Massive face mask fraud case: Two years in prison

Lady Justice in Netherlands
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A court in Overijssel found two men guilty of laundering 845 thousand euros and forgery in connection with a scam where 11 million face masks were sold to a businessman in Germany, but not a single mask was actually delivered. The court determined that the two suspects were not actually involved in the scam itself, but did aid in collecting and rerouting the money received. They were sentenced to two years in prison.

"At the end of March, during the initial phase of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, a purchase agreement was concluded between a client from Germany and a supposed face mask seller. The agreement stated that the seller could supply 11 million mouth masks for 4.4 million euros," the court said in a statement. After transferring 880 thousand euros to a Dutch bank account, the buyer wanted to inspect the masks before paying anything further.

When the buyer arrived in the Netherlands he was not met by sellers. The authorities were contacted, and the tax office's financial crimes inspectorate, FIOD, launched an investigation. "That investigation showed that the deposit has been transferred to the bank account of the company of a 52-year-old man from Oldenzaal. Shortly after receiving the amount of 880,000 euros, he transferred portions of it to other accounts, domestic and foreign," the court determined.

The Oldenzaal man and his accomplice, from Amersfoort, knew that the money was from ill-gotten means, even if they were not involved. The court rejected the defense argument that the Oldenzaal man believed the money was for an investment in his constructionbusiness.

"The court considers it unlikely that someone would give the company, which is not in a good financial position, such a loan," the court said in a statement.

FIOD investigators found a letter from ING during the investigation into the construction business that informed the Oldenzaal man his account was blocked by the bank on suspicion of fraud. The Amersfoort man's personal bank account was also frozen for a similar reason. "In an attempt to lift the blockades, the suspects then falsified agreements that should indicate an investment," the court said in explaining the document forgery conviction.

The two-year sentences were largely based on local and national precedent, according to the ruling. "The court also takes into account that both men have been previously convicted of similar offenses."