Poor IT skills mean investigations into money laundering rarely bear fruit

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Only a handful of the tens of thousands of annual reports of suspected money laundering end up in court case because watchdog staff lack IT expertise.

Some 155,000 cases of possible fraud were brought to the attention of the government’s Financial Intelligence Unit (Fiu) last year by banks, accountants and payroll offices, of which 39,000 were followed up by the prosecution office and the FIOD financial fraud unit.

However, only a very small number actually went to court because the reports were not thorough enough to form the basis of a prosecution, money laundering expert professor Brigitte Unger told Trouw.

‘It sometimes seems the whole reporting system is not worth it,’ she told Trouw. The Fiu reports need too much further investigation and even then it is not clear if a case will stand up in court, Unger said.

Although the organisation is taking on more staff, the main issue is to improve the level of IT knowledge so a more effective detection of suspect patterns in suspect transactions can take place, she said. This would require the government to raise the pay to attract IT experts who currently work in more lucrative sectors.

Unger did point out that all reports of suspected fraud remain in the Fiu’s database so the information can be used in future cases.

Trouw said Unger’s conclusion will be ‘difficult to stomach’ for banks which have been repeatedly criticised for not checking for suspect transactions by clients. ABN Amro is currently being investigated for not doing enough to detect money laundering, while ING paid a record €775m fine in an out-of-court settlement two years ago.

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