NRC: Billions of rubles laundered via Curacao shell companies

THE HAGUE, WILLEMSTAD - Dozens of Dutch and Curaçao shell companies have been used to launder large-scale money from shady Russian businessmen. This is apparent from an extensive police investigation of which the file has been hidden, but has surfaced by the Dutch newspaper NRC.

The investigation into dubious financial flows that started after the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place in the first years after the turn of the century: “In the summer of 2003, Detective Robert Dekker stands in front of a large drawing board on the top floor of the police headquarters in Zwolle, the Netherlands. Dekker is excited and restless. He just got his hands on an incriminating witness statement and a list of suspicious financial transactions from a tax haven. New information means: new lines on the drawing board. Crisscross, he draws the connections between all companies, banks and trust offices on the board – from Curaçao to Moscow, from London to Amsterdam, according to NRC.

In the extensive reconstruction, a former FIOD detective mentions Russians who "transferred money via companies in Amsterdam and Curaçao to their Swiss bank account." At that time, detectives also searched Curaçao for missing billions. The investigation was halted by order of the top of the Public Prosecution Service. “As a result, there was never a conviction for money laundering or a targeted approach to Russian capital flight via the Netherlands,” NRC notes.

In the years around 2000, it was an open secret in Curaçao that billions were channeled through shell companies established and managed by trust offices in Willemstad on behalf of Russian businessmen. There was no serious supervision of the trust sector by the then Central Bank of the Netherlands Antilles.

Today, trust offices in Willemstad manage dozens of shell companies on behalf of operators of online gambling games originating from the former Soviet Union. Web casinos are seen in criminal circles as ideal money laundering machines.

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