International efforts to combat crime that undermines society

Criminals earn great sums of money from international trafficking in cocaine, heroine, ecstasy (MDMA) and cannabis. They launder the proceeds of their crimes and undermine society by for example bribing public officials and bankers. The government works with other countries to disrupt international criminal activity wherever possible.

The Netherlands has become a crucial hub in the global drug trade. Synthetic drugs such as MDMA are produced in and exported from the Netherlands. Drugs like cocaine are also trafficked to the Netherlands from Latin America, with 90% then being distributed onwards to other countries.

It is not known precisely how much criminal networks earn from the trade in cocaine, heroine, MDMA and cannabis. They launder the proceeds of their crimes by for example buying cars, art, properties and companies. They pay in cash or cryptocurrencies, or through underground banking or fraudulent financial transactions.

One of the reasons criminal networks are difficult to tackle is that they generate so much money. With these funds they are able to bribe public officials, politicians, civil-law notaries and bankers, and hire the very best lawyers. They also adapt their trafficking practices and organisations extremely rapidly. They switch to supplying different drugs, open up new trafficking routes and continuously come up with new ways to smuggle drugs.

Disrupting international criminal activity

The government is committed to doing everything it can to disrupt international criminal activity. The aim is to break up global criminal networks and cut off their revenue sources.
The government’s international efforts to combat crime that undermines society focus on:

  • stopping drug smuggling as close to the source as possible;
    for example by cooperating with countries where drugs are produced and distributed onwards;
  • intercepting drugs that do reach the Netherlands at airports and seaports;
    for example by making port employees more resilient to the influence of criminals, increasing and improving camera supervision and making agreements with shipping companies and others. The measures being taking by the government are set out in the Action plan on drug smuggling via mainports of 4 November 2022 (in Dutch)
  • preventing drugs that have reached the Netherlands from leaving the country;
    for example by conducting more checks on parcels; 
  • hitting criminals financially;
    for example by tackling laundering and underground banking. And by seizing assets, such as money, jewellery and properties, from criminals. In this way the government can prevent illegally earned money from entering the legitimate economy.

Examples of international cooperation

The governments wants to expand its cooperation with other countries and international organisations:

Partner organisations in the fight against crime that undermines society

Various organisations work together in the fight against international crime that undermines society. These include:

  • the Public Prosecution Service (OM);
  • the police;
  • the Customs Administration;
  • special investigative services;
  • ministries;
  • the European Union;
  • Europol;
  • Eurojust (EU agency for criminal justice cooperation);
  • the United Nations;
  • the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) (MAOC-N), in which various EU member states exchange information on narcotics trafficking and smuggling.

What these organisations do

These organisations:

  • exchange information and knowledge with one another;
  • coordinate their international policies;
  • cooperate with other countries on investigations and prosecutions;
  • extradite suspects and examine witnesses and suspects on each other’s behalf;
  • collaborate on developing proposals for new policies, legislation and rules to tackle cross-border crime.