Thousands of companies registered in the Netherlands may be used by financial crooks to commit fraud, bust sanctions and launder money, according to an analysis of shell companies worldwide by Moody’s Analytics.
Moody’s analysed the data of registered corporations and individuals all over the globe to flag seven key behaviours that are commonly associated with shell companies, including atypical ownership, mass registrations at the same address and the age of directors.
The company’s analysts identified more than 21 million, of which 380,000 were warning signs from companies based in the Netherlands.
Most of the Dutch flags reflected what Moody’s describes as “atypical ownerships”, or an “improbable number of directorships ”, but 65,710 were down to mass registrations.
“The Netherlands is particularly notable for mass registrations, and is number four in the EU and ninth in the world,” Moody’s research director Francis Marinier told broadcaster NOS.
The most extreme form of mass registration in the Netherlands is an address in Muiden, where 403 firms are registered. Mass registration can be “a way of hiding illegal activities by spreading assets and transactions against multiple entities, making it harder for the authorities to track money movements,” Marinier said.
Having old or very young directors is also a red flag. In the Netherlands 38 firms were identified with old or young directors – the oldest being 109 and the youngest just five.
Moody’s said it had sent 1,379 risk alerts to subscribers in the Netherlands between January 2018 to August last year.
The total number of sanctions alerts sent to Moody’s clients rose from about three million in 2017 to more than 58 million in 2023, while money laundering risk alerts rose to more than 56 million in 2023, across more than 220 countries and territories worldwide, the company said.
Some 10,000 shell, or letter-box, companies are based in the Netherlands and are primarily used to shift corporate earnings and obscure ownership.
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