Authorities avoiding courts to seize assets in drug crime fight

Drug shipment intercepted in Tilburg, June 2016 (Photo: Politie)Drug shipment intercepted in Tilburg, June 2016 (Photo: Politie)

The Public Prosecutor and police in Noord-Brabant are increasingly tackling criminals outside of court by seizing their assets. In the past this so-called ASAP-approach was mainly used for small crimes like shoplifting, but it is also effective with drug crime, according to the authorities.

Taking money and valuables away from suspects is often more effective than a lengthy trial, chief detective Rienk de Groot and prosecutor Roy Nanhkoesingh said in an interview with the Volkskrant.

In the ASAP (as soon as possible) - approach, agreements are made with the suspect. For example, a cannabis grower can agree to take community service, give up his car and pay the damage incurred by the energy supplier instead of going to court, Nanhkoesingh explained to the newspaper. "Because if we present the case, we will continue investigating to give the court a complete case file, chances are we then discover a lot more.", the prosecutor often tells cannabis suspects.

According to the the detective and prosecutor, criminal organizations are often hit harder with this method than in a criminal trial. "My experience is that community service is imposed even for the possession of large quantities of cannabis." Nanhkoesingh said. "I have seen cases where the suspect had a considerable number of kilograms, but the judge imposed only a bare fine of 5,000 euros." While in the ASAP method suspects agree to pay up to 30 thousand euros to avoid court.

Another reason why this approach is more effective, is because a period in jail is often seen as "status-enhancing" in criminal circles, De Groot said. And many drug suspects come from abroad. "If their pre-trial detention is lifted, they go across the border unpunished and you've lost them."

Extending the ASAP method to also include drug-crimes was the idea of Tilburg mayor Peter Noordanus, according to the newspaper. If the approach proves effective, the intention is to also use it in other areas in the Netherlands.