Reinforcement of criminal-law approach to subversive crime

Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus aims for a tough and effective approach to subversive crime through a range of measures. To this end, there will be increased options for the police and the Public Prosecution Service to disrupt criminal business operations as well as to investigate convicted criminals who avoid paying severe fines. The Minister also intends to claim compensation from perpetrators for the destruction of seized drugs. These salient elements are among the contents of a draft legislative proposal that was submitted for consultation today within the framework of the legislative agenda on subversive crime.

Precursors

The legislative proposal by Grapperhaus sets out to ban certain chemicals called precursors that can be used as raw materials to produce hard drugs. In future, not only importing and exporting, but also transporting and possessing these substances will be punishable by law. It will then carry a maximum sentence of up to six years. These raw materials will be placed on a national list if they serve no known purpose other than the illegal production of synthetic drugs. It will especially become easier to target criminals who transport precursors. At present, it is necessary to prove that they knew that they were dealing with raw materials for hard drugs. Once their mere possession becomes a crime, it will be possible to disrupt the production process at an earlier stage. 

Threats

The maximum prison sentence for threats to individuals will increase from two to three years. Practice reveals that threats are becoming more and more serious in various ways. In recent years, a number of mayors have received threats from criminals. The government takes such behaviour extremely seriously and takes firm action against it. To this end, the maximum prison sentence for threats to mayors, aldermen, members of the Provincial Executive and other administrators will be raised even further to four years.  

Container terminals

Seaports and airports are often very attractive to organised, subversive crime. Criminals use a range of methods to access the secure areas where containers are unloaded and transferred, looking for illegal goods hidden in the containers, such as drugs. Their activities represent an important link in the criminal networks transporting illegal drugs and disrupt the screening of imported goods in the customs area. Proving such activities is often difficult, as these criminals take precautions to get rid of evidence, including the disposal of mobile phones prior to their arrest.

Minister Grapperhaus is keen on taking robust action, as well as making unauthorised presence on such premises an offence in and of itself. It will then carry a prison sentence of one year. The maximum sentence will increase to two years in case of illegal entry, such as when criminals gain access to the premises by using a fake pass or hiding in a company van.

Suspects can be remanded in custody to investigate their backgrounds and to map their relationships with national or international criminal networks. As a result, the police and the Public Prosecution Service will be capable of gathering additional evidence that may link suspects to organised crime.

Costs

The Minister also intends to claim compensation from perpetrators for the costs incurred by the State in the destruction of seized drugs and illegal fireworks, among other things. This is currently not possible. The Public Prosecution Service alone incurred costs in excess of 2 million euros in 2017 to destroy the illegal fireworks confiscated during that year, which weighed more than 40,000 kilograms. In 2018, dismantling hemp factories took 5.8 million euros.

Financial investigations

Options for increased investigations into the assets of convicted criminals will become available as well. Practice reveals that these criminals do not always pay the severe fines and compensation measures imposed after a conviction, even though it is sometimes suspected that they do actually possess the requisite funds. At present, there are insufficient opportunities to unearth the exact assets of criminals with a view to their subsequent confiscation. Through this measure, Grapperhaus aims to offer such opportunities, facilitating the enforcement of sanctions imposed on criminals, who will no longer find it as easy to avoid paying fines.