On 11 May 2021, the World Customs Organization announced that the 2020 edition of Operation Pandora targeting the illicit trafficking of cultural goods has been the most successful to date with over 56,400 cultural goods seized. These goods include archaeological objects, furniture, coins, paintings, musical instruments and sculptures. Excerpts from the announcement follow:
Running from 1 June to 31 October 2020, Operation Pandora V saw the involvement of Customs and other law enforcement authorities from 31 countries.
During the operational phase, tens of thousands of checks and controls were carried out in various airports, ports and border crossing points, as well as in auction houses, museums and private homes. As a result, more than 300 investigations were opened and 67 individuals arrested.
Given the global nature of this type of crime, Operational Coordination Units working 24/7 were established by Europol on one side, and by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and INTERPOL on the other, to support the exchange of information as well as to disseminate alerts, warnings and perform cross-checks in different international and national databases.
The Operation was led by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), with international coordination supported by Europol, INTERPOL and the WCO. Operation PANDORA V was carried out under the framework of the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats (EMPACT).
As part of Operation Pandora V, the Dutch National Police (Politie) organized a five-day cyber patrol week focusing on online markets. Law enforcement authorities from 15 countries, with the support of Europol, INTERPOL and the WCO, identified suspicious sales online and this resulted in 15 new investigations being opened.
Europol, as co-leader of this action, played a key role in implementing the entire operation by facilitating information exchange, and providing analytical and operational support. The WCO also facilitated intelligence exchange between different agencies through a special closed user group set up on its CENcomm secure communication platform.
INTERPOL connected Balkan and European participating countries, facilitating the exchange of information through its secure communications system. A dedicated expert supported the entire operation by double checking searches against INTERPOL’s Stolen Works of Art database to locate and identify stolen and missing items.