Cross Border CrimeNews

Heavy fireworks off the market for safer holidays

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, has led to the seizure of a large amount of illegal fireworks intended for consumers in the Netherlands. The officers also arrested two suspects in the Netherlands.

The investigators uncovered that an estimate of 250 tonnes of fireworks were stored in a bunker complex in Germany, about 20 kilometres from the border with the Netherlands. The suspects involved in this illegal scheme attempted to circumvent the strict regulations for the sale of fireworks by hiding behind the façade of legal company, registered for the sale of authorised fireworks. In fact, the trade of fireworks is very highly regulated due to the dangerous aspect of the merchandise. The free sale of heavy fireworks is strictly forbidden. Criminal networks also use the heaviest categories of fireworks, such as the ones seized during the action day, to perpetrate violence or to facilitate their criminal activities during, for example, ATM attacks.  

The year-long investigation exposed a Dutch criminal network illegally trading with dangerous, highly explosive fireworks. The investigation was initiated in 2021 based on an anonymous tip coupled with intelligence from other investigations into the trafficking of illegal fireworks. The suspects stored the heavy fireworks in unsecured locations, while illegally selling these extremely dangerous goods to the public – despite such fireworks being banned for open sale. The illegal storage and sale of such highly regulated explosive materials poses a serious risk to the safety of users, and also to unaware people living in the areas surrounding the storage facilities. 

The illegal sale of fireworks targeted

A dedicated taskforce was also set up at Europol to target the trafficking of illegal fireworks. 350 tonnes of illegal heavy fireworks, with a commercial value of up to EUR 25 million, were already seized in November this year. Back then, stockpiles of cash were also discovered at the same time. Europol coordinated operational activities, facilitated information exchange and provided analytical support. 

During this new operation also targeting the trafficking of heavy fireworks, Europol deployed two experts to provide real-time technical and analytical support to the investigators on the spot.