Ten customs officers dismissed over drug crimes in four years
Ten customs officers have been fired for colluding with drug criminals over the past four years, EenVandaag reported on Monday based on data from the Customs service.
The tracking of dismissals due to severe drug-related offenses began in 2019. Since then, six officials from the Rotterdam Port Customs have been let go. Two were dismissed from Customs Breda, responsible for operations at ports including Vlissingen. Corrupt employees have also been removed from both Customs Amsterdam and Customs Schiphol Cargo.
In addition to the ten dismissals, three other officers are currently either suspended or awaiting trial. The specifics of their cases have not been disclosed.
The cocaine mafia exerts immense pressure on these employees, remarked Customs Director Nanette van Schelven. Organized crime targets officials at all levels of the service. Even office personnel are not exempt from their advances, as they might possess valuable information. "Unfortunately, we've seen that," she said.
Some officials are approached discreetly, perhaps at their local sports club, by individuals showing an unusual interest in their work. Others encounter more direct school. Some customs officers even find themselves followed home and then pressured into cooperation.
The arrest of a customs officer for collusion in drug crime leaves a profound mark on their colleagues, Van Schelven noted. Beyond her dismay, she expresses her curiosity, wondering what drives an individual to betray their oath of office.
Such incidents are becoming a recurring issue. “It's just something we have to deal with,” Van Schelven said. "You see that the severity has increased. That worries me a lot,” she added.
An internal investigation has been launched to assess the vulnerability of the organization. “In the environment in which we work, we must absolutely not be naive,” she said.
In recent years, Customs has done a lot internally to discuss integrity and resilience, says Van Schelven. Screening new employees via the Declaration of Good Conduct (VOG) has also become more extensive.
The organization established partnerships in Belgium, Ecuador, and Brazil. These collaborations have effectively increased cocaine interceptions in Brazil meant for the Netherlands. Van Schelven believes it is “much better” to halt the shipments before they ever reach Dutch ports.
She admitted that it took time before a real approach emerged. "We have taken very good steps. But our improvement agenda has a horizon of at least five years and two of those have now passed,” she said.