Recently, Frank Bruckenhofer, Chairman of the Customs Department of the Trade Union of the Swiss Confederation, pointed out in Berlin that Germany needs a Financial Police.
Bruckenhofer said that the customs are in a “disastrous condition” in the fight against crime. According to the customs official, the only reason why the disaster was prevented is the high motivation of the employees working at the customs department, especially in the enforcement service. Bruckenhofer emphasized the challenges that law enforcement authorities are facing in the forms of Organized Crime and international terrorism. The official’s department calls for a powerful administrative structure, a new strategic orientation, 4,000 additional posts for employees, and modern equipment. Most importantly, Bruckenhofer urged Germany to create a department for a financial police, which will closely work with the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the State Criminal Police Office (LKA).
Bruckenhofer summarized its core requirements in a 32-page position paper called “Positron 2017”. This paper is addressed to the “political decision-makers in Berlin” three months prior the Bundestag elections. The union wants to create more publicity for an important authority that is indispensable to the security of the country:
“Customs is not a mere tax authority but the number one department in the fight against drugs in Germany,” stressed Bruckenhofer. He complained that his interests were not yet sufficiently perceived in a “parliamentary shadow” between the Finance and Internal Committee. He added that if law enforcement authorities can’t prosecute organized criminals efficiently, then the union has to invest in personnel, better equipment, expertise, and in a more efficient structure.
“Customs should no longer be purely financial management with police charges. Parts of the tariff must, instead, be an elementary component of Germany’s police security architecture as effective and successful financial police,” Bruckenhofer said.
The Customs Department, with its 40,000 employees, is under the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Finance. As Bruckenhofer explained, it is a “hybrid administration” with highly diverse tasks. Thus, the General Directorate-General is responsible for the financial administration, responsible for the collection and administration of duties, taxes, and duties, company audit, enforcement of financial claims, penalties and fines, federal funds. The department’s main tax offices are “the tax offices of the Confederation,” according to the paper published by the union.
The customs duties of the Customs Office are carried out by the police. The department’s duty is the control, investigation and investigation services to tackle smuggling (drugs, cigarettes, counterfeit medicines, weapons, vehicles), money laundering, financial, tax and economic crimes, brand and product piracy, labor market crimes, but also terrorism financing.
The customs official described the personnel equipment available for this task as “miserable.” Along with the considerable failures in the face of a crisis situation, poor equipment leads to, for example, a “deficient control density”, according to Bruckenhofer. He emphasized that the customs need to carry out their tasks “around the clock”. If the Customs Department lacks the required resources, they often have to call for help from officers at the LKA or the BKA. In the paper, the union argues that in addition to the 40,000 already vacant posts, the Customs Department needs an additional 4,000 new employees. Bruckenhofer stated that there is a lack of civil servants at the border and also at the airports.
The union made a lot of demands for the equipment of the officials as well as the expertise especially in the fight against cybercrime, in a time when crime on the dark web is growing rapidly in Germany. Bruckenhofer said that the equipment of customs officials is so old that they are on the “level of 1998”.
According to Bruckenhofer, a financial police in the style of the Italian “Guardia di Finanza” would have to bundle all police control, investigation, and investigation tasks under the supervision of the Customs Department. The support for this project had been already mentioned by the official a year ago.