One unusual transaction after another

Wim van den Berg, member of the POSS team specialising in precursors, tracked down a series of suspicious supplies of chemical substances in 2019. This led to the Public Prosecution Service bringing several companies to book.

“During a routine inspection at a wholesaler’s premises, it came to light that he had sold a category 2 substance to a customer without a permit. It was a chemical substance that is known for being abused: AZA, used in criminal circles to rinse out heroin and cocaine dissolved in other products. In response to this violation, I obtained some large data files from the company, which I went through with a colleague. That’s how we found out that some 4,000 litres of hydrochloric acid had also been supplied to a party that had no obvious use for it. This was an oil trader, which normally purchased large quantities of AdBlue, a liquid added to diesel. The fact that this customer suddenly ordered a completely different product was unusual and should have been reported. So that was violation number two. Charges were brought against the wholesaler: the public prosecutor concluded the case with an out-of-court settlement.”

“Closer examination of the oil trader’s records showed that it had also purchased on a one-off basis barrels of acetone from another wholesaler. That wholesaler, in turn, should have reported this transaction, but, by his own admission, had forgotten about it. Charges were therefore also brought against this company. The oil trader was found to have resold the acetone and the hydrochloric acid – both of which are often misused for the production of synthetic drugs – to one specific customer. That customer had paid for the chemicals in cash and collected them himself – all factors indicating yet another suspicious transaction. The oil trader had not reported this either, and was therefore severely penalised by the PPS. This all goes to show that one finding can have many repercussions. In the end, we ourselves didn’t take any action against the end user of the acetone and the hydrochloric acid. It turned out that the police had already started an investigation against the company, and the last thing we wanted to do was get in the way...”

This interview also appeared in our recently issued overview ‘Dutch Customs in 2019’. Click here to read the full publication.

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