Opstelten: white-collar criminals will receive a stiff bill
Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice wants to realise a considerable expansion of the possibilities for dealing with financial-economic crime. Companies that commit an offence may, in future, receive a fine of at most ten percent of their annual revenue. There will also be higher punishments for money laundering and corruption, and abuse of public funds will be made a punishable offence. Furthermore, economic offenders who repeatedly break the law can look forward to more serious punishments. This is apparent from a legislative proposal that was sent to several agencies for their opinion today, including the Public Prosecution Service and the Council for the Judiciary.
Financial-economic crime can disrupt the proper operation of the economy and that of the financial sector. The real estate fraud and the construction fraud cases and the accounting scandals of recent years illustrate this. Offences such as fraud, bribery and money laundering are lucrative as a result of a combination of major profits and relatively low punishments provided for in the criminal code. That is why they are not only attractive to offenders with a criminal background, but also to white-collar criminals from the regular economic sector. There is also calculating behaviour. Opstelten wants to deal with this forcefully.
In order to deal with criminals more harshly and more effectively, the Minister is firstly increasing the maximum punishments of the various forms of money laundering. It is also important in this connection that diverting the proceeds of trafficking in human beings and drugs trafficking is in many respects just as bad as the crime itself. The maximum punishment for the 'bare' offence will be increased from four to six years of imprisonment. If money laundering is a matter of habit another two years will be added and the maximum term of imprisonment will be eight years. Those who benefit from money laundering activities and who lead luxurious lives because they accept money from criminals can look forward to a maximum term of imprisonment of two years. This is currently only one year.
The term of imprisonment is also being raised to at most four years for those who commit economic offences who systematically break the rules. For example, waste processing companies that ignore environmental regulations, or mala fide financial institutions that do not report unusual transactions. They cause great damage to society and seriously disturb competition with entrepreneurs who do comply with the rules.
As legal entities, companies that are in the wrong can be hit harder financially. Opstelten believes that more account should be taken of the seriousness of the offence, the profit of the criminal activities and the financial capacity of the company. Companies that are financially strong are not impressed by the current fines. That is why in future the courts will be able to impose higher fines: up to at most ten percent of the company's annual revenue.
In addition, the Minister is rendering abuse of public funds liable to punishment. This makes it possible to deal with the improper use of government subsidies or those of international organisations such as the UN or the World Bank under criminal law. Opstelten considers it reprehensible if persons receive benefits or a subsidy while they are no longer entitled to it and intentionally fail to notify the agency that provides these funds. Such fraudulent behaviour will become liable to a term of imprisonment of at most three years.
From now on, corrupt officials will be able to count on a maximum term of imprisonment of six years if they accept benefits pursuant to their office. Bribing officials harms the integrity of the government, on which citizens should be able to rely. The punishment for corruption in the private sector will also be increased, from two to four years. This concerns, among other things, bribing those with financial responsibility at large companies in order to obtain contracts, and corrupt service providers, for example, valuers who are bribed to issue an incorrect value appraisal of a house or business premises. Consumers and companies lose their confidence in ethical services as a result.