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The biggest challenge is the issue of illegal trade and production of tobacco // Humans of NATO Days

19.02.2023, 19:19

A K-9, an international operation against criminals and a number of confiscated items, including a cigarette production line from Operation Colosseum, you could see all of this at the NATO Days in Ostrava & Czech Air Force Days in September 2022 thanks to the displays of the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic. Col. M.Sc. Aleš Hrubý is the director of the Search Coordination Department of the General Directorate of Customs and he told us a little more about the activities of the customs administration.

How did you get into customs?
I have been working at the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic since 1991, thanks to the recommendation of a friend of mine, who was already working there at that time.

What does your typical working day look like? What is the content of your job?
I ensure the coordination of the search units of the Customs Administration of the Czech Republic. Under this, you can imagine the search for information and its evaluation, cooperation with other components of the state administration at the national and international level, and cooperation with entities enforcing the law in the Czech Republic and abroad.
The customs administration has competences, for example, in the form of seizing goods, if these were the subject of seizure by customs or tax supervision, as well as authorizations to initiate criminal proceedings and to investigate certain types of illegal conduct. These are situations where we have concrete indications that goods in violation of legal regulations have been illegally imported into the Czech Republic or that there is a violation of Czech legal regulations in the area of customs administration and tax administration.

Read also interviews with other people participating at NATO Days

What has been your biggest work challenge?
The biggest challenge in the recent period is primarily the issue of detecting illegal trade and production of tobacco and tobacco products on the territory of the Czech Republic, which is supported by foreign-language groups, primarily from Russian-speaking countries.

Can you name a related work achievement that you are proud of?
I would definitely mention the case with the code name Koloseum, in which we managed to uncover an illegal tobacco product manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic in the middle of last year. We achieved this result within three months, yet this illegal factory caused almost 150 million crowns of damage to reduced taxes in a short period of illegal activity.

Exactly ten years ago, the customs administration was significantly involved in solving the methanol affair, which was one of the most serious cases in the history of the Czech Republic. Could you bring it closer to us?
The methanol affair is a great memory in the modern history of the Czech Republic from the point of view that 48 people died, another 117 people were poisoned by contaminated alcohol and many people lost their sight. This was caused by the illegal activity of a group that illegally distributed alcohol on the territory of the Czech Republic. At the same time, it was contaminated with methanol, when due to the mixing of ethanol with methanol, a deadly mixture was produced, resulting in the death and health damage of those who consumed the alcohol from the mixture produced in this way.

You have been working for the customs administration for over 30 years, what do you enjoy most about your job?
What fulfills me the most is that it is a kind of mission - a service for the benefit of the citizens of this state and for the benefit of compliance with the laws of our country.

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