Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI‑TOC), a think tank, considered Russian and Ukrainian organized crime groups to be one of the strongest criminal ecosystems in Europe. Since then, the war in Ukraine may have significantly altered the overall situation of organized crime in the region – potentially impacting the smuggling of counterfeit goods into the markets of the European Union, among other illicit operations.
Apparently, there are some indications of changes in smuggling routes for counterfeit and illegal goods, as an analysis by the German newspaper Tagesspiegel suggests. Relevant transshipment and storage points in Ukraine would now be out of action, such as the port of Odessa, which is known as a suspected trafficking hub. As a result, the transport of illegal goods, such as drugs and counterfeit products, might increasingly shift to Turkey and the Balkans, and these changes are already emerging, as the report says: The region, already known as a transit route for drugs and counterfeit products, is now apparently seeing shipments that were previously transported to Western Europe and the EU via Ukraine. In addition, Turkey also plays an important role as a source for counterfeit products, as previous reports have illustrated.
While the impact on Germany is still unclear, the authorities in the Federal Republic seem to be alert. German customs said they were keeping an eye on the situation, although there were no significant changes in smuggling so far. Also, the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) is reportedly monitoring so‑called Russian‑Eurasian organized crime. The BKA estimates that the current situation between Russia and Ukraine could probably lead to disruptions of organized crime in the mid‑term. However, the BKA said, criminal groups tended to react flexibly to crises and upheavals and might even draw new opportunities for crime out of them.