Balkan Criminology


A Max Planck Partner Group

WISKOS Croatia

Economic Espionage in Europe(WISKOS Croatia)

The phenomenon of economic espionage is as diffuse and ambiguous as the terminology itself. Besides scenarios of ‘classic’ espionage by intelligence agencies of a foreign state, it also includes incidents of competitive (corporate) espionage, commercial spying or industrial theft. Despite some variety in the modi operandi used and the intentions behind these crimes they all have the same aim, i.e., information theft or, in more general terms, illegal obtainment of knowhow. It therefore shares patterns known from other illegal market activities. This explains the connection to MPPG’s Research Focus I.

Today, the crimes in focus have a mixed character combining elements of crimes against state security (traditional approach) and economic crime (modern approach). In addition, economic espionage is located at the intersection of conventional (physical) crime and cybercrime. As a consequence, penal regulation is often fragmented. The same is true with regard to jurisdiction and the applicable procedural rules which sometimes also involve aspects of political expediency.

As unclear as the legal background is also the state of criminological information about the sector. On the one hand there is a considerable dark field which is often referred to as a double dark field. On the other hand, due to the ambiguity of the phenomenon, statistical information is often incomplete as well, sometimes also incorrect. Literature is scarce, and there is not much up-to-date empirical research available. This is why the MPI for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Freiburg, Germany) is conducting the comparative research project WISKOS about economic spying (in a wider sense) in Europe which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF) under its funding stream “Civil Securities”.

WISKOS will provide a comparative ‘screening’ of the situation in all 28 EU member states plus Switzerland. MPPG is responsible for the analysis of the normative framework and the practical issues of prosecution and control of the related phenomena in Croatia. This includes, first of all, a description of the socio-cultural understanding of the economic sector and its constitutional status. In this regard, the situation in Croatia is of particular interest from a comparative point of view. The country has undergone a significant transition from State-economy to a free market society. In addition, recent entry into the European Union brings further changes in the context of a second transition, i.e., that from a national economy approach to the participation in the common European market system. Towards this particular background, the normative regulations of the sector will be analysed. This includes all relevant penal and non-penal provisions as well as the procedural regulations and practices. Furthermore, the available statistical information will be collected.

According to the variety of the potential modi operandi (see above), not only those provisions which explicitly address economic espionage have to be considered; explicit attention has to be drawn also on those cases which may appear as ‘simple’ cases of cyber of computer crime because the purpose and/or the origin of an attack on the IT system of an enterprise cannot be cleared up due to a lack of evidence. As such cases will rarely be categorized as cases of economic espionage (at least not officially), the real extent of the phenomenon is underrepresented in the official records. One of the main aims of the project is to provide a more realistic estimate of those crimes. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the existing system will be assessed. The focus is on both, on legal and practical problems of prosecution as well as on prevention strategies of the economic sector – and the interplay of these different actors.

MPPG contact for WISKOS: Dr. Marta Dragičević Prtenjača