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Financial police to be formed at beginning of 2017

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Prague, Aug 4 (CTK) – The creation of a financial police body will be the next step to be taken within the National Centre against Organised Crime (NCOZ) on January 1, 2017, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) told journalists yesterday.
Deputy Police President Zdenek Laube said in this respect, the NCOZ would have to agree on the division of work with the customs authority whose powers were recently widened.
“We are ready to negotiate with the Finance Ministry, the customs authority, state attorneys and the professional public,” Chovanec said.
The financial police are to primarily focus on tax or “white collar” crime.
“This type of crime is very sophisticated, using professional methods, and we must apply all our forces and means to fight it,” Chovanec said.
He said the police told him yesterday that January 1 is feasible as a deadline. “If problems emerged in the forthcoming debate with state attorneys and the Finance Ministry, the deadline may be postponed, but I would be very glad if January 1 is the deadline of the launch” of the financial police, Chovanec said.
The financial police are to be created by dividing the current serious economic crime section.
Unlike the Tax Cobra department, primarily dealing with tracking down the proceeds from crime, it will be “purely in charge of taxes,” Laube said.
Terrorism, cyber crime and corruption are other priorities of the NCOZ, he added.
The NCOZ was formed by a merger of the mafia and corruption bodies on August 1.
Its establishment caused a rift inside the coalition government between the CSSD and Finance Minister Andrej Babis’ ANO. In June, the latter party threatened to leave the government in protest against the overhaul, but it eventually dropped the idea.
In reaction to the planned establishment of financial police, Babis said yesterday there is no reason to oppose it if it improves the fight against economic crime.
“Nevertheless, it is rather strange that Minister Chovanec has come up with another reform vision one week after the carefully prepared police shakeup,” Babis said with irony.
Babis previously criticised the police shakeup as unprepared and counterproductive.
He said yesterday the powers of the Customs Administration, which falls under the Finance Ministry, have been recently extended to include VAT checks.
Logically, the customs officers could be further empowered to investigated other tax crimes in future. “This is the vision I am going to present in the days to come,” Babis said in a press release that his spokesman sent to CTK.
Chovanec said a further extension of customs officers’ powers will be subject to a detailed debate. They must prove that they have enough capacities to cope with the new tasks, he said.
Chovanec said he has not seen any expert document concerning a dramatic extension of the customs officers’ powers [as suggested by Babis]. “I am looking forward to see a document in this respect. At present, I tell you, it will be a very complicated debate,” he told CTK.
Apart from Babis, one of the strongest critics of the police shakeup was former police organised crime unit (UOOZ) head, Robert Slachta, who left the corps in protest against it on June 30.
Five police officers have left the police since the establishment of the NCOZ, Chovanec said, adding that another two to three had announced their departure.
“The forecasts that a mass police exodus will occur have not come true,” Chovanec said, adding that the police were managing the transfer to the new unit very well.
The new police body is comprised of 870 police officers under the command of Michal Mazanek.

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