurojust.
The criminals produced step-by-step tutorials on how to blow up ATMs and have been linked to at least 15 ATM attacks in Germany. The ATMs were blown open using homemade improvised explosive devices (IEDs), posing a serious risk to life. During one test run by the criminals, one suspect died and another was seriously injured.
Some key facts relating to the investigation are:
- It was initiated in February 2020 after authorities in Osnabrück, Germany, identified suspicious orders of ATMs from a German company.
- Special surveillance measures were put in place, which led the investigators to Utrecht, the Netherlands, where a 29 year-old individual and his 24 year-old accomplice were running an illegal training centre for ATM attacks.
- The pair was ordering different models of ATMs and recording tutorials on how to most effectively blow them up.
- Links were also established between this criminal organisation and at least 15 ATM attacks in Germany. The total damage, including both the losses and the property damage, is estimated at approximately €2,150,000.
The investigation culminated in a series of police raids on 28 September for which two Europol experts were deployed in the field. Seven house searches were carried out in the Netherlands in the triangle of Utrecht, Amsterdam and the Hague, resulting in the arrest of three suspects. These three individuals are currently in custody in the Netherlands and are to be extradited to Germany.
Given the cross-border nature of this case, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was set-up in April 2021 between the Dutch and German authorities with the assistance and financing of Eurojust. Furthermore, the Agency organised the judicial cooperation and supported the execution of European Investigation Orders (EIOs).
In addition, an Operational Taskforce (OTF) was set up between Europol, Germany and the Netherlands to pool investigative resources and expertise. In the framework of this OTF, 18 operational meetings were held at Europol to prepare for the final phase of the action.
ATM explosive attacks are a growing concern, as they often put innocent lives in danger. In order to prevent and tackle this type of crime, close cooperation between law enforcement and the ATM industry is paramount. Europol and the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) have worked on a number of recommendations to prevent physical attacks against ATMs.
The EAST Expert Group on ATM and ATS Physical Attacks (EAST EGAP) is a European specialist expert forum for discussion of ATM, ATS and CIT related physical attack trends, attack methodologies and counter-measures, threat protection, and for the provision of regularly updated lists of manufacturers of ATM protective devices.
The EAST EGAP meets twice each year to enable in-depth and technical discussion to take place. The Group held its 16th Meeting on 1 September 2021. To date it has published 46 Physical Attack Alerts for EAST members, 35 of which relate to ATM Explosive Attacks (22 Explosive Gas and 13 Solid explosive).