Gangs of eastern European criminals are cashing in on the growing number of budget flights across Europe, to target different cities on an almost daily basis, the head of Europol told CNBC.
Rob Wainwright, the director of the European Union's (EU) law enforcement agency, said gangs – primarily from Romania, Lithuania, Poland and Bulgaria – were increasingly exploiting the freedom of movement within the region to swoop in on a city for a one-day spree of burglaries and theft and fly out the same day.
"That has helped to develop a new breed of organized crime gangs, that are now less constrained to one geographical area… they have spread their activities across countries in a way that we haven't seen before," he said.
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Within Europe, the "Schengen Area" of 26 states guarantees free movement to its citizens, having abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders in 1995. Some 22 of the 28 EU member states are part of the group, although the U.K. and Ireland opted out.
This has enabled organized crime gangs – specializing mainly in theft – to jump on and off numerous low-cost flights, Wainwright warned, adding that Europol has seen a spike in activity over the last three years.
"Of course, the more we expand our borders, the more flights there are, the more open the internet is - all these factors, in the end, are capable of being exploited by criminals," he said.