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POLICE

Customs start nationwide raids against illegal employment

A major deployment of customs and police officers took place on Tuesday morning in North Rhine-Westphalia against organized crime involving illegal work, according to media reports.

Customs start nationwide raids against illegal employment
German customs officials. Photo: DPA

Shortly after 6am on Tuesday, the largest raid of its kind in the history of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) began, reports Rheinische Post (RP).

Spiegel reported that raids were also taking place in several other German states on Tuesday morning. Customs have as yet given no details on where the other raids are happening.

In Erkrath, heavily armed special forces stormed homes, offices and commercial buildings and two people have been arrested. In the district of Hochdahl, officials have arrested a man and a woman in an apartment building.

A spokesman for the main customs office in Krefeld did not initially provide further details on other cities where the raids are taking place.

According to information gathered by RP’s editorial team, more than a thousand task force personnel are involved in the raids across the state of NRW. Involved in the deployment are six to eight customs task forces, nine public prosecutors as well as GSG 9 – an elite German police unit.

Prior to the start of the raids officials had received about ten arrest warrants against an illegal network which allegedly runs a multi-million euro business.

POLICE

German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.

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