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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No101022004

Value of the TRACE Toolkit Demonstrated to Portuguese Agencies

On January 25th 2024, the TRACE consortium presented the pilot TRACE toolkit to members of the Portuguese Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Judiciary Police (Policia Judiciária). The demonstration took place at the premises of NOVA School of Law in Lisbon, with all presentations held in a hybrid format and positive feedback received from attendees.

Professor Dr Umut Turksen, the coordinator of the TRACE project, opened with a comprehensive overview of the project’s drivers, goals, and strengths. In particular, he explained how the tool currently in development has the potential to enhance the investigation of organized financial crime. Next, Thomas Havranek, who represents CIN Consult GmbH in the consortium, demonstrated the function of the TRACE toolkit in real time. He presented the existing functionalities, illustrating how they interact with pre-uploaded datasets and demonstrating the process for uploading new datasets and customizing dashboards for specific case requirements or information needs.

Built with a user-centric design and a focus on user experience (UX), the TRACE toolkit integrates natural language processing of texts and dynamic visualization technologies, along with AI-empowered knowledge graphs. The key advantage of the TRACE toolkit lies in its user-friendly interface, catering to individuals unfamiliar with data analysis software, and its flexibility for customization to suit the specific needs of each entity. Moreover, it offers the capability to create various libraries containing diverse amounts and types of data, as well as tailored dashboards.

During the project presentation and tool demonstration, guest participants raised insightful points that improved our understanding of law enforcement agencies’ needs and practices, and underscored the tremendous utility of the TRACE toolkit for improving their data analysis procedures. We highlight the following key discussion points:

      • The Portuguese FIU encounters significant challenges with cross-border judicial cooperation with non-EU countries, particularly the UK and USA. These challenges arise due to divergent data collection, search, and seizure procedures. They also stem from discrepancies in criminal classifications across jurisdictions, as well as from a lack of mutual trust between countries that often results in denials of mutual assistance.

      • While the analysis of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) is currently conducted through goAML, several burdens persist. These include the medium used for sending STRs (typically email), the accuracy and usefulness of the reported data, and the quality of data chosen by banks and other obliged entities for reporting.

      • In addition to STRs, which play a crucial role in establishing evidence for investigations, the FIU receives substantial information via email. This data is often provided by obliged entities and does not always involve direct requests to email providers.

    Following the demonstration, guests underlined that the tool’s usability appeared well-suited for police officers that are unfamiliar with data analysis software. Moreover, they emphasized that integrating this tool into daily operations would significantly reduce the time and resources spent on investigations. Most importantly, it would streamline the process of linking disparate pieces of information to uncover connections between entities and transactions. Lastly, they underlined that, from a legal point of view, it is important to discuss how the TRACE output may inform an investigation file and whether it can be classified as evidence or intelligence.

    Authors and organisers: The discussion was moderated by Assistant Professor Dr Athina Sachoulidou and the minutes (adapted above) were drafted by Julia Werberich, TRACE research associate at NOVA School of Law. The demonstration event was organised by Dr Cristina Oliveira, TRACE postdoctoral researcher at NOVA School of Law.

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