Through the export of second-hand lease cars by Dutch car dealers, more than 1 billion euros in cash has entered the Netherlands in recent years. The money is probably from international, heavily organized criminal networks, say the police and the FIOD.

The cars were sometimes driven out of the country in batches on trucks to be resold on the car market in Berlin. The car dealers are now suspects in a large-scale investigation into extensive international fraud and money laundering constructions. They would have contributed to those constructions.

Criminals launder their money, because otherwise they cannot spend the illegally obtained income in the upper world without making themselves suspicious. With which the 1 billion euros has been earned, the police do not say, presumably it is about drug money.

Cat catcher

The way the criminals work is sophisticated. With the cash they earn illegally, they send a 'cat catcher' to a Dutch car dealer. A 'cat catcher' is someone who does these kinds of odd jobs on behalf of someone else, probably one or more criminal organizations in Germany.

The cat-catcher buys a load of cars at the Dutch company. It concerns middle class lease cars that are offered for sale after a certain number of years or kilometers, for around 8,000 to 15,000 euros (ex-VAT).

Then the cars go to Berlin. The money that the criminals earn with it, therefore, seems to come from the legal car trade.

Notification obligation

The police and the FIOD suspect that the Dutch traders involved in the case know what the trade is about. They receive cash payments and must also report this to the regulator from 10,000 euros.

Car dealers also reported the transactions there. But after that, a lot of time passes to determine whether suspicious cash payments are against the law.

The FIOD and the police now suspect that the cars are sold on paper to cat companies, but in reality end up with another company that sells them on to the car market. These cat companies are therefore astray, helping criminals to disguise the actual destination of the car.

VAT fraud

In addition, there is something else going on: VAT fraud. Because it concerns a delivery across the border, there is no need to charge VAT on this sale. The purchasing party then resells the cars, after which they end up with private individuals throughout Europe.

The catalytic converter would have to pay VAT on that, but it doesn't. According to the FIOD and the police, the VAT damage caused by the part of the scam for which searches are taking place today is certainly 21 million euros.

Invade

Today, the FIOD and police have conducted 15 searches at four car companies in the Netherlands. The companies are said to have exported around 120 million euros worth of cars in the last two years. But that may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Indeed, there are dozens of other exporters of second-hand lease cars in the Netherlands, according to the police, a number of them work in a similar way. The Tax Authorities also investigate companies. The actions fit in with a larger investigation by the National Criminal Investigation Service of the police into the large-scale laundering of criminal money through 'normal' commercial transactions. In this way they try to gain insight into the extent of the phenomenon and into measures to stop it.

The police tracked the scam in an investigation into a suspect of human smuggling. This man alone turned out to have bought € 9.6 million in cash in two years for a foreign importer. In the same period he also bought cash cars in Belgium for 10 million euros. Although he did not appear to be directly involved in human trafficking, he has already been arrested for fraud and money laundering and is now serving a two-year prison sentence.

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