With crime becoming increasingly transnational in nature and spanning multiple jurisdictions, Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) are becoming key tools in the fight against international organised crime.
A JIT is a tool which enables international cooperation between judicial and law enforcement authorities of two or more countries, assisting in cross-border criminal investigations.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, provides some useful information about JITs on its website, outlining how they operate and the key benefits provided.
What are the benefits of JITs?
JITs are an effective cooperation tool amongst national investigative agencies when tackling cross-border crime, facilitating the coordination of investigations and prosecutions across multiple jurisdictions.
JITs enable the direct gathering and exchange of information and evidence without the need to use traditional channels of mutual legal assistance, which can sometimes be slow and ineffective.
Europol provides some examples of where JITs have contributed to successes in a range of crime areas, including:
- Dismantling migrant smuggling networks
- Carrying out an operation resulting in the arrest of 12 members of an organised crime group who were running a voice-phishing scam
- Arresting members of a cybercrime group involved in distributing malware
- Dismantling a network of child-abuse photographers operating in six EU countries
How do JITs operate, and who is involved?
Authorities of two or more countries may decide to set up a JIT for a specific purpose and for a limited period, which may be extended by mutual agreement. The terms in accordance with which a JIT operates vary from case to case, but they are based on the model JIT agreement.
A JIT team can consist of:
- Law enforcement officers
- Other relevant personnel
The JIT is led by a member from the country in which the JIT is based, and it is the law of that country that governs the JIT’s activities.
Seconded members of the team (i.e. those originating from a State other than the one in which the JIT operates) are entitled to be present and to take part – within the limits foreseen by national legislation and/or specified by the JIT leader – in investigative measures conducted outside their State of origin.
In which cases are JITs used?
In its Joint Investigation Teams Practical Guide, Europol describes two common situations in which a JIT may be established:
Demanding cross-border investigations: a JIT can be set up when ‘a Member State’s investigations into criminal offences require difficult and demanding investigations having links with other Member States’.
Connected investigations requiring coordination: a JIT can be set up when ‘a number of Member States are conducting investigations into criminal offences in which the circumstances of the case necessitate coordinated, concerted action in the Member States involved’
Further considerations are taken into account in practice when assessing the need for a JIT, including:
- The complexity and sophistication of the criminal network/activities under investigation
- The number and complexity of investigative measures to be carried out in the States involved
- The degree of connection of the investigations between States involved
What is Europol’s role?
Europol supports JITs in a number of ways, such as by:
- Identifying links between related cases and investigations
- Liaising directly with JIT members
- Providing members with information that Europol maintains
- Offering analytical and logistical support, and technical and forensic expertise
- Supporting the secure exchange of information