Armoured engineers find millions

In the past few days, 16 Engineers of 41 Armoured Engineers Battalion from Oirschot took part in an operation carried out by the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service, the police force and the customs service. The participation of the Defence organisation in this combined operation, which included the deployment of an F-16, led to the discovery of a stash of millions in Venlo, in the southern province of Limburg.

On Monday morning, 2 military search teams and 2 advisers reported to Tegelen police station for a briefing. It was at that moment not yet clear to the military personnel why they had been called up. The National Public Prosecutor’s Office in Den Bosch that was in charge of the operation requested the engineers of 13 Mechanised Brigade to take part in the operation and use their expertise in searching three houses, a piece of wasteland and an area of woodland in a residential area in Venlo.

Aerial photographs

The location had already been reconnoitred from the air by a F-16 fighter. The results of the photo reconnaissance flight gave the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service cause to conduct an extensive ground search of the area.

Mega find

At the beginning of the operation, special units cordoned the road off, allowing the engineers to start their work. The military personnel were assigned with searching for money, drugs and weapons.

One of the advisers searched the houses with the first search team. “In one house we saw almost immediately that something was not quite right”, said Sergeant 1 Bas. “The stairway was too narrow and the lavatory too small.” The team found over € 4.5 million hidden in a false wall between the kitchen and the stairway. In one of the other houses, a sum of € 61,000 was found in panelling in the kitchen and also a firearm under a cupboard drawer.

The second, more specialist search team, led by Warrant Officer Frank, searched the woodland. The team only found a small quantity of amphetamines. During the operation, the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service itself found another € 40,000 along with drugs and documents.

Experiences gained in Uruzgan

The search techniques used by the military personnel in this operation were developed in Afghanistan during the Uruzgan mission. All armoured engineers are capable of carrying out searches in which observation and technology are employed in close cooperation. One of the techniques, the so-called intermediate search, was employed in Afghanistan to check dangerous and suspect areas for improvised explosives (IEDs). In addition to using their own senses, engineers make use of mine detectors in this type of search.

For more difficult assignments, taking place in, for example, confined spaces, in poor lighting conditions or in even unsafer circumstances, the so-called advanced search is used. In this type of search, specialists use ultramodern equipment that makes it possible to see objects buried in the ground and to see through walls and objects. There are only a few specialist teams equipped with these capabilities.

Money laundering

The operation in Venlo was not an isolated operation. In the past few years, the National Public Prosecutor’s Office in Den Bosch and the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service have been conducting an overarching operation aimed at combating money laundering activities in the vicinity of this city in the south-east of the Netherlands.