Dutch case: cooperation of customs, police, and public prosecution service in combating drag smuggling

Customs, the police, and the Public Prosecution Service in the Netherlands are joining forces to prevent the export of drugs via letters and mail packages. A lot of outgoing drug smuggling takes place mainly by post. This often concerns small quantities. But other types of drugs and larger quantities are also sent by post. The arrival of the new Hit-and-Run-Post (HARP) partnership should tackle senders of drugs by post.

Role of Customs
Customs provides Special Investigation Officers to the team. The Public Prosecutor has appointed Customs investigators for this project. In addition to their supervisory powers, they also have the authority to apply investigative techniques. There is a difference between inspection powers, such as Customs has, and investigative powers, such as the police, for example. During regular inspections, a so-called transition of atmosphere takes place when a suspicion of a criminal offense arises. When you find something that may be punishable or indicate a criminal offence, and you conduct further investigation into it, you no longer speak of control but of investigation. Customs officers normally do not engage in investigative work. That is why they transfer these cases to HARP. The customs officers who work in the HARP team, together with colleagues from the police and the Public Prosecution Service, conduct short-term criminal investigations.

The HARP is not the first partnership in which Customs participates. There is also a SMOKE combination team, which focuses on illegal tobacco and smoking products. There are many advantages to a partnership. In daily practice, the different parties often need each other, but they do not always know where to find each other. By finding common ground and joining forces, you can switch faster: you bring together knowledge, data and information, and make use of each other’s expertise.

International collaboration
In addition to national collaborations, Customs also collaborates with other countries. Supervision and control of incoming and outgoing mail flows is not new for Customs. Customs also checks mail for other items, such as weapons and (endangered) plants and animals. In addition, Customs also checks whether VAT, import duties and customs clearance duties have been paid correctly. They do this, for example, from the office in the International Mail Exchange Center postal sorting center in The Hague and during visits to courier services and postal companies.

Before the HARP arrived, Customs transferred mail to the police Post Intervention Team for further investigation.

Source: Customs Administration of the Netherlands, Ministry of Finance