Concern over rise of ‘corruption brokers’ hired to bribe officials


Criminal gangs have developed a sophisticated network of middlemen to bribe civil servants so they can obtain confidential information or false papers, the head of the Dutch CID has warned.

Arthur van Baarlen said he was alarmed by the rise of intermediaries who specialise in corrupting officials in local councils, the tax office and other government agencies who have access to personal information such as addresses, vehicle registration numbers and passport details.

Van Baarlen, who was appointed in 2020, told NRC that corruption had become a specialised role in recent years, making gangs more efficient and civil servants more vulnerable.

‘In the past a gangster and an official might know each other from school, or from the neighbourhood,’ Van Baaren said. ‘That relationship led to corruption or information being leaked.

‘Now we see intermediaries who deliberately go in search of civil servants who they can corrupt.’

The scale of the problem only emerged when police cracked thousands of encrypted messages used by gangsters to organise the traffic in information and documents. ‘We have obtained a much better insight into the role of information brokers in the criminal realm,’ Van Baarlen said.

Passport for Taghi

Last year 49 cases of corruption were investigated by the Dutch criminal authorities, a number that has been stable for the last five years after peaking in 2018.

In a case that went to court last year, an official with The Hague city council was convicted of selling 20 passports through an intermediary between 2009 and 2014.

Mildred van D. was approached by the intermediary, who paid her €1,000 for each of the passports and was aware that her personal circumstances made her susceptible to taking bribes.

Her husband had a gambling addiction, the family was behind on its rent payments and she told the court she had to borrow money from colleagues to buy groceries.

One of the passports was for Ridouan Taghi, at the time the most wanted man in the Netherlands, who used it to slip away to Dubai undetected. Taghi, 45, was arrested in Dubai in 2019 and is currently on trial along with 16 other men accused of plotting and carrying out a series of underworld killings.

The court criticised the authorities for failures in supervision that allowed Van D. to sell false passports undetected for years. Van Baarlen admitted that the lack of monitoring had allowed criminals to thrive.

‘What’s become clear is that the checking procedures were not just substandard in The Hague,’ he said. ‘Following an investigation into a tax official we compiled a report into problems with logging, which is the digital record of who requests which files containing sensitive information.

‘If an organisation doesn’t have its logging in order it makes it difficult to investigate leaks of information. And the tax office is not the only organisation with this problem.’


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