Dutch pleasure boat registrations are being used to facilitate large-scale drug smuggling operations, according to a report by investigative news broadcaster Nieuwsuur.
In a major drugs bust earlier this month in Spain, the Operación Goleta-Gratil, at least one ship containing 6,000 kilos of smuggled hash was flying under the Dutch flag. This and other warnings from European organisations, have led to concerns being raised about the reported ease of getting a Dutch ICP certificate for pleasure boats.
The registration, given for yachts and pleasure boats, documents ownership and allows access to European waters but critics have told Nieuwsuur that they are concerned about criminal use and money laundering. This summer this year, Italian authorities impounded dozens of boats flying under the Dutch flag because of concerns about their registration.
Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre in Lisbon, told Nieuwsuur that Dutch registrations were being used by criminal operations.
‘Certainly over the last number of years it has been apparent that [they] can fly a Dutch flag to disguise their aims, who they are and what they are, including setting up shell companies to buy vessels and register them somewhere else to confuse the trail for investigators,’ he said. ‘Why do criminals choose the Dutch ICP? Because they choose the path of least resistance.’
Dutch MPs Pieter Omtzigt and Gijs van Dijk told Nieuwsuur that the country needs to take the concerns in Spain and Italy seriously. ‘It is not our intention, but this does lead to problems in other countries and we need to do something about it,’ Omtzigt reportedly said.
He added that he took concerns seriously that the pleasure boat registration system could be exploited for insurance and tax fraud. The Nieuwsuur investigation alleged that it could be used for a ship that did not in fact exist, but could be insured and reported ‘stolen’, or sold at a ‘profit’ in order to money launder criminal funds.
DutchNews.nl has contacted the infrastructure ministry, which is responsible for the registration system, for a comment on the allegations.
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