International cooperation on investigations
It is important for the Guardia di Finanza to make the fight against economic and financial crimes more and more efficient on the global scale. For this reason, the Corps constantly works to strengthen its international role by implementing closer cooperation forms with foreign counterparts. Traditional channels of information exchange are used, including Interpol, Europol, S.I.Re.N.E., Police and Customs Cooperation Centers - C.C.P.D. for police cooperation, OLAF for the fight against fraud and the network of Financial Intelligence Units when dealing with money laundering.
With reference to combating cross-border organized crime, laundering of the proceeds of illicit activities and terrorism and its financing, we should also mention regular communication with the ICPO–INTERPOL, for geographical areas outside the EU, and with the European Union Agency (Europol) for EU Member States. In particular, EUROPOL supports investigative activities through the relational databases called Analysis Project (AP), among which, of considerable relevance for the activities of the Corps, the AP called Sustrans (focal point which collects and analyzes the data relating to the so-called suspicious transactions, suspicious financial transactions referring to international transfers). In this context, Guardia di Finanza Units that need to exchange information with foreign counterparts send their requests to the 2nd Department, that will forward them abroad through the Ministry of Interior/Central Directorate of Criminal Police – D.C.PC. / Service for International Police Cooperation S.C.I.P., to the foreign counterpart bodies.
Other information exchange, concerning money laundering, is implemented also through the Bank of Italy – Financial Intelligence Unit, with all foreign FIUs.
Starting from 2017, the FIU has launched a dedicated portal, known as SAFE or “Portal of Authorities”, that is meant to rationalize and computerize the management of cooperation requests from/to partner foreign authorities. With the purpose to support the need for information of Guardia di Finanza units, the 2nd Department uses this portal to send, for further investigation, the requests received by foreign FIUs to the Italian FIU simply uploading a specific pdf form to be filled as shown.
In 1992, the FIN– NET Financial Crime Information Network was also established inside the premises of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK. It serves the important purpose to promote the exchange of news as well as to foster international cooperation among competent authorities, so to make the prevention and the fight against economic and financial crimes more efficient.
This FIN–NET network represents, for Guardia di Finanza territorial units, another successful and efficient cooperation tool, that integrates those already existing and can be activated through a specific request to be forwarded to the 2nd Department.
The Asset Recovery Office (A.R.O.) network – established according to framework decision 2007/845/JHA – plays a significant role for international cooperation with reference to the fight against the transfers of criminal money to legal economies. It represents a “dedicated” channel to detect criminal financial assets within EU Members to be seized and confiscated.
As far as the fight against terrorism is concerned, the Guardia di Finanza focuses its activity on the aspects related to terrorism financing.
In particular, in the national antiterrorism enforcement system, the suppression action carried out by the State Police and the Carabinieri Corps focuses on terrorism events, whereas the Guardia di Finanza concentrates its efforts in the fight against the financing channels of this phenomenon, proceeding with developing investigations aimed at detecting financial flows to terrorist groups/cells as well as at disclosing the financial assets of those persons/entities suspected to belong or support organizations of terrorist nature.
From the standpoint of preventing the same phenomenon, the Corps provides its contribution by actively participating in the proceedings of the Committee for Antiterrorism Strategic Analysis (CASA), a permanent round table where intelligence and law enforcement agencies regularly meet in order to jointly evaluate terrorist threats.
In particular, the II Department, in order to extend to the maximum the circularity of information in the field of combating terrorism and its financing, shares with the members of C.A.S.A., immediately, all information entities pertaining to terrorism or its financing acquired in the context of the institutional activities carried out by the Units of the Corps.
In particular, the circularity of information ensured by the Corps in the framework of C.A.S.A. concerns Terrorism “T” category suspicious transaction reports which, originally classified as money laundering, are reclassified Terrorism “T” following analysis activity carried out by the Monetary Police Special Unit; the notices coming from the Financial Intelligence Units, through the Bank of Italy F.I.U., concerning reports of suspicious transfers of money for terrorism financing; any element coming from the institutional activities and/or investigations carried out by the Unit of the Corps evidencing connections with matters of terrorism and/or the financing thereof.
The Corps supports the Committee for Financial Security (CSF), an inter-ministerial coordination body the Minister for Economy and Finance uses in order to set out the prevention policy with reference to money laundering and terrorism financing.
Furthermore, the Guardia di Finanza – through the 2nd Department – contributes to information exchange with European Police Forces through specific Europol Analysis Projects (AP), including, most importantly, Hydra AP, on Islamic terrorism, Travellers AP, focusing on persons suspected to travel across international borders with the purpose to take part in terrorist activities and that may be a threat for the security of EU Member States, and, lastly, the AP Terrorism Finance Tracking Program-T.F.T.P., which tracks financial flows of terrorist networks.
With reference to international cooperation on drug trafficking, we should mention the cooperation with the Central Directorate for Drug Services (DCSA), the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics (MAOC-N) in Lisbon (multilateral body responsible for information exchange on boats and aircraft suspected to be used to transport drug along the major routes), as well as with the MAR-INFO/YACHT-INFO Group, an informal network for cooperation among European Customs Investigation Services that operate against illicit trafficking by sea, in containers or small boats.
While carrying out customs surveillance and controls, the Corps focuses its actions on customs fraud and smuggling, also at international level.
The exchange of operational information is strictly connected to customs activities the Corps is responsible for and makes them more efficient. With reference to international context - outside the European Union - such information exchange on operational data is based upon agreements signed by the EU and non-European Countries, as well as on bilateral agreements of mutual administrative assistance on customs matters signed between Italy and Third Countries.
Since January 1st 2017, the Corps was given the responsibility on customs controls of species of fauna and flora threatened with extinction, based upon the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora, known as CITES. This international agreement was signed in Washington on 3 March 1973 and aims at safeguarding the biodiversity of the terrestrial ecosystem, by granting protection to endangered species.
The Guardia di Finanza has implemented a network of direct contacts with CITES foreign authorities to ask for information on the authenticity of licenses/certificates, the exact indication of species, quantity and customs data indicated on enclosed papers.
Within the European borders, the cooperation of the Corps can rely on widely used practices regulated by efficient cooperation tools, such as Regulation (UE) no. 515/97, the convention on mutual assistance and for the cooperation among customs administrations (so-called “Naples II”) and Regulation (EU) no. 389/12 of the Council as well as the cooperation with the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF).