“Hundreds of thousands in cash in a suitcase: try and explain that one...”

Technical coordinator Joost Schaap on the importance of combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

In the service of the Ministry of Finance, Dutch Customs enforces the EU Regulation Liquid assets. Technical coordinator Joost Schaap on the importance of combating money laundering and terrorism financing: “Criminal organisations often use money mules.”

“European Regulation 1889/2005 was implemented in order to combat money laundering and terrorism financing”, Joost Schaap, a technical coordinator, explains. “Travellers who enter or leave the EU with cash, cheques or shares worth 10,000 Euros or more have to declare this to Customs. It’s a relatively easy process, all they have to do is fill out a declaration form at our counter. There are questions about, for instance, the origins, the destination and the intended way in which the amount in question will be spent. A lot of passengers here at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport comply – in most cases, it concerns sums between 10,000 and 40,000 Euros – and usually, they can continue their travels. We pass on the information on the form to the FIU – the Financial Intelligence Unit – the money laundering expertise centre of the Dutch government. The FIU links this information to data from their own databases and if there’s a match, it flags up a potentially unusual transaction. A police investigations unit, for instance, can then take on the case.”

“Some people forget to declare or intentionally omit to declare liquid assets. If we find a sum of money of more than ten thousand Euros in their hand or hold luggage, he or she will receive a fine for violating the statutory obligation to declare. That person may also be guilty of money laundering. Whether or not it really concerns a criminal offence depends on all kinds of factors and circumstances. Of course, the extent of the amount is particularly important. Hundreds of thousands in cash in a suitcase: try and explain that one...”

“When we stop a traveller, he or she will be taken to our office for an interview. First, we tell him or her that he or she does not have to answer our questions and that they can hire a lawyer at their own expense. If the passenger decides to remain silent, we hand him or her over to our colleagues of the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service*, who will start a criminal investigation. In general, the suspect is taken into custody and the money is temporarily kept in a safe until the court passes judgment in the case.”

“Those who we do catch out often can’t explain the money we find among their possessions – simply because it isn’t theirs. Criminal organisations often use money mules to transport money, just like they use couriers to smuggle drugs, for instance. Logically, the criminal money follows the reverse route of the illegal goods it was earned with. And naturally, such routes are of particular interest to Customs.”

* Customs, the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service and the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee have bundled forces at Schiphol under the Liquid Assets Taskforce.

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

Navigate further, and also read ‘Substantial haul in the basement’.

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