Bulgaria's Finance Ministry has moved to secure certain police and investigative capabilities for its subordinate, the Customs Agency, amidst rising need to counter cigarette contraband.
An inter-institutional group chaired by the Justice Ministry is assigned to come up with a report on Bulgaria's experience with customs agents' investigations in 2001-2006.
The assignment was formulated Monday at a meeting of Finance Minister Simeon Djankov with representatives of the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Customs Agency.
Based on the expected report, the Bulgarian institutions are supposed to approve legislative changes to provide the customs with capabilities to investigate and charge crimes against the customs regime of the country. The potential new legislation will be consulted with the Supreme Prosecutor's Office of Cassation, and the Association of Producers and Traders of Tobacco Products.
The potential changes will serve to put more teeth into Bulgaria's Customs Agency, which is a subdivision of the Finance Ministry, and has recently had strained relations with the Interior Ministry.
In a statement Monday, the Finance Ministry press service points out that in seven EU member states the customs authorities enjoy the full set of capabilities of the criminal police, and that in 11 EU member states the customs institutions can carry out legal investigations of customs violations upon assignment by a court.
In Germany, Austria, France, the UK, Greece and Sweden, for example, the customs agents have the power to arrest and interrogate suspects, and to inspect the IDs of persons, the Finance Ministry stressed.