Expatica news

Luxury car could spark police inquiry

12 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — In a controversial approach to tackling the city’s crime rate, driving an expensive car in Rotterdam or owning a luxury house is now sufficient reason for police to investigate whether they were paid for by criminal funds.

But Rotterdam lawyers have raised legal concerns about the new investigation method. In the past, a criminal’s financial earnings were only investigated after their conviction.

The new method means that if cars or villas appear to have been paid for by criminal funds, police can carry out arrests if inquiries into finances reveal indications of criminal acts. Police can search their own data files or those of the social security service.

Two drugs gangs have already forfeited their funds and have been sentenced to jail terms of up to eight years, news agency ANP reported on Wednesday.

But the Public Prosecution Office (OM) said that not every Rotterdam resident with an expensive car will be investigated. There must be specific suspicions that someone is spending large sums of money without a sufficient legal income.

Police and justice officials will only launch an investigation if there are suspicions of criminal activities, such as the trade in weapons, drugs or women. The OM said privacy regulations have not posed a problem because police inquiries involve “open sources”.

An OM spokesman said in one of the recent cases, a suspect had paid cash for two Mercedes cars, providing grounds for an inquiry. Police later bugged the suspect’s telephone and intercepted a drugs transport at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

But Rotterdam lawyers have reacted with disbelief to the new approach. Lawyer Frank van Ardenne claimed it completely breaches the legal criteria used to define a suspect and that it places “a bomb under our entire system”.

Another lawyer said the new approach is “alarming” and that police data and social security files are not open sources.

“If you gather information about an individual, you stamp him with material that is seen as suspicious. You are involved in the furnishing of proof,” newspaper De Volkskrant quoted the lawyer saying.

But despite the lawyers’ objections, other police corps across the Netherlands have expressed interest in the Rotterdam approach.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news