September 22, 2008

Large-Scale Operation Against Money Smuggling Under Way in Germany

Text of report by independent German news agency ddp

Cologne - Within the framework of the so far largest operation against money smuggling, German customs officers confiscated in one week 5.5 million euros that were to be smuggled abroad. The Customs Office of Criminal Investigation announced this in Cologne on Sunday (21 September), thereby confirming a report by the news magazine Focus.

According to the data, 800 customs agents had shut down the border in the direction of the tax paradises of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, between 10 and 17 September. On roads, at airports and on trains a total of 13,000 persons and 22,000 pieces of luggage had been inspected. In this operation, 181 cases of money smuggling had been discovered.

The action had been part of the international operation "Athena." According to statements by the president of the Customs Office of Criminal Investigation in Cologne, Karl-Heinz Matthias, there were indications of money flowing for financing terrorism. Moreover, the operation serves the fight against money laundering. Customs agents also trapped tax evaders.

The customs officers stopped hundreds of cars on the autobahns and minor roads in the area of Bregenz, Constance and Loerrach. At hundreds of airports, among them Frankfurt, Munich and Duesseldorf as well as small regional airports such as Hahn, Muenster/ Osnabrueck and Paderborn /Lippstadt, departing passengers were checked. Customs agents also searched travellers on trains going to Basel and Zurich.

At Hamburg airport, a Nigerian was discovered who wanted to fly to Morocco with 138,000 euros. The money probably came from drug deals. In Dortmund, a 37-year-old from the Ruhr region wanted to fly to Croatia with 34,000 euros. In this case, also, the investigators assume drug money or profits from cigarette smuggling.

At the border towards the South, many tax evaders were caught. Near Bregenz, there were eight within three hours. All carried amounts between 15,000 and 20,000 euros with them, often stuffed loosely in a jacket or pants. On a 23-year-old couple, money- sniffing dogs found 40,000 euros hidden in reflective vests.

Originally published by ddp news agency, Berlin, in German 1357 21 Sep 08.

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