The trust company Mutual Trust Netherlands (previously “Valmet International”) tried to prevent the publication of the investigation in the newspaper “NRC Handelsblat” about a finance “laundry” of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Recently, the Dutch newspaper “NL Times” said that “the State Prosecution” (HM) had closed several investigations about money laundering in the Netherlands by Russian oligarchs, “partially because of the concerns relating to political struggle”. The investigations have shown that well-known oligarchs, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mikhail Fridman, and Boris Berezovsky, had placed their assets in tax havens through companies in the Netherlands. Yet, HM, the Prosecution, suspended the investigation because of concerns about vindication and possible difficulties in working with the Russian authorities”, explained the newspaper.
If with Boris Berezovsky, who had committed suicide in 2013, everything is clear, the dismissal of the investigation of Khodorkovsky’s Dutch sins is a juridical nonsense. Such a decision can be explained only by political situation, and prosecutors decided not to touch a “useful” Russian swindler, who constantly comes out against his own Motherland. In the meantime, the case against Khodorkovsky was serious. He is really frightened, and staged a loud scandal, trying to prevent making public facts of his unsavory financial activity. But to no avail. The journalists of the newspaper “NRC Handelsblat” found it out and, despite counteractions, published compromising details about the fugitive oligarch.
The daily Dutch national newspaper “NRC Handelsblad” published an investigative article entitled “Hun roebels wegsluizen, dat deden Russische oligarchen via Hoofddorp” about offshore schemes and money laundering, in particular, of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. A scandal preceded its publication.
As soon as the journalists of this news outlet Merijn Reggers and Carola Houtekamer announced the publication of this article, the fugitive swindler Khodorkovsky and his henchmen were thrown off balance and demanded to get acquainted with the whole text of the investigation. Actually, at issue is the company Mutual Trust Netherlands (previously “Valmet International”), that for many years had serviced Khodorkovsky’s dirty deals, tried to prevent the publication of this article by way of simplifying production. All in vein.
The information about these demands became available to the Dutch public, as about this insolent attempt of censorship reported also other news media of this European country, in particular, “NL Times” in the article “OM shut down investigation into Russian oligarchs”, and “Ruetir” in the piece “Investigations into known Russian oligarchs halted”.
So, what kind of astonishing facts contained this publication that caused such a violent and incommensurate reaction of Khodorkovsky? In this piece, Robert Dekker, a Dutch policeman specializing in struggle against money laundering and tax evasion, describes how he, in 2001, had started to work on counteracting different schemes of money laundering and had exposed a scheme that had been used by Russian oligarchs – Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky, Patarkatsishvili and other. Yet, he also discovered that the case against Russian oligarchs ais being closed on political motives, in spite of existing evidence bases.
“There is everything there; oligarchs siphoning money, and organizations that are helping them”, says he sitting at the kitchen table and serving a chicken soup. “The Netherlands knows exactly what is going on, but we simply don’t want to deals with it”, pointed out the newspaper “NRC Handelsblad”.
An opportunistic approach of the Dutch Prosecution, closing cases against “necessary” and “useful” Russian oligarchs, unfortunately, is not a new decision in the “model” legal practice of European countries.
For instance, in 2007, the Supreme Court of Switzerland issued a ruling which put an end to the investigation on the case regarding Yukos “laundries” in Geneva and Zurich, that had laundered about 5 billion dollars. “Switzerland don’t have to pass on to Russia bank documents connected with the so-called Yukos affairs”, decided the “objective” court. At that time the Russian newspaper “Kommersant” said “this is the first decision in the practice of the Swiss Federal Court to refuse to provide legal help to a foreign country”. And not the last…
The website Prigovor.ru publishes a translation of the article by Merijn Rengers and Carola Houtekamer, NRC, April 15, 2002, entitled “Hun roebels wegsluizen, dat deden Russische oligarchen via Hoofddorp”.
RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS HAS HIDDEN THEIR RUBLES IN THE HOOFDDROP
“The investigation on the case about money laundering. Wealthy Russians have transferred their often shady savings through the Netherlands. Detectives have established it precisely. But nothing has happened with this information.
In the summer of 2003, the detective Robert Dekker stands for a big drawing board on the upper floor of the police directorate in Zwolle. Dekker is excited and worried. A moment ago he received compromising evidence and a list of dubious financial transactions from a safe haven. The new information means new lines on the drawing board. It crosses connections between all companies, banks and trust companies on board – from Curacao to Moscow, from London to Amsterdam.
All his detective work for the last three years falls into place. In the middle of the drawing board there is a name of one company, and there cross all the lines. It’s a group of trust companies that manage firms from the whole world: Valmet with an affiliate in the town Hoofddorp (in English “Main village”). On the left from his sign there is another company, at which point numerous arrows: Amsterdam trade bank, a Dutch subsidiary of a Russian bank.
Dekker takes a cup of coffee from a coffee machine goes up to the terrace on the roof of the building. He lights a cigarette, them another one. He should allow this to absorb. Valmet looks like a service of finance support of major Russian oligarchs. And this is only one hour ride from Zwolle.
REGRETS ABOUT THE MINISTER HOEKSTRA
Almost 20 years later, Dekker (he is now 56) continues to be excited by that.
At the beginning of March 2022, the new minister of foreign affairs Wopke Hoekstra (CDA) joined the TV program Buitenhof (https://www.vpro.nl/buitenhof/lees/in-de-uitzending/2022/6-maart.html). Unavoidable topic – the war in Ukraine. And what happens in the south? asks the anchorman.
“During many years we had helped Putin and his oligarchs by channeling dirty money to shady structures. Billions had been siphoned. Are you sorry that you, as finance minister, had not done more against it in the previous period?”
Hoekstra after some insistence: “I think, that we had not understood for a long time what they had been used for”.
I don’t understand. Dekker, who is now a consultant and finance adviser of the United Nations Security Council seems to be querulous. He puts his reports from Zwolle on the dining table. In his words, the Netherlands has been aware for two decades of what the Russians have been doing. We stand aside, we look at it, but we don’t interfere.
On the basis of confidential reports, international-legal documents and talks with numerous participants, the newspaper NRC had reconstructed the story about how several enthusiastic investigators, starting 2000, have been silently investigated dubious Russian money in the Netherlands. The detectives have described in details how rich Russians manipulated the Dutch financial system. But their efforts have not lead them anywhere. Their investigations were too big in scale, too complicated, and they were stopped in the and. Nothing has happened with this information.
ZWOLLE IS FOCUSED ON RUSSIA
The former intelligence officer Vladimir Putin had been only for one year president of the Russian Federation, when in 2001, Robert Dekker, a specialist on taxes and expert on money laundering, started to work in the main police group of the South and East Netherlands, based in Zwolle. To each of the six police groups was allocated a continent as a “zone of special attention”. For Zwolle it was Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey. The task of Dekker was to give “an assessment of a danger of finance crimes” for these regions.
He begins to work with good intentions. He draws a map of Russian companies in the Netherlands, studies international court cases and demands carrying out criminal investigations on Russian companies in other countries. He takes an interview with the intelligence service AIVD, regulating entity De Nederlandische Bank, as well as with colleagues abroad. He includes his conclusions in reports for police, that often marked as “strictly confidential”.
These documents are read as a concise history of selling out of the former Soviet Union, initiated by Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Federation from 1991 to 2000. One after another are mentioned businessmen that had become main oligarchs in those years.
For instance, Dekker comes across the name of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had acquired the state oil company Yukos and had founded the bank “Menatep”. He becomes acquainted with Boris Berezovsky who had acquired the Russian state television company ORT. As well as with Roman Abramovich who, with Berezovsky’s help, had become the owner of oil boreholes of the state oil company “Sibneft” at a very cheap rate.
These individuals had paid for communist state enterprises considerably less than their real values. According to Dekker, they, evidently, had given bribes to politicians who had allowed all that, or had filled their election purses. Then, the oligarchs had transferred their financial assets abroad, partially through the Netherlands, so that Russian tax agencies would have no control over them. Thus, Dekker suspects that the Netherlands had contributed to laundering of assets acquired by illegal means.
“Every months, an exodus of capital from Russian tales place to the amount of 1.5 billion dollars”, wrights he in the confidential report to the head of the police. Partially, it is made through Dutch trust companies in different countries as well as through providers of administrative services with representations in different countries that have at their disposal dozens of companies (post boxes), prepare annual reports and help to transfer money from one company, dealing with post boxes, to another. It often seems that it is connected with money laundering. The control over the trust sector leaves much to be desired”, writes Dekker.
He is angry because of that. He thinks that the Netherlands help to ransack the country. He bites into two companies that take a noticeable place on his drawing board: Amsterdam Trading Bank (ATB), a Russian bank based in the Netherlands since 1994, and was acquired in 2001 by the oligarch Mikhail Fridman. And the trust company Valmet that in 2001 was renamed into Mutual Trust.
Dekker goes to Zoetermeer in order to collect suspicious transfers of ATB from “parts of reports about unusual transactions”. In the end of the day, he returns to Zwolle engrossed in this thoughts. In 2000 – 2001 suspicious operations of the bank amounted to 1.5 billion guldens converted in 680 million euros – an incredible sum for just one affiliate.
He consults with all national and international police agencies about Valmet. He finds this name in connection with a money laundering scandal in the United States with participation of Russia money, as well as in a dossier of Interpol on Russians searched after in France.
And in documents that his team discovered in the house of Huseyein Baybasin, a Kurdish drugs-dealer, serving a life long prison sentence in Vught. It is mentioned in the documents that Valmet had consulted the Kurdish military movement for independent PKK. But, first of all, Valmet provides services to all possible Russian oligarchs, including through the subsidiary in Hoofddorp. Dekker assembles his conclusions in a “strictly confidential” investigative memo, which he calls “Artemis”, in honor of the goddess of hunt. He thinks that ATB and Valmet are bad apples in the basket – not only police should investigate, but also FIOD, AFM, DNB, customs, Interpol, and Europol. It’s a matter that concerns all.
But his bosses do not see any sense in that. This is too much, too abstract, too much away from Zwolle. In his words, one of his bosses calls his investigative proposition “a thing flying in the air”. Apart from that, at the end of 2003 main groups in the police would be reorganized, and their main directions would vanish.
Dekker looks at his with regret. But when, in 2004, he gets another job and starts to investigate flows of money around the killing of Willem Endstra, a real estate broker, he had other concerns on his mind. “Artemis” vanished in his drawer.
MONEY LAUNDERING BY A TEAM
In the next year, two Dutch investigators of FIOD visited their German colleagues from Bundeskriminalamt in Wiesbaden. They know Robert Dekker distantly, but there are not acquainted with his reports. One of them is known as a brilliant, offbeat sleuth, on whose table come the most difficult cases. The other is good at analyzing a general picture.
This duo works in a new team on money laundering of the service of tax investigation FIOD, based in Haarlem. In 2001 money laundering was declared in the Netherlands a criminal offence. Since then, a dozen of persons have been set free in order to find out such wrongdoings. It means: innovations, improvisation, and, first of all, a lot of travelling. The persons involved in this project say that they come on board of a plane several times a year to investigate dubious flows of money connected with the Dutch from a distance.
This time they came to their German colleagues by car. The reason – murky Dutch intermediaries have emerged in the process of selling in the town Baden-Baden a villa in the capital of the country. The seller is Chantal Grundig, the widow of the German entrepreneur Max Grundig. She confessed to the mayor of Baden-Baden that she had sold her villa to Eduard Shevardnandze, former minister of foreign affairs in the government under the Soviet president Gorbachev and one of the main protagonist during the time of the falling of the Berlin Wall.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Shevardnadnze became the president of his native Georgia, but later, in 2003, he was brought down during the “revolution of roses”. In the press immediately immerged rumors that that he would escape to Baden-Baden.
The German police investigates these rumors and finds out something surprising. The villa belongs not to the Shevardnadze family, but to the Dutch company Xavia Holdings BV. Two representatives of Xavia, a Dutch and an American, at the end of 2002, visited a local notary on civil affairs intending to sign papers. Soon, a sale price to the tune of more than 12 million euros was transferred from the Netherlands to Germany. “Do you understand that?” ask the German sleuths their Dutch colleagues. Why a company from Hoofddorp silently buys a luxury villa for the former president of Georgia? And who are these people who issued documents on the name of Shevardnadze?
Detectives more often have dealt with brokers from the Netherlands. During a short period of time, FIOD in Haarlem received information requests from foreign prosecutors about dubious action of the trust company Velmet in Hoofddorp. Requests come from the Spanish authorities, from the British, and now from the Germans. And there are two from Russia: about activities of Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky.
Dutch banks also keep an eye on that activity, the investigators have found out. ABN Armo reports to the authorities that the bank has refused to have as a client a company under control of Valmet, when this trust company wanted to open an account for it. An Amsterdam affiliate of Fortis Bank opens an account for it. According to an internal document, after more than 250 million dollars from Russian were paid in several tranches to some unknown companies though this account, the bank ceased its relations with it.
A BOUTIQUE FOR OLIGARCHS
The team from FIOD on money laundering begins the investigation regarding Valmet without any preliminary information. The investigators are not informed about the reports of the now dissolved group on North and East Netherlands. Robert Dekker once visited Haarlem, and that’s all.
In 2005, detectives conducted a raid against a Dutch subsidiary of Valmet, one of the tenants of an inconspicuous apartment building Transpolis in the outskirts of Hoofddorp. The detectives run against boxes and disks full of information about deals and companies in the whole world. They found organizational schemes of companies belonging to oligarchs – inconceivable entities with such names as “Octopus” and “Hotspur”, which include dozens of Dutch and Antilles private companies with limited liabilities.
CLIENTS OF THE TRUST COMPANY VALMET
The trust company Valmet with an affiliate in Hoofddorp had big oligarchs as customers. The Georgian oligarch Badry Patarkatsishvili, who died in 2008, had gained money on privatizing of state oil and media companies.
The Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky had been in custody until 2014. He had obtained a state oil company Yukos.
The Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky died in 2013 under suspicious circumstances. He made his fortune on cars, oil and mass media.
It’s not a simple trust company in Hoofddorp, as it is seen by the two detectives, but a finance boutique that helps oligarchs to transfer big sums of money. For instance, they found an “company fact sheet”, from which follows that the villa of the deposited Georgian president Shevardnadze in Baden-Baden had been paid for through this company by the Georgian oligarch Badry Patarkatsishvili, and with money that he had received from selling of former Russian state companies.
The services of Valmet started even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, read the investigators in the newspaper “The Moscow Times”. It’s already at that time the leaders of Valmet, including the British Chris Samuelson, demonstrated to the newbie oligarchs secrets of the international financial game. Samuelson happened to have an office in the village Vevey on the Lake Leman, where is also an affiliate of Valmet. That’s the place the detectives have to visit.
On September 27, 2005, the Prosecutor of the Netherlands addresses the Swiss authorities. On eight pages, he explains in what kind of money laundering he suspects Valmet, why it’s a good idea, if the Swiss would interfere in Vevey together with FIOD, and for which clients Samuelson worked out the schemes. There were not only the Russians, but also, for example, “two biggest families of the organized crime in the United Kingdom”.
It could be a spectacular investigation of the young team on money laundering. They are going to help the Russian state to get back billions, argue in Haarlem, and in one swoop to establish order in the finance system of the Netherlands.
A HELICOPTER CRASH
In the Prosecution Office, the attitude is different, say those involved in this story. This represents an uneasy dilemma. While sleuths in London, Riga, Geneva, Curacao, and Moscow have been continuing the search for lost Russian billions, the Prosecution is inclined to think that it is being dragged in a political settlement.
According to the officers working on this case, the situation for a number of oligarchs, who are clients of Valment, is rather bad. In the new Russia of Vladimir Putin, they are outside the law. In 2003, even before the raid in Hoofddorp, Khodorkovsky had been taken out of his bed with a lot of noise by the Russian authorities on suspicion of tax evasion and fraud in connection with the oil company Yukos. At that time, he considered himself to be the richest man in Russia, and he loudly declared about his intention to cast Putin from the throne.
In several months, in the spring of 2004, in the south of England, a helicopter suddenly crashed. A passenger in this helicopter was a British lawyer who had arranged deals for Khodorkovsky. The British lawyer died in that crash. N 2005, a Russian court sends Khodorkovsky to a Siberian correctional lager. Later, Yukos was declared bankrupt.
In the Netherlands, Berezovsky, yet another big client of Valmet, also has problems. He has disagreements with Putin, whom he had supported before, and he escapes to Great Britain in 2003. His assets fall into the hands of the Russian state. The former intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, who had openly supported Berezovsky, also escaped to London where he was poisoned by polonium in 2006.
Putin hates the way his predecessor Boris Yeltsin conducted privatization of big enterprises, this is completely clear. Under his rule, tax agencies, without distinction, search oligarchs, and Russian prosecutors send requests about legal help to Switzerland, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands. Is the Dutch prosecution still ready to share information with the Russians? And, oligarchs has been still laundering money?
The Netherlands has to balance. Perhaps, it will leave the hunted oligarchs alone, as Britain prefers to do, or will it join to the Putin’s hunt?
The economic interests of the Netherlands grow bigger. Of course, when, in the autumn of 2007, the Russian company “Gazprom” and the Dutch Gasunie in Moscow, in the presence of Putin and Jan-Peter Balkenende, the prime minister at the time, will sign a mega-deal on supply of natural gas to the Netherlands.
Nevertheless, the policy of this country is so, that the Netherlands will not participate in the rich hunting. In 2007, an officer decided that it would be not allowed to investigators of the Valmet case to continue their work with regard to tax evasion and money laundering of the imprisoned Khodorkovsky.
In a year, the Prosecution decided that Berezovsky was no longer a priority, and that the Dutch documents, requested by the Russians, would not be sent to Russia. Thus, the investigation of Valmet gets narrow. Facts have not changed, but the political climate in Russia has.
In the spring of 2011, when Putin went for his third presidential term, the Prosecution decides to close the case. It’s impossible to prove money laundering, partly because some information comes from Russia. In the trust company in Hoofddorp comes a message from the Prosecution – there will be no criminal case. There is only a litigation on unpaid taxes.
But the two investigator from FIOD cannot let go Valmet. Deals, schemes, billions: this would be simply wrong. Year after year, they have continued to world on this file. Thereat, the Russians continue to insist, and demand that the ordering customers of Velmet send documents that were requested as early as in 2005.
In 2013, Berezovsky was found dead in the shower in his British estate and with a part of scarf around his neck. The reason of his death has not been established. Soon after that, the two officers of FIOD are told that the case is definitively closed. Valmet, its successor Mutual Fund, and its directors no longer arouse suspicion. In the words of the peoples involved, there is not good explanation, and people are frustrated. They, actually, had a real case.
One of the detectives dies soon after retirement, and the investigation vanishes in archives without being exposed. The firm in Hoofddorp still exists with a license of De Nederlandische Bank. The previous suspects are still there.
A FIRM FROM THE GOLDEN BEND
The Amsterdam Trade Bank, yet another finance entity that the police detective Robert Dekker planned to deal with, experiences the same approach. The authorities follow every possible suspicious Russian flows of money around the company. But there is no direct approach to Russian itineraries.
In 2009, Dekker leaves the police and starts to work in the private sector. From his new customer, the investigative agency Ultrascan Advanced Global Solutions, he continues to follow finance relations between the Netherlands and Russia. Once again, his attention is attracted to the Amsterdam Trading Bank (ATB)
From 2001, the bank ATB belongs to the Russian oligarch Mikhail Firdman, who is on good terms with Vladimir Putin. The bank is situated in a nice office on the Gouden-Bocht Street (Golden Bend), in the district Herengracht of Amsterdam, and it stands out by its efforts to entice Dutch depositors with high interest rates.
In 2009, a colleague of Dekker in the interview with the newspaper Het Parool, that this was all false pretenses. In his words, ATN is a pivot “in the carousel through which hundreds of billions of dollars are being siphoned out of Russia”.
A warning is as of little effect as the old reports of Dekker. Vouter Bos, the responsible minister, (finance, PdvA), wrote to the Chamber of Representatives in 2009 that De Nederlandische Bank and the Department of finance markets of the Netherlands had carried out an investigation on the fact of money laundering through ATB, but there had been no proofs of embezzlement, and its license had been simply extended.
The fact that DNB knows that’s going on in ATB, arouses elation of the external world, including Dekker. People involved with the bank say that, from 2013, under pressure from DNB, procedures would silently become more stringent. About the aftermaths one can read in the annual reports of ATB, that are hidden fathoms deep.
It seems that in 2012 nothing happens. But, since 2013, when DNB starts moving, the annual report of ATB suddenly says that, if the policy remains the same, then it is “highly likely” that the bank will break laws and rules. The probability of it in ATB “is relatively high in comparison with the rest of the Netherland’s finance sector.
In the following years, a silent restructuring had been taken place in the bank. ATB ceases relation also with the Russian clients who cannot explain properly where their millions come from. However, only in 2017, FIOD will carry out raids in the bank that, according to its annual reports, is suspected “of insufficient inspection of customers, untimely reports of unusual transactions, breaking of sanctions, bribes, forging of documents and money laundering”.
In spite of longstanding experience of work of the Dutch authorities with ATB, the criminal investigation, according to those involved in the case, advances not that good. There are doubts that the Prosecution will close the case in the near future.
THE NETHERLANDS – A TRANSIT LAND
When Russia invaded Ukraine, and the West imposed sanctions against oligarchs, Robert Dekker once more took out his police investigations.
“There is everything: oligarchs, transferring of money, and organizations that help them”, he said sitting at the kitchen table and serving chicken soup.
“The Netherlands knows exactly what’s going on, but we simply don’t want to deal with it”
20 years ago, he was begging his bosses about a more wide approach to the Netherlands as a financial transit country, and he repeats it today. Lawyers, notaries on civil cases, trust companies, banks, tax consultants – all sides that obtain benefits from money flows, should change.
“Otherwise, we will be once again there in 20 years”.
A REHEARSAL “THE TSAR GIVES, THE TSAR TAKES”
Chris Samuelson, the director of the Mutual Trust Netherlands BV until 2015, points out in the supplement that the oligarchs of the Yeltsin’s time, who had been his clients, had been honestly making money until 2000, i.e. during the years when there had been “a working system of justice”. However, Putin uses this system in his own interest, as well as for enrichment of his friends, he writes. “The tsar gives, the tsar takes”.
Mutual Trust Netherlands has in vain tried to prevent the publication of this article by way of simplified production on Friday.
MTN previously said that Samuelson, who had left in 2015, “didn’t take part in business long before that, and he cannot speak from the part of MTN”.
Apart from that, MTN declares that “providing (trusted) services only to (legal) persons, registered in the Netherlands, “it, at present, doesn’t serve clients that are under sanctions”, and the regulating agency DNB “regards it business operation as conscientious”. MTN doesn’t want to answer questions about the investigation of FIOD, “as it has not brought about a criminal case in the Netherlands”.
In the trust company, it is pointed out that they don’t deal with “creation and management of foreign organization”. MTN (previously “Valmen International BV) “in 2003 ceased to be a part of the group Valmet “, which provided such services, and cannot be equaled to it.
The Office of the Prosecutor General said that in 2005 a criminal case had been filed against Valmet “on suspicion of money laundering”. In 2005, raids were followed, “including raids upon affiliates of the respective company”.
Later, in 2007 and 2008, the investigations with regard to Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky were canceled”, partly because of the conviction of Khodorkovsky in Russia. In 2011, the criminal case was dropped, as “it’s impossible to prove that Valmet conducted money laundering in the interest of the above mentioned persons”. Yet, Valmet pays an undiscovered sum of “outstanding taxes”.
Amsterdam Trade Bank (ATB) declares that the bank itself “has changed in comparison with the period the newspaper NRC writes about”.
In 2013, DNB ruled that ATB “is insufficiently capable to demonstrate” that it “completely complies with procedures and rules to fight money laundering”.
“Today, FIOD investigates” whether the bank has broken the rules. After that, ATN invested money into “risk management and compliance with demands”, and then, in 2016, followed “a new strategy”. Relations with clients that “were not capable to present necessary documents in accordance with our new procedures”, ceased to exist, stressed ATB.
DNB “does not answer question about entities under supervision”
EXPERTS ON MONEY LAUNDERING: “THE NETHERLANDS IS VULNERABLE”
As the result of the investigation of the Russian money flows, the news outlet NRC talked to several experts on money laundering about the vulnerability of the Netherlands’s financial system.
Peter van Leusden, who works in the consulting firm Partner in Compliance, for many years had successfully managed the investigation in FIOD of a big money laundering cases, including in activities of ING, Rabobank and ABN Bank.
“The real question is as follows: do we need such a system – with trust companies, tax agreements, and complicated tax structures?” he says. “This makes it compelling to channel big sums of money through the Netherlands”.
Those several cases when there were efforts to put an end to such incidents by way of filing a criminal case, he calls healing the symptoms.
“For real impact, we need to change political thinking. Without better surveillance and more strict rules the Netherlands will continue to be very attractive for bad money”.
Jan van Konigsveld, a former detective and founder of the consulting firm Offshore Knowledge Center who had been promoted in connection with the character of wrongdoings committed by offshore companies, poses a question: what is the value added of all financial operations coming through the Netherlands, considering high risk of abuses.
“You can also reverse it. Let people prove that they have compelling legal reasons for transferring money from Russia on their accounts in Swiss banks through companies in Amsterdam and Curacao”.
Robert Hein Broekhuijsen, a partner in IVY Advocaten from 2012, points out that Russian oligarchs “definitely, are not the only ones” who are looking for margins of the possible and allowed in the Netherlands.
Broekhuijsen is part of an international team of lawyers. On behalf of the Angolan company Sonangol, they had tried for years to cancel deals carried out in the Netherlands and now regarded as corrupt by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the former Angolan president. This is a tough struggle, says the former prosecutor. “Change Angola for Russia, and you will get the same story. Our system and legal infrastructure in Zuidas makes our country vulnerable for abuses. It’s a real story”, writes the newspaper NRC Handelsblat in the article entitles “Hun roebels wegsluizen, dat deden Russische oligarchen via Hoofddorp”.