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Dutch criminal law

Until 14 December 2001, money laundering cases were prosecuted according to the provisions of art. 416 (fencing) of the Dutch Penal Code. However, case law hindered the prosecution of criminals who laundered their own criminal profits, which therefore called for an independent money laundering offence in the Penal Code. As of 14 December 2001, the Netherlands upholds an independent money laundering offence in the Penal Code. As of 2015, some adjustments in the penal provisions were made that concern aggravation and the criminalization of money laundering in a profession or business.

The main article (420bis Sr) of the Money Laundering provisions in the Dutch Penal Code reads as follows:

1.         Anyone who:

a.         hides or conceals the true nature, the origin, the place where it was found, the disposal or the relocation of an object, or hides or conceals who the person holding title to the object is or who has it in his possession, whereas he knows that the object originates -directly or indirectly- from a criminal offence;

b.         acquires, possesses, passes on or sells an object, or makes use of an object, whereas he knows that the object originates -directly or indirectly- from a criminal offence;

shall be guilty of money laundering and liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six years or a money fine of the fifth category.

2.         Objects include any items of property and any property rights.

Apart from the intent variation as cited above in article 420bis Sr, Dutch law recognizes a habitual variation (420ter Sr eight years of imprisonment) and a culpable variation (420quarter Sr, two years of imprisonment). Habitual money laundering is when a person repeatedly and/or over a longer period of time commits money laundering. The culpable variation, with lighter penalties, is intended for cases in which the money laundering is less reprehensible, for instance the partner of a criminal who should have wondered where all the money came from and did not do anything.

Dutch law employs the so-called “catch all  approach”. The highest Dutch court, has stipulated that it is not required to derive from the evidence at hand what exact predicate offence has been committed. Because of this, the evidence of money laundering can also be acquired by an indirect approach. Click here to read more about the indirect method of proof.


A person cannot be found guilty of money laundering by the mere acquisition of an object from his/her own crime. A thief cannot be convicted for laundering an object at the moment he/she has stolen it. This trend has developed in case law and is known as the exclusion ground. The exclusion ground was repaired when articles 420bis.1 and 420quater.1 came into effect on 1 January 2017. Possessing an object that originates directly from a person's own crime is now punishable as basic money laundering with a maximum sentence of respectively 6 and 3 months of imprisonment. Click here to read more about self-laundering.

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