The Importance of a State to Have an Economic-Financial Police

In the international panorama, the fight against economic crimes is carried out by various authors: Police Forces, Intelligence Agencies, central authorities, FIU (Finance Intelligence Unit), judicial authorities, Parliament, and Governments. However, when an active synergy between the subjects mentioned above is lacking, the fight against crime is fatigued with inefficient results, causing significant damage in the economic and social ambit.

“Vamos a crear la Guardia Financiera como un instrumento para mejorar la eficacia en el combate a la corrupción. Pretender combatir al crimen organizado en el ámbito operativo es una ilusión, una fantasía. We have to combat criminal organisations in their economic strength, in their finances, which is what gives them the capacity to operate and corrupt. A su vez, es lo que les da capacidad para sobrevivir.” Cit. Santiago Nieto – Director UIF de Mexico 

Therefore, some States, from the beginning of the 18th to around the 20th century, particularly the United States and in Europe, with the growing threats to public security and the vulnerability of the financial systems of the whole world, have introduced into their internal systems military police corps with functions of safeguard and public economic protection.

In the National States, it is common to find different police forces with other functions that are regulated through Constitutive Statutes issued by a Government and under the central direction of the Ministry of the Interior or the Ministry of Defence (depending on the form of government). In the Police Statutes, the functions, hierarchies, areas of operation, and which departments are operational are established, thus delimiting which are the areas of competence, territorial and operational, so as not to produce conflicts of intervention with other intervention and public security bodies.

The fight against financial crimes requires almost singular competencies that are sometimes entrusted to a single central police force, such as the National or State Police Corps. Since 2019, the Mexican government, together with the FIU authority of Mexico, have initiated procedures to take shape a police force that is called “Guardia Financiera Nacional,” is subordinate to a military statute and under the “Secretaria de Hacienda y Credito Publico” (the equivalent of the Ministry of Treasury, Ministry of Economy). This project is part of strengthening the public and national security of Mexico.

Its operational consolidation will take about 4-6 years, after which it will be made immediately operational. In particular, the tasks entrusted to this new financial police authority are to be a financial intelligence for the State; they concern strengthening the operational and investigative coordination between the local judicial authorities and the various police forces of first intervention in the fight against common crimes in economic matters; such as money laundering, tax evasion, financing of criminal activities and anti-drug services, with particular attention to the phenomenon of corruption. In addition, with the FIU’s operations, reporting systems can also be activated for “economically” high-risk subjects or subjects on international black lists.

This project, however, as declared in a note of the Italian Embassy in Mexico, has a collaboration for the constitution of the group “Guardia Financiera,” sees the participation of Italy. This is because Italy, in its system, has a Police Force called the Guardia di Finanza, also subordinate to a Military Statute and dependent on the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, with the same roles mentioned above. The origins of the Guardia di Finanza date back to 1 October 1774, when by the will of the King of Sardinia Vittorio Amedeo III,  The Legion Truppe Leggere (Light Troops Legion) was established with financial surveillance and military defense functions at the borders. After the Unification of Italy, in 1862, the structure and name changed to “Corpo delle Guardie Doganali” (Customs Guards Corps), uniting the further activities of customs surveillance and, since Italy was in a state of war, the defense of the State. With the law of 8 April 1881, n. 149, the Corps took the title of Corpo Della Regia Guardia di Finanza (Royal Finance Guard Corps) with the function of “preventing, repressing and denouncing smuggling and any violation and transgression of laws and financial regulations.”

In the 1920s, the legal structure of the Corps underwent important reforms due to the reforms of the national tax system, an event that led in 1923 to the creation of a branch in the “Regia Guardia di Finanza” the Investigative Tax Police section to prevent and repress smuggling and other types of fraud, tax evasion and, in particular, organized crime.

Subsequently, after the Second World War, the Guardia di Finanza underwent further modernization reforms: between 1952 and 1954, the Statistical Service, the Air Service, and the Dog Service were instituted. Subsequently, Law No. 189 of 1959 reshaped the institutional tasks of the Corps. After that, there were further reforms: Presidential Decree No. 34 of 1999 entrusted the Corps with institutional tasks, Legislative Decree No. 68 of 2001 reinforced its role as a Police Corps with general competence in economic-financial matters to protect the public budget and the Regions. Furthermore, since its constitution, the Corp of the Guardia di Finanza has supervised the correct use of the instruments of payment (at that time paper, now digital) from possible crimes such as fraud and monetary forgery. Not lacking, in recent times, is the constitution of a new task for the Guardia di Finanza of the fight against illegal commerce, both natural and on the web (informatics piracy, Cyber laundering).

Finally, the Guardia di Finanza is one of the economic police departments called to the forefront to cooperate against Mafias, Terrorism Financing (GIFT – Gruppo d’Investigazione Finanziamento al Terrorismo), and tax evasion. In 2012 the Guardia di Finanza was the supervisory body for the European Union in the fight against EU fraud (OLAF – The European Anti-Fraud Office).

By Dimitri Barberini, August 2021, Published on Sanction Scanner

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