When money earned through criminal activities ends up in the legal circuit, the world behind closed doors and the world behind open doors encounter each other. In 2020, the number of money laundering cases decreased for the first time in five years. In 2019, 1504 cases came to light, in 2020, these were 1447 cases. On Prinsjesdag, it was announced that the government would invest half a billion extra in tackling these money laundering cases.
Despite the decline, however, there is still much to be gained in the battle against money laundering. “We are unable to solve several major problems in the short term,” says Karin van Wingerde, Professor of Corporate Crime and Governance at Erasmus School of Law.
The recently published Pandora Papers also show that tackling money laundering and illegal assets is an urgent theme. This publication of 3 October 2021, consisting of 11.9 million leaked documents, revealed secret offshore accounts of high-net-worth clients including world leaders, celebrities and business leaders, as well as criminals.
Lack of uniformity & barriers to information exchange
One of the main problems is that money laundering is a cross-border problem, while a unified and cross-border approach is still lacking. “Criminals like to put their money away abroad, far from the Dutch authorities. However, good international cooperation is still lacking the abilities to tackle 'wrong' money flows. Within Europe alone, countries have many different rules. There is little uniformity", says Van Wingerde.
In addition, several legal challenges in the Netherlands stand in the way of sharing information. For example, notaries or other gatekeepers cannot share information. This means that when a malicious person knocks on the door of a notary with wrong money and is refused there. The same person can knock on the door of another notary, with the risk that he will be accepted, without any problems.
A long way to go
The half-billion euros which will be invested additionally by the government is needed to develop several further initiatives of recent years, such as collaborations between banks and the government. However, money alone is not enough. “It also requires a fundamental reconsideration of what kind of economic climate we want to offer in the Netherlands (and in other countries, for that matter). The Netherlands offers a very attractive business climate for companies, but for the same reason, it is also attractive for all kinds of wrong money flows”, according to Van Wingerde. It is about finding a balance between the economy and security, and currently, too much weight is probably given to the former. "Do not forget; it is not just about illegal money or money laundering as such, but it finances terrorist attacks, sustains the drug economy and the violence that goes with it, as well as crimes such as human trafficking and exploitation and creates growing social inequality”, says Van Wingerde. She notices that the discussion about solutions often ignores this problem. There is, therefore, still a long way to go in combating these illegal flows of money.