Copper thieves arrested after international operation

CopperSeven people have been arrested in an investigation into a metal theft network operating in France.

The enforcement operation - which involved police in France and Spain supported by Europol - Europol - targeted a criminal gang suspected of stealing significant amounts of copper from recycling centres.

Theft of metals is both common and costly and has escalated in recent years as the scrap value of materials such as copper has risen, although the price of the value has started to slip of late, mainly as a result of declining demand caused by soft global economic growth.

On December 1, officers from the Spanish Guardia Civil, together with the French Gendarmerie and local police in Girona, carried out four house searches in Girona as part of Operation Cuproso-METO 23.

As a result, four suspects were arrested and a variety of evidence was seized, including documents. Simultaneously, three other individuals linked to the thefts were arrested by Gendarmerie in France.

Europol supported the investigation with data analysis, information exchange and by facilitating two operational meetings. Information gathered during the operation was analysed and exchanged in real time and immediately cross-matched against Europol's databases.

According to investigations, the total estimated losses for the recycling centres could amount to €900,000 (around $975,000).

"Metal theft can have a devastating impact on businesses, communities and individuals," said Europol in a statement.

"This includes the loss of key services such as telecommunications and power, disruption of rail networks and the desecration of religious buildings and memorials."

The overall damage caused by metal theft typically far exceeds the value of the stolen metal itself - with some experts estimating it to be 50-fold higher.

Intelligence shows that the stolen metal is often transported across several borders and sold as scrap, or for recycling, far away from the scene of the crime.

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