Potatoes, onions and cars employed in money laundering schemes as banks help Dutch investigators crackdown on TBML

Dutch criminals are using agricultural commodities such as potatoes and onions as well as motor vehicle exports to Africa in increasingly sophisticated trade based money laundering (TBML) schemes according to the CEO of the Netherlands’ Fiscale Inlichtingen en OpsporingsDienst (Fiscal Information and Investigation Service – FIOD), Bert Langerak.

FIOD is also concluding an apparently successful public-private partnership (PPP) programme with banks that specifically focuses on TBML and has made significant changes to its working practices to curb it.

African connections

Speaking to the Amsterdam-based Het Parool newspaper, Langerak said that TBML is on the increase and that many schemes now involve Dutch criminals working with counterparts in Africa as well as conspirators in financial hubs including Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Countries such as Uganda, Kenya and the Central African Republic are particularly favoured by money launderers for their plentiful stores gold, diamonds or other precious metals that can easily be bought for cash and can be sold anywhere in the world.

Follow the money outdated

Langerak says the increase in sophisticated TBML schemes indicates why FIOD no longer simply adheres to the dictum of “follow the money.”

“That principle is outdated”, he says. “Nowadays we also hunt for things like cryptocurrency and we follow flows of goods,” he adds and explains how a typical TBML scheme works.

“They take their sports bag full of 500 euro notes to a grower and pay for potatoes in cash on behalf of a foreign buyer. Those potatoes are exported and sold in another country. Criminal money is thus mixed with legal trade. That means the proceeds appear to have derived from fair trade, so they appear clean.”

Working with banks

Since last year FIOD has been collaborating in a PPP with banks to help curb TBML in a pilot programme that is in its final stages.

Banks helped expose one case in the automotive sector, through which more than €120 million (US$146 million) has been laundered recently through TBML schemes exporting lease cars. FIOD and banks in the PPP investigated the apparently substantial sums of cash being used in lease car trading, and discovered that much of that cash derived from criminal activities.

The original article (in Dutch) published by Het Parool, Met een aardappel of diamant was je crimineel geld prima wit, leren steeds meer criminelen, can be found here.

Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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