Nearly €262 million in criminal assets seized last year

Gavel with lady justice in the background
Gavel with lady justice in the backgroundPhoto: SergPoznanskiy/DepositPhotos

In 2019, the Dutch authorities seized a total of 261,871,048 euros in criminal money and assets, some 90 million euros more than the year before, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) announced on Tuesday. The Dutch authorities consider seizing wealth from the underworld an important tool in the fight against organized crime.

According to the OM, all crime is aimed at making money. And by taking this money from criminals, the authorities hit criminals where it hurts them most - their wallet. "Seasoned criminals calculate a possible prison sentence as a professional risk," the OM said. "By taking away their assets, perpetrators lose their status in the criminal environment and lose the investment budget to start new crime adventures." It is also good for society to see that crime does not pay, according to the Prosecutor. 

A large part of the amount seized last year came from a settlement paid by international telecom provider Telia in a corruption case. The settlement deal accepted by the Swedish telecom company in 2017 involved an amount of nearly 184 million euros. In previous years, large settlements with companies also contributed heavily to the total amount of criminal assets seized.

"We are not there yet, but we are on our way with the course we have taken," said prosecutor Janneke de Smet-Dierckx, in charge of asset seizures at the OM. "What is positive is that we saw an increase in collection in almost all categories this year. So apart from the [settlement amount] there is signs of a broadening and that is good."

"The total amount of criminal assets taken away is greater than the collection of over 261 million euros," De Smet-Dierckx stressed. Hundreds of millions of euros were also paid to the Tax Authority or as compensation to victims, she said. Those amounts are not included in the OM total. "And then we are not even talking about the value of drugs that have been seized." In 2018 around 1.8 billion euros of drugs were seized from the market, and last year even more drugs were intercepted and seized at the port of Rotterdam. 

According to De Smet-Dierckx, the annually published criminal assets seized results are therefore not really representative of what is done in the field of crime must not pay. "When you look at what criminal assets have been withdrawn from the market - by seizing them, by taking drugs from the market, or by seizing it for victims or the treasury - then you come to an estimate of 2 to 3 billion euros." 

The OM will therefore work on adding more amounts, for example the commercial value of drugs seized from the market, to the annual results.