Thematic Focus: Customs – More than a Financial Police

What can and does customs do? An introduction
by Eric Töpfer

Customs is not only financial administration, but also a police of the federal government. With its around 40,000 employees, customs therefore plays a central role in the field of internal security. Nevertheless, it is in the shadow of the federal and state police forces and the intelligence services, and civil rights critics are rarely interested in its activities. The article provides an introductory overview of the various tasks and powers and the organization of the customs administration and traces how these have changed over the years.

The New Customs Investigation Service Law
by Dirk Burczyk

With this new draft, the federal government aims to implement the standards set forth by the EU data protection directive and to strengthen the German Customs Investigation Bureau’s role as central agency. The capabilities for processing personal data are being expanded for purposes of “risk prevention”, as well. The draft also serves as an adjustment to new developments in police law, especially relating to covert measures.

New Law “against illegal employment and social service abuse”
by Jenny Künkel

This law, approved by parliament in June 2019, will cause a new increase in personnel and powers for the “Finanzkontrolle Schwarzarbeit” (FKS, Financial Control of Undeclared Labour), which is a division of the customs administration. It will enhance the pressure of controls against migrant workers in precarious situation and thus produce more social exclusion.

Customs Authorities and Preventive Prerogatives
by Dirk Burczyk

Customs authorities can resort to a substantial range of powers that are otherwise only available to the police. Particularly regarding the mere scouting for suspicious circumstances, their powers even exceed those at the police’s disposal. Unlike police departments, customs investigators can operate without instructions from the prosecutor’s office. Furthermore, they are often exempt from parliamentary supervision.

Financial Control of Undeclared Work – Experiences From Trade Union-Linked Counseling
by Ivan Ivanov und Michael Baumgarten

The “Finanzkontrolle Schwarzarbeit” (Financial Control of Undeclared Labour) is the division of the customs administration which is in charge of monitoring businesses on their compliance with reporting and contribution obligations. Effective inspections can protect migrant workers from being overworked in non-registered employment. However, a law passed in July of 2019 not only increases the pressure of control on employers, but subjects workers to heightened repressive measures as well.

“One Single EU-Authority”: European Customs Cooperation
by Matthias Monroy

In the words of the EU Commission, customs authorities of the member states are “gatekeepers of EU borders for the flow of goods”. In their co-operation, they focus more and more on “risk analysis” and new information systems. For the fight against terrorism and organized crime, mesh more closely with working groups and agencies of the justice and home affairs sector of the EU. Also co-operation with third countries shall be reinforced. Customs authorities could benefit from EU security research programmes.

Government Failure on Financial Crime
by Stefan Herweg

The struggle against money laundering in Germany is in need of reform. In order to redress shortcomings in the transparency of owner structures, supervision, and criminal prosecution, a comprehensive strategy is required. This also applies to the Financial Intelligence Unit, which was moved from the Federal Criminal Police Office to the customs authorities in 2017.

Non-thematic Contributions

Far Right Structures in Security Authorities
by Sebastian Wehrhahn and Martina Renner

In recent years, media have discovered several cases of far right networks and cliques within the armed forces and the police. Indeed, they don´t set up a “deep state“, but are protected by esprit de corps and a political lack of interest in clearance.

Bodycam-Study by the Saxonian Police
by Florian Krahmer

With its new police act, Saxony joins the ranks of those Länder, which have created a legal basis for the use of bodycams. In advance, a pilot project by the Saxonian University of Applied Police Sciences allegedly demonstrated, that body cams caused a massive reduction of violence against police officers. A closer look at the study, however, reveals significant flaws.

Police Shootings 2018
by Otto Diederichs

For 2018, the official firearms statistics report a total of 54 cases, in which German police officers fired their arms against persons. In 23 cases shots were directed against „objects“, what relates usually to vehicles. Eleven persons were killed and 34 injured.

Anti-Terror-Legislation in Switzerland
by Heiner Busch

The Swiss Government plans to ratify the 2005 Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism including the additional protocol of 2015. In September 2018, the government presented a draft for the implementation into Swiss criminal law. In May 2019 followed a second draft with preventive police powers against “potential attackers”, including house arrest and electronic monitoring. The parliamentary debate will start in December.

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