IF ITS ACTIVITIES WOULD BE THE TOPIC OF A TV SERIES, IT MOST PROBABLY WOULD BE NAMED CSI CONSTANCE, BUT EVERYDAY OFFICE REALITY LOOKS A BIT DIFFERENT TO TV SERIALS: WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THE CONSTANCE COMPETENCE CENTRE FOR BOAT DELINQUENCY WHICH, IN EXPERT CIRCLES AND USING GERMAN OFFICIALESE, IS ABBREVIATED AS KBK. NEVERTHELESS, AND DISPASSIONATELY LOOKED AT FROM OUTSIDE, THE TERM ”COMPETENCE‟ DEFINITELY COMES UP SHORT. EVEN THOUGH THE CONSTANCE INVESTIGATORS ARE NOT PROVIDED WITH SUCH GENEROUS SPECIAL RIGHTS AS ARE THE HEROES OF AMERICAN TV SERIALS, HOWEVER, THEY SUCCEEDED IN RECOVERING ASSETS OF UP TO 30M EUROS UNTIL NOW (STATUS YEAR END 2018). AND THIS HAS ALREADY EARNED THEM DUE RESPECT FROM ALL RELEVANT CIRCLES.
As theft or embezzlement of boats does not stop at national borders and, in the Schengen area, there are practically just personal and automobile checks at the border, pilferers will literally find the door wide open. And this is exactly where the task of the Constance special investigators starts, basically resting on the two columns of police work: Prevention in order to deter potential offenders from realizing their planned criminal activities and, in case an offence has already been committed, bring the offenders to justice through a quick and thorough solving. And so things come to full circle here: disclosure about these crimes with subsequent conviction of the perpetrators is still considered the best of preventions.
One of the most spectacular cases the Constance team of experts was able to solve during recent years was a catamaran worth 800,000 euros, the perpetrators had chartered in Croatia and which, finally, found its way via a registration in Germany to the Caribean island of St. Martin. Here, the Constance investigators landed their stroke and had the luxurious sailer seized.
However, daily routine is a bit different: Stolen outboard engines and smaller pleasure crafts change hands illegally both in summer and in winter. ”As many owners do only notice the theft when the culprits are over the hills and far away, investigation measures in many cases prove futile initially‟, a KBK investigator explains to SeaHelp. During the second attack, when the loot is being sold as stolen goods, the Constance boat specialists use to roll up the field from behind and find the perpetrater via the dealer.
And that is exactly why there is a constant warning from the specialized police unit with reference to so-called special internet-bargains that are offered with a more or less credible legend. But – as is so often the case in life – the lower the price for the object of purchase, the lesser the caution of any potential buyers. Should it come out that the so-called special bargain results to be nothing else than stolen goods, there will be long faces and, finally, the seizure, the complete loss of the money paid and, in most cases, the ultimate setback in the form of a criminal charge for the acquisition of stolen property. And here it is no use to come up with any excuses, as the investigator explains: ”There is nothing like a good faith acquisition (editor’s note: in a criminal law sense), even if the price was nearly market-based.“
And, he is offering some additional good advice for vendors: ”But also when you have a pleasure craft for sale, there will most probably be some ”prospective buyers‟ whose do not aim to buy your boat but, on the contrary, want to pull your hard-earned money out of your pocket by telling the most diverse and plausible stories about transport solutions, currency transactions and the like. Here, as well, the investigators are quite helpful and saved many boat owners from considerable financial loss.“
It is common knowledge, that the criminals mostly head for Eastern Europe where, under certain legal conditions, there exists the possibility to acquire the property of stolen goods. Once the frontiers of the Schengen area have been crossed, it will be very difficult and much more complex to recover the stolen goods. In most cases, the criminals will be caught by the maritime investigators as they have to earn their money right here. And, as the investigator adds with a twinkle: ‟A home match is always more efficient…‟ And, one thing, most criminals do not consider: The transport vehicles and their contents will be withhold, together with a stiff fine. That will give them twice the pain.
Here, on the SeaHelp homepage, a special request form with all the necessary data for an information request was set up and will be submitted by the SeaHelp headquarters to the specialized police unit in Constance. In addition, owners will find here a form for sending all relevant data in the case of a theft to the KBK, in order to initiate an immediate police investigation in the search systems. Here, wanted posters and leaflets can be consulted, the latter giving valuable advice with reference to buying boats and maritime equipment as well as notes on behaviour in the case of damage incidents. But for clarification a spokesman of the special police unit points out: ”The reporting of the theft to us is nothing more than an additional service by the police. Any criminal offence must be reported as soon as possible to the local police authorities on site.‟
And although the damage is supposed to be finally covered by the insurance company, the intangible damage can hardly ever be compensated. And, even worse: Those, who have been taken in by a cunning crook and are heading for a criminal charge on suspicion of receiving stolen goods, have to struggle hard in order to show themselves as innocent.