Operation Mobile 6 puts the brakes on car thieves

Europol supports Frontex-led operation resulting in the recovery of 505 stolen cars, 16 boats and 2 000 stolen vehicle parts

Operation Mobile 6 took place in October 2023 at the EU’s external land borders, as well as border locations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo,  Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The operation involved around 400 law enforcement officers from 25 countries, who carried out detailed checks across several locations. Europol and INTERPOL supported the Frontex-led operation, providing expertise and access to their databases.  This collaboration allowed for the recovery of 505 stolen cars, around 2 000 stolen vehicle parts, 16 boats, 32 outboard engines and 248 forged documents. In addition, the participating authorities identified 209 migrant smugglers.

Law enforcement identified a variety of criminal tactics during the operation, including several instances involving so-called ‘cloned cars’. Criminals use the identity papers belonging to another vehicle, usually a destroyed car, of the same make, model and colour. The papers are presented to the authorities in the event of a border control procedure connected to the search for a stolen car. Such incidents present a growing problem for border officers, as the sophistication of forged vehicle identification numbers increases. 

Europol’s role

Europol supported Operation Mobile 6 by providing expertise during the preparation meeting as well as contributing to the database checks during the action phase. One example included Greek authorities requesting the Europol guest officer deployed to the border between Greece and Türkiye to crosscheck information about an arrested person. The suspect had been taken into custody while attempting to cross the border in a car reported stolen in Austria a few days before. With the information provided by the Europol guest officer, the vehicle was linked to a request from the Austrian authorities.

The operation took place under the umbrella of EMPACT, the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats, which tackles the most important threats posed by organised and serious international crime affecting the EU. EMPACT strengthens intelligence sharing and strategic and operational cooperation between national authorities, EU institutions and bodies, and international partners. Operation Mobile 6 falls under EMPACT’s organised property crime priority.