Directorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes

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French Customs
Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects
Agency overview
Formed 1791
Jurisdiction Government of France
Headquarters 11, Rue des Deux Communes, Montreuil, Seine-Saint-Denis, France
Minister responsible Bernard Cazeneuve, Junior Minister for the Budget
Website www.douane.gouv.fr

The Directorate-General of Customs and Indirect Taxes (French: Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects, DGDDI), commonly known as les douanes, is a French law enforcement agency responsible for levying indirect taxes, preventing smuggling, surveilling borders and investigating counterfeit money. The agency acts as a coast guard, border guard, sea rescue organisation and a customs service.[1] In addition, since 1995, the agency has replaced the Border Police in carrying out immigration control at smaller border checkpoints, in particular at maritime borders and regional airports.[2]

The Directorate-general is controlled by the Minister for the Budget, Public Accounts and the Civil Service (French: Ministère du Budget, des Comptes publics et de la Fonction publique) at the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment. It is normally known simply as "la douane", individual officers being referred to as "douaniers". It is an armed service.[3]

History[edit]

Renault Mégane of the Douanes

The first French customs service was called the General Firm (French: Ferme générale) and operated under the monarchy. During the revolutionary period, a military customs service was formed, which provided a customs service but also fought in major wars such as the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War.[4] Throughout the 19th Century armed units of douaniers served as frontier guards and performed various other para-military functions such as the provision of anti-smuggling patrols. Customs personnel were divided into those employed in bureaux (port or office-based staff who performed the same functions as customs inspectors in other countries) and those employed in brigades (mobile detachments organized, equipped and disciplined along military lines). The douaniers of the latter units wore blue uniforms with distinctive red trouser stripes and were frequently former soldiers.

The military customs service fought in the early part of the Second World War but was disbanded in 1940 after the French defeat and was never reconstituted as a military service.[4] Nonetheless small units of customs men from customs posts in French Indochina fought against the Japanese as guerilla units until the end of the war.[4]

Jurisdiction[edit]

The French customs service is responsible for both immigration and customs checks at the following airports and ports at the external border of the Schengen Area:

Airports

Maritime ports

The French customs service carries out customs checks only at the following airports, ports and stations at the external border of the Schengen Area:

Airports

Maritime ports

Railway stations

Organisation[edit]

The customs headquarters is in Montreuil (Paris). The agency consists of three types of unit:[5]

  • Administration centrale
    • Sub-directorates A to F
    • Département des statistiques et des études économiques
    • Inspection des services (IS) for internal auditing
    • Bureau de l'information et de la communication (BIC) for communications
    • Cellule de contrôle de gestion
  • National Competence Services
    • Direction nationale du recrutement et de la formation professionnelle (DNRFP) based in Tourcoing
    • Direction nationale du renseignement et des enquêtes douanières (DNRED) against fraud
    • Direction nationale des statistiques et du commerce extérieur (DNSCE), a statistical service based in Toulouse
    • Centre informatique douanier (CID), an information technology service based in Osny
    • Service nationale de la douane judiciaire (SNDJ), a judicial investigative service based in Vincennes.
    • Service commun des laboratoires (SCL), providing scientific support in laboratories

Decentralised Services[edit]

France is divided into 39 customs regions, which are grouped into 12 customs "inter-regions".[6]

A customs region typically consists of:

  • Managerial, training and logistic services
  • Cutoms Offices: dealing with commerce
  • Customs Brigades: Squads dealing with surveillance
  • A regional unit
  • A wines unit

As well as the 39 customs regions there are 4 coastguard regions: Channel & North Sea, Nantes, Marseille, Antilles-Guyana).

Ranks[edit]

Customs Agent 1, the "sky blue" pants with a "madder" band.

Customs officials of all ranks wear French rank insignia based on that of the army. However, the ranks should not be seen as equivalent to the army rank insignia used. Air and Maritime elements have reversed colours.

Customs agents (agents de constatation) wear the rank badges of French army senior NCOs:

  • Maréchal-des-logis.png: Customs Agent 2
  • Maréchal-des-logis-chef.png: Customs Agent 1
  • Adjudant-chef.png: Principal Customs Agent 2
  • Adjudant.png: Principal Customs Agent 1

Controllers are more senior and wear the rank badges of French army junior officers:

  • Sous-lieutenant des armes à cheval.png: Controller 2
  • Lieutenant des armes à cheval.png: Controller 1
  • Capitaine des armes à cheval.png: Principal Controller

Inspectors and Directors are the most senior and wear the rank badges of the French army ranks of field officers:

  • Commandant des armes à cheval.png: Inspector
  • Lieutenant-colonel.png: Regional Inspector
  • Lieutenant-colonel des armes à cheval.png: Principal Inspector
  • Colonel des armes à cheval.png: Director
  • DF-DIR.png: Principal Director / General Administrator

Armament and equipment[edit]

Air[edit]

In 2010 the aircraft fleet consists of Reims-Cessna F406 maritime patrol aircraft and C-T206, Eurocopter EC-135 and Aerospatiale AS-355 helicopters manufactured by Eurocopter. Two Reims-Cessna F406 operate out of Martinique and the rest are based in metropolitan France.

6 Reims-Cessna F406 and 3Eurocopter EC-135 are assigned to the atlantic region, 4 Reims-Cessna F406 and 2Eurocopter EC-135 are assigned to the mediterranean region, 2 C-T206, 1 Reims-Cessna F406 and 2 Aerospatiale AS-355 are based in Paris (Bourget) and 2 Reims-Cessna F406 are based in Fort de France (Martinique) soon to be joined by 2 additional Aerospatiale AS-355.

From 2012 onwards 8 Beechcraft King Air 350 will replace the F406.[7]

Maritime[edit]

Swift boat Noroit (DF12), a Haize Hegoa type patrol boat of the French customs, moored in Saint-Malo

In 2010 the customs had 3 offshore patrol boats, 18 coastal patrol boats, 18 surveillance patrol boats and 5 speed boats. The boats are assigned as follows:

  • North sea/Channel:
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
2 Coastal Patrol Boat
1 Surveillance Patrol Boat
2 speed boats
  • Atlantic
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
4 Coastal Patrol Boat
3 Surveillance Patrol Boat
2 speed boats
  • Mediterranean
8 Coastal Patrol Boat
8 Surveillance Patrol Boat
  • Antilles/South America
4 Coastal Patrol Boat
5 Surveillance Patrol Boat
  • Polynesia
1 Offshore Patrol Boat
1 Speed boat

Ground forces[edit]

As of 2008 the Customs service had 3255 vehicles (including 355 motorbikes).

Small Arms[edit]

Customs Agents are now armed with the 9mm Sig-Sauer SP 2022 pistols as the standard issued sidearm, a French custom-tailored variant of the SIG Sauer Pro. The pistol was ordered to replaced the PAMAS-G1 and several other pistols in service.

References[edit]