Germany’s customs service does not have sufficient staff to combat trade-based financial crime and money laundering, according to a report in a German business newspaper.

The Bundeszollverwaltung (Federal Customs Service) has 40,000 staff but needs 3,500 more, the head of its trade union, Dieter Dewes, told Handelsblatt. “I see a risk that it won’t be able to do its job because of the staff shortage,” he said.

The Federal Audit Office, which is currently reviewing the authority’s work, agrees that the service needs more staff, according to the report.


The root problem is that the customs service has been given more responsibilities in recent years.

As well as collecting tariffs and monitoring the flow of goods, it is now responsible for identifying trade-based money laundering as goods enter and leave Germany.

It is also charged with curbing illegal employment, checking whether firms are paying the statutory minimum wage and collecting vehicle tax.

Money laundering division

The customs service, which is a unit within the finance ministry, established last year a specialist anti-money laundering division, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

But it is also overstretched. Ministry figures published in March showed the FIU had a backlog of more than 30,000 cases by the beginning of February and is accumulating 5,600 more cases per month as it struggles to operationalise much needed IT systems.