5 November 2018

16 billion euros annually laundered in the Netherlands

© iStockphoto.com/DMPalino

In the Netherlands, 16 billion euros are laundered annually. In the Dutch newspaper Trouw, researchers of the Utrecht University School of Economics warn that fraud and the entwining of the underworld and straight world are on the rise.

The calculation is based on numbers from 2014 because international crime statistics of the past years have not been officially determined yet. But according to the Utrecht-based researchers, who compared the numbers to those of 2004, the outcome surely matters because other academics state that millions of euros are laundered. Now, it turns out to be billions. “The extent has remained relatively equal over the past ten years, approximately 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product,” says Brigitte Unger, a Professor of Economics of the Public Sector and project leader of the research, that was commissioned by the WODC, which is the research institute affiliated with the Ministry of Justice and Security. “That's a substantial share. That money could be used to solve the problems in healthcare, so to speak.”

It involves 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product, enough to solve, for instance, the problems in healthcare.

“The risk of money laundering is that it undermines the economy," Unger continues in Trouw, "especially if criminals are active in many different sectors. Corruption will be on the rise. We'll get a different form of society, because the underworld and the straight world become entwined.” The researchers already received signals that it is easy to find financial advisers in the straight world who love to think along on dubious company structures.

90 precent money from narcotics trade and fraud

"It remains difficult to estimate what these numbers mean for the current situation. But we have now made a comparison with ten years ago and we do see a stable trend," says Joras Ferwerda, a member of the research hub Security in Open Societies of Utrecht University. 90 percent of the money comes from the narcotics trade and from fraud. That worries the researchers, because fraud is on the rise. "That is also the least visible factor. There are many different forms of fraud."

The police has an instant win when they find narcotics, but a bag of dubious accounting requires specialised, time-consuming investigation.

“If the police raids a house and they find a bag of narcotics, they have an instant win. If there's a bag next to it with the accounting of a dubious international enterprise, that requires specialised and time-consuming investigation," Ferwerda says in Trouw. The research is intended to offer leads to improve policies against money laundering. It is currently alleged to often be easy for dirty money to enter the economy.