An investigation by the German Regional Police (Landespolizei Osnabrück), the Dutch National Police (Politie) and the Dutch Prosecution Office of Amsterdam (Functioneel Parket), supported by Europol, led to the dismantling of a criminal network involved in the illegal trafficking of fireworks. The suspects stored the large and highly explosive fireworks in unsecured locations, posing a serious risk to the safety of those living in the surrounding areas.
The two-year-long investigation exposed a Dutch criminal network involved in the large-scale trafficking of dangerous, highly explosive fireworks. The investigation was initiated in 2020 based on intelligence gained from the Encrochat operation. The Dutch and German authorities’ joint investigation uncovered the routes used to transport illegal heavy fireworks from countries such as China across several national borders, including Germany, to reach the Netherlands.
The police are increasingly seeing organised criminal networks using highly explosive and dangerous fireworks in acts of violence directed against other criminal groups. The explosives are also being used for criminal activities such as ATM explosive attacks carried out in Germany.
Explosives stored dangerously near unsuspecting communities
In October, German and Dutch authorities arrested 11 suspects in total. The three main suspects were arrested in the Netherlands on 17 October. The other eight suspects who were arrested are believed to have played logistical roles, such as facilitating transport, storing the fireworks or acting as a point of contact with buyers.
In June, law enforcement authorities in Germany and the Netherlands raided several locations including suspects’ houses, business premises and storage facilities. The German officers uncovered seven sites including bunkers, barns, businesses and containers that were being used for storing the illegal fireworks. The locations were far from meeting the strict safety requirements for the storage of such highly explosive items.
In total, 350 tonnes of illegal heavy fireworks, with a commercial value of up to EUR 25 million, were seized. Stockpiles of cash were also discovered. The investigation into the criminal network and the illegal fireworks is ongoing, and further arrests cannot be ruled out. The fireworks will be destroyed once the investigation is completed.
Europol set up an operational task force to support this priority investigation. Europol also coordinated operational activities, facilitated information exchange and provided analytical support.