9  February 2011

Last month the media reported how senior Turkish customs officers were being prosecuted for corrupt use of powers.  This week Romania’s customs chief and a number of his staff, have been charged with corruption. The chief apparently accepting a EUR 400 000 bribe in exchange for appointing a  senior official, to a position giving him the opportunity to further self interest.  
 In both countries, a widespread problem is that officials  allegedly take bribes to facilitate illicit cigarette shipments.  The rate in Romania  is a euro for a packet of 200 cigarettes.  Officials are said to make up to 2,700 euros per shift.    In Bulgaria there is a lack of confidence that Customs have sufficient integrity to improve a situation where the country has  the third highest rate of tobacco smuggling in Europe – after Latvia and Lithuania. Bulgaria and Romania are being blocked from joining the Schengen passport-free travel zone, until France and Germany have more confidence in the control of  corruption and organised crime.  
The 2010 UMR Mood of the Nation survey  indicated that 71% of New Zealanders believe our  Customs Service does an “excellent or good” job.  NZ Fire Service, NZ Police and the Department of Conservation rated better.