Ten from same family arrested in Dutch ‘underworld banking’ raids

Authorities investigating crime networks through which trafficking money disappears

Police in Amsterdam have broken up what they believe to have been a single extended family business laundering tens of millions of euro in cash on an ongoing basis for international drug traffickers.

Ten men from the same family, aged between 24 and 60, were arrested in raids on 15 different locations earlier this month, involving 225 officers from the police, the army and customs – the culmination of a complex two-year undercover investigation and surveillance operation.

In tandem with increasing the pressure on traffickers following the shooting dead of a journalist last year and a part-time judge in 2019, the Dutch authorities have also been focusing on “underworld banking” networks, which allow the proceeds of trafficking to disappear without trace.

Typically, said a police statement on Thursday, the money is “moved around” and either invested in legitimate businesses or in other criminal activities – or converted into cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, within the underground bankers’ own network.

‘Branch offices’

“Through this network, a payment can be made anywhere in the world without the money having to physically cross any border,” said the specialist Fiscal Information and Investigation Service. “An underground banker is therefore a crucial link in organised crime and drug trafficking globally.”

The intelligence gathered by police over the two years was invaluable. They established that the family gang had one headquarters in Amsterdam and a network of “branch offices” elsewhere. Senior members of the family ran the business, while the young members had “executive functions”.

Under the supervision of a public prosecutor, detectives watched while sportsbags and shopping bags stuffed with cash were moved around the country by family members. Their cars had hidden spaces in case they were routinely stopped, and the offices had furniture with secret compartments.

Cocaine and cash

On several occasions, the police decided not to take action in the interests of the wider investigation. However, twice during the two years they carried out “normal” raids linked to their surveillance.

In the first, €5 million in cash was found and two men jailed, and in the second, three tonnes of cocaine and €11 million in cash were recovered – the biggest drugs and cash haul ever by Amsterdam police. A man in his 50s was jailed for eight years.

During the most recent raids, police seized phones and computers, a gun, high-end cars and other luxury items, and about €1.4 million in cash.

They also recovered an unknown amount of bitcoin in co-operation with authorities in the US, Australia, Lithuania and Morocco.

On Tuesday, seven of the 10 men arrested were remanded in custody by a judge in Rotterdam. Two were discharged. A third had already been released by police, who say further arrests may follow.