EUR 1.3bn in drugs money in Belgium
31 October 2005
BRUSSELS — There is at least EUR 1.3 billion in drugs money circulating in Belgium, but federal police can no longer trace it because criminals are avoiding banks and only handle in cash.
Police urged every economic sector to be extra alert for big amounts of cash, newspaper ‘De Tijd’ reported on Monday.
Similar to the Netherlands, a large amount of synthetic drugs is made in Belgium, which is known as a transit land for cocaine.
And according to United Nations estimates, the worldwide drugs trade amounts to EUR 266 billion.
Of that, EUR 1.3 billion circulates in Belgium, federal police finance unit spokesman Marc de Backer said. However, authorities cannot trace the money. “And that is big problem,” he warned.
The number of reports over drugs money lodged with the federal police’s anti-money laundering unit has decreased by two-thirds in the past four years from 321 cases in 2000 to 112 in 2004.
“That is not the fault of the anti-money laundering unit. It shows instead that drug traders are increasingly avoiding banks because suspicious transactions must be reported to the unit. An alternative circuit of cash money develops, of which we have little hold,” De Backer said.
The transported drugs money is made up of very small denominations. The cost of making an ecstasy tablet is on average 90 euro cents, the wholesale price is EUR 1.50 and the distributive price is EUR 2.70.
“Eventually, a tablet is sold on the street for EUR 4.50 while a month’s production of ecstasy yields on average 16.25 million tablets,” De Backer said.
In 2003, the federal police’s financial crime unit launched a scheme called ‘Cash Watch, initially focusing on Zaventem Airport in Brussels.
Some EUR 2.75 million was seized, but the project lapsed somewhat last year and only netted EUR 1.13 million at Zaventem and other airports.
“It is not easy to make all inspection services such as customs, local police and security services alert for large amounts of cash,” De Backer said.
“And there are commercial interests. You can’t delay a plane to inspect for suspicious money.”
However, De Backer said Belgian law was adjusted in January 2004 so that traders may no longer accept cash for goods priced from EUR 15,000.
Authorities are aware of one case in which a person in Belgium bought more than a hundred businesses by using cash money of small denominations.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news