Some 5,000 organized crime groups are active in Europe, with more than one-third of the rings involved in illicit drug trade, the EU law enforcement agency Europol said in a large-scale report Thursday.
Drug trade generates 24 billion euros (25 billion dollars) in profits every year.
The groups are also engaged in counterfeiting currency, migrant smuggling, arms trafficking and an array of cybercrime, including child sexual exploitation and bank fraud.
In 2013, the last time Europol released such a report, there were 3,600 internationally operating crime groups in the 28-nation European Union.
Europol Director Rob Wainwright attributed the increase to an “improved intelligence picture” and the emergence of smaller groups whose operations take place solely online.
“Developments such as the emergence of the online trade in illicit goods and services are set to result in significant shifts in criminal markets and confront law enforcement authorities withnew challenges,” he wrote in the report.