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FIU-the Netherlands

From winning at the casino without gambling to smuggling drugs in sea containers

An observant reporting party noticed that one of the visitors to their casino was hardly gambling at all with the tokens he had bought earlier that evening...

He had paid for the tokens with €50 notes, but mostly kept them firmly in his pocket. Remarkably, however, some of the tokens did in fact change hands in the course of the evening: not reverting to the casino as gambling losses, but directly from this visitor to another, who then wanted to exchange the tokens for €500 notes.

This report prompted us at FIU Netherlands to conduct our analysis. The information we collected revealed that a third person was involved: an individual who had strong links to the second visitor was gambling for high stakes on online gambling sites. Data provided by the Tax and Customs Administration showed that this behaviour was at odds with this person’s level of income. The FIU analyst brought the suspicious transactions to the attention of a police team who were already monitoring the second visitor as part of an investigation into so-called ‘drug collectors’, i.e., people paid to illicitly retrieve smuggled drugs from shipping containers. The FIU’s information proved valuable for mapping out criminal relationships and forming a picture of the second visitor’s financial position.

According to the Public Prosecution Service, drug collectors are mostly young people, who often hail from the southern area of Rotterdam. They are hired by international criminal organizations to collect drugs – mostly cocaine – from shipping containers. In one of the methods used, the drug collectors get themselves driven them into the port in a sea container, so they can collect the drugs during the night and move them outside the port area. A new law entered into force earlier this year, offering more possibilities for prosecuting drug collectors under criminal law; for more information, click here (in Dutch).

Lastly, €500 notes are greatly prized in criminal circles because large amounts of criminal money are smuggled across borders, and the sheer volume and weight of the banknotes would be much greater without large denominations. In the case at hand, the attempt to exchange tokens for large denominations acted as a red flag pointing towards possible money laundering. This example also demonstrates that the principle of 'following the money' is very useful for combating money laundering and the criminal activity underlying it.