Illegal drugs cost Netherlands €4.1bn a year, report says

Gangland costs Dutch billions in policing, jails, addiction and money laundering

A policeman investigates the Hoogbosweg in Nederweert: most poignantly, €47 million a year is the economic cost of young people who leave school early for a criminal career. Photograph: Marcel Van Hoorn/ANP/AFP

A policeman investigates the Hoogbosweg in Nederweert: most poignantly, €47 million a year is the economic cost of young people who leave school early for a criminal career. Photograph: Marcel Van Hoorn/ANP/AFP

 

The Dutch government has given parliamentarians an extraordinary warts-and-all assessment of the cost of the gangland drugs industry to society, estimating that it drains up to €4.1 billion from the exchequer every year – and puts about €16 billion in “black money” into circulation.

After six months of a caretaker government and an as-you-were budget on Tuesday, the long-awaited figures delivered by justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus were the highlight of a day usually dominated by the king’s opening of parliament and political spending priorities for the year ahead.

Drawn up by the department of justice in response to warnings that organised crime gangs have been turning the Netherlands into “a narco state”, the figures circulated to MPs and senators put the cumulative cost of drugs, where they impact on society, at between €3.2 and €4.1 billion a year.

Vicious gangs

Predictably, the largest element of that overall bill is policing, which costs between €1.1 and €1.6 billion – although police unions admit they are being outmanoeuvred by increasingly vicious international gangs who launder money through shops, restaurants and a booming property market.

The research shows that 20 per cent of those jailed have links to drugs, and so the administration of justice and running jails add up to perhaps as much as another billion euro – at between €170 million and €270 million for the former and between €400 million and €700 million for the latter.

At the same time, the cost at the Dutch medical system of treating drug addiction is another €250 million every year.

Analysis of social welfare costs shows that some 5 per cent of all unemployment benefits are drug-related, at a cost of €320 million a year. The same figure of 5 per cent also applies to disability insurance, at a cost of €200 million.

Criminal careers

The costs to the economy are also considerable, put at some €600 million: about €550 million a year to combat money laundering – and, most poignantly, the loss of an estimated €47 million a year for the economic cost of young people who leave school early for a criminal career.

What is not included in the report is the cost of police corruption, which is becoming an ever-bigger problem given the scale of the earnings made from drugs.

Dozens of officers were suspended or dismissed from the force in 2019 following investigations into corruption at all levels, which found breaches of official secretary, dereliction of duty, fraud, tampering with computers, and misusing information from police computers.

The findings were described at the time as “the tip of the iceberg”.

“Criminals approach officers by stealth and apply pressure; it happens at every level,” said Jan Struijs of the police union, NPD. “Realistically, in today’s world, officers need training to handle it.”