Wednesday 10 August 2022

Lawyers flouted rules on cash payment on a massive scale: NRC


Dutch criminal lawyers have been flouting their own code of conduct on a massive scale by accepting cash payments when there is no practical need to do so, an investigation by sector watchdog Financieel Toezicht Advocatuur (unit FTA) and shared with the NRC has shown.

Lawyers are only allowed to accept cash if a client has no bank account or if the bank account has been sequestered.

However, the investigation, among some 45 law firms across the country, revealed that crowd funding by relatives has led to cash payments, and that lawyers have accepted cash from clients who work in sectors where this is more common, such as the car or hospitality sector.

Payments which exceeded €5,000 were often not discussed with the proper authorities which is also a rule.

The investigation, which covered the years between 2018 and 2020, found that the rules were broken in a large number of cases until the practice started to attract attention in 2020.

‘It is a serious business that the rules were not followed to this extent,’ Evert-Jan Henrichs, chairman of the regional bar council chiefs’ organisation Dekenberaad, told the NRC.

‘We must conclude that a culture has been allowed to develop in which the rules surrounding cash payments have been largely ignored. And we, as regional chiefs, have perhaps been not as vigilant as we could have been,’ he said.

There is a risk that lawyers may have been guilty of money laundering but, Henrichs said, investigators and the public prosecutor will not be actively pursuing perpetrators.

The investigation is ‘thematic and not a criminal investigation,’ Henrichs said. Many lawyers have since stopped accepting cash, although in a number of cases the deans will conduct ‘a further investigation’.

The deans have also announced stricter controls and a €1,000 limit on cash payments as well as a new annual survey to monitor the practice.

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