Letter from the Director
Welcome to Yale Model Government Europe 2018! My name is Gregory and I am excited to be your Director for the Netherlands Cabinet. As Director, I look forward to making your experience at YMGE a fulfilling and enjoyable one through exciting debate and engaging discussion. Our topic on organized crime in the Netherlands is not only a pressing issue, but it also connects to major economic, social, and political changes occurring in Europe that are shaping major events today. We will touch upon immigration and transit, crime and policing, unemployment and parallel economies—all within the context of Dutch politics, including the rise of populism in recent years.
I am a sophomore at Jonathan Edwards College and also a prospective Economics and History double major. Hailing from tropical Indonesia, I now spend most of my time with the Yale International Relations Association, as USG of International Recruitment for YMGE, DG of Administration for YMUN Taiwan, and USG of Business and Conference for SCSY. Besides YIRA, you can also find me organizing events for the Indonesia Yale Association and drinking coffee at New Haven’s various cafes.
As your Director, I am happy to answer any questions and help you any way I can. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
See you on the banks of the Danube!
I. Dutch Government and Dutch Political Parties
To navigate this committee as the Dutch cabinet, we must first understand the structure of the Dutch government. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, with a constitution regulating the powers of the Dutch monarch. This constitution forms the foundation of the Dutch political system, organizing the Dutch state based on the principle of the trias politica, or the separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature, and executive. Nevertheless, he Netherlands as a parliamentary democracy shares legislative power between the Dutch parliament’s two chambers and the government. The Dutch parliament, known as the States-General, consists of the House of Representatives (Second Chamber) and the Senate (First Chamber). The former has greater power and elections for its representatives are held every four years. The members of the Senate, on the other hand, is chosen by members of provincial parliaments in an indirect election.
The government, or the Cabinet, is formed right after the election. However, this is difficult as the Dutch House of Representatives consist of a large number of parties—no political party has ever gained an absolute majority, meaning that two or more parties must always form a coalition working together in the Council of Ministers. These ministers run the government and make law in collaboration with both chambers, implementing policy under the scrutiny of the parliament.
Political parties begin to develop in the Netherlands in the second half of the nineteenth century and for decades, the parties have been dominated by three main groups – the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. The Social Democrats, also known as the Labor Party (PvDA), aims to promote solidarity with the less advantaged and reform Dutch society by gradual means. The Christian Democrats is a merger of two Protestant parties and a Roman Catholic party that takes its inspiration from the Bible and acts based on four principles: justice, the shared responsibility of the government and society, and solidarity, as well as stewardship (the care of the environment). Lastly, the Liberals (VVD), promoting liberal political ideology (as opposed to the liberal-conservative dichotomy in the United States), aim to restrict the extent of state intervention in society and the economy and place high importance on the individual freedom of Dutch citizens.
In recent years, however, new parties have formed in response to changes in society or to represent interests that do not fall squarely inside the above three groupings. For example, both the Reformed Political Party, an orthodox Protestant party, and the Christian Union, a liberal Christian party, exist outside of the Christian Democrats, while the Social Party and GreenLeft Party accommodates those with leftist and progressive environmental focus respectively. Hence, while grouping parties within the Dutch system is a relative exercise, political parties can be grouped broadly into left-wing, right-wing, or centrist parties based on the extent to which parties aim to establish economic, knowledge, and power equality between citizens and whether they seek to use government power to accomplish this.
II. The Dutch Election of 2017
In 2017, the Dutch election came under the scrutiny of the international media as a new example of the global contest between populism and establishment politics. The incumbent prime minister Mark Rutte’s VVD is seen to have been challenged by the emergence of the Party for Freedom (PVV), a conservative, xenophobic party headed by Geert Wilders. Wilders, much in the same vein of Donald Trump in the United States and Marine Le Pen in France, relies on nativist and populist forces in the Netherlands, but is also anti-Islam to the level that he proposes the closing of all mosques and Islamic schools and a ban of the Qur’an in the Netherlands.
As a result of the election, Rutte’s VVD came first with the 21.3 percent of the vote and Wilders’ PVV came second with 13.1 percent, paving the way for the VVD to form a coalition with the center-right Christian Democrats, Christian Union, and the progressive D66. Nonetheless, this is not to say that Wilders is the sole politician who seeks to defend “Dutch” and “Christian” values against the threat of Islam and leftism. Rutte also seems to advance a “good” kind of populism, one that still relies on the tensions between “real Dutch people” and those with immigrant roots.
Topic History and Background
I. Organized crime and its manifestations
Organized crime, while conjuring up images of an omnipresent Italian mafia with powers extending from the political, economic, and social, is nowadays mostly recognized as the organization and flow of illegal markets. Much until the mid 1980s, virtually all Western European countries, except Italy, considered themselves to be exempt from the problem of organized crime. However, as the forces of globalization and internationalization brought upon by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the abolition of internal border controls in the European Union have rapidly strengthened, illegal drug and human smuggling industries have become easier to be conducted and more prominent in Europe.
As such, beginning in the late twentieth century, policymakers and academics begin to shift their definition of organized crime from a centralized criminal organization to the provision of illegal goods and services itself, or “illicit enterprise.” Rather than a hierarchically structured organization, illicit enterprise in Europe and the Netherlands are mostly cellular in structure. According to Europol[Office 1] , affiliations within this enterprise are loose, broken, and reformed on a regular basis with vague chains of commands. Fijnaut and Paoli [Office2] further reports that these illegal exchanges are carried out by numerous, small, and often ephemeral enterprises. They identified two major factors causing this to happen. First, Fijnaut and Paoli argues that illegal enterprises cannot enforce contracts to state legal means because the goods and services they sell are illegal. Second, illicit enterprises are constantly under the threat of capture and they seek to reduce the risk of police detection. As such, most groups tend to focus on relatives and friends as their networks, as well as reduce the number of customers and employees to maintain a low profile. In the Netherlands, the Research and Documentation Center of the Dutch Ministry of Justice concluded, “no criminal group at either national or local level has ever gained control of legitimate sectors of the economy by taking over crucial businesses or trade unions.”
Due to the relatively lax drug policy of the Netherlands, however, drug production and trade has indeed begun to take root there. According to Europol, in recent years,the majority of ecstasy that is imported into the United States and sold in Europe is derived from production facilities in the southern regions of the Netherlands. Half of the $5.7 billion a year of cocaine consumed in the Netherlands has been transported through the Dutch shipping hub Rotterdam.
For some groups with more capital, illicit enterprises also invest in industries such as transport, finance, real estate, and hotel and nightlife to facilitate transactions and other activities, as well as reinvest profits gained from conducting the enterprise. According to the Dutch de Telegraaf newspaper, “Detectives see that small criminals develop into wealthy entrepreneurs who establish themselves in the hospitality industry, housing market, middle class, travel agencies.” Nonetheless, the involvements of organized crime groups in the economy does not imply that the same case applies in government. In most Western European countries, it is rare to find organized criminals possessing influence in institutions through corruption.
With the Dutch police recently finding it difficult to tackle the rise in organized crime, we should now seek to understand what societal conditions has allowed this to happen. A key factor is the Netherland's unique drug policy.
II. Drug policy in the Netherlands
While indeed many countries choose to regulate once-illegal markets such as gambling, the Netherlands is unique in its approach towards the regulation of drugs. At the core of the Dutch policy is the notion that the prevalence of drugs is primarily a public health and welfare issue instead of a criminal one, and that risk reduction is the number one priority. Hence, in 1976, the Dutch government created a clear definitional separation between hard drugs (such as heroin) and soft drugs (such as cannabis). By maintain these two separate categories, harsher law enforcement and prosecution could be maintained for the former compared to the latter.
The objective of this policy is to prevent users of soft-drugs from coming into contact with merchants who sold hard drugs. In the 1970s, the Board of Procurators Generals stopped the persecution of the possession of consumer quantities of narcotics, as well as the sale of hashish and marijuana in so-called “coffee shops.” Still, this approach is developed from a public-health perspective to prevent young users from getting exposed to illegal drug markets. Indeed, research indicates that markets for cannabis and for hard drugs like heroin, crack, and cocaine are more separate in the Netherlands than other European countries and the United States,
However, since the 1990s, many critics recognized that the leniency of Dutch drug policy has caused several problems. First, while the sale of cannabis in “coffee shops” is non-prosecutable, it is not technically legal, and the production of cannabis itself is still illegal. However, the cultivation of cannabis in the Netherlands has become widespread and there exists a mature industry with high levels of export. The problem is, organized crime cells are still involved in the cultivation of cannabis, but alongside that, also the production of hard drugs such as amphetamines and ecstasy, as well as international drug trade. Hence, the Netherlands is consolidated as a major transit point in international drug trade, including as a place for organized Dutch crime networks to smuggle heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines.
From a consumer standpoint, the suspension of the prosecution of coffee shops has increased the flow of drug tourism into the Netherlands. Now, it is common for the average French or German 20-year-old to drive to a city in the Netherlands, perhaps Maastricht, and consume cannabis recreationally. Critics have pointed that the influx of drug tourists have led to increased public nuisance.
Furthermore, the prevalence of Dutch use of cannabis and ecstasy remains high overall in international comparisons. For Dutch youth themselves, Van Laar, van Ooyen-Houben, and Monshouwer report that users of cannabis use more hard drugs than nonusers. In addition, the use of cannabis is also higher among vulnerable youth and those who suffer from aggression, problems at school and psychological problems. For some, cannabis can also trigger psychotic symptoms or addition – over a 3-year period, 37 percent of cannabis users show first symptoms of dependence form those three years.
In essence, the health-oriented and harm-reduction approach that characterized Dutch drug policies, to a certain extent, has succeeded in separating the markets for soft and hard drugs in the Netherlands. But, it has also strengthened the Netherlands as a major point for cannabis and other drug trafficking as well as the prevalence of organized crime.
III. Past efforts to tackle organized crime
As politics and policy makers in Europe and the Netherlands began to become aware of the threat of organized crime, there is new attention brought on the idea of preventing such crimes to take place. The most significant policy measure that aims to tackle this is the 1997 action plan from the European Union, which provided seven recommendations:
developing an anti-corruption policy within the government apparatus;
making it possible to exclude persons convicted of offences relating to organised crime from tendering procedures;
collecting and the mutual exchange of information by member states on legal entities and natural persons – pursuant to regulations for the protection of personal information ‘as a means to prevent the penetration of organized crime in the public and legitimate private sector’;
devoting financial resources from various funds ‘to prevent larger cities in the Union from becoming breeding grounds for organized crime’;
developing closer cooperation between EU member states and the European Commission to combat fraud where the financial interests of the European Union are concerned;
establishing an action programme to invest in the training of individuals to fulfil a key role in formulating and implementing preventative policy measures in the area of organised crime;
introducing measures for the improved protection of certain vulnerable groups against the influence of organised crime, for example via codes of conduct.
These seven policies formed the basis of new directives and policy plans launched by the EU and its member states. For example, in the Netherlands, recommendation #1 to develop an anti-corruption policy is materialized by an increased focus a to defend the integrity of the public administration through public awareness campaigns and the inclusion of lawyers and accountants in government audit schemes. These audits focused on whether government officials has abused their positions in order to gain improper advantages or pass those advantages to outsiders. Following this, the government establish a code of conduct for civil servants to indicate permissible and non-permissible activities, including a whistleblowing mechanism. In addition, the government also refused to grant permits and subsidies for criminal organizations and excluded them from tendering procedures.
The preventative approach is also materialized at the local level. For example, in Amsterdam, the city council were facing problems with criminal organizations developing in the red-light district. In response, the city established screening strategies to exclude criminals from the business environment in Amsterdam. The government found that the red-light district had become a fertile breeding ground for illegal and criminal activities[Office3] because the government had loss control of the district. The civil service administration had become negligent in dealing with the red-light district, and in doing so, had unknowingly facilitated crime in the area. Thus, the city government began to emphasize about how municipal administration need to actively understand what goes on in their respective urban areas and share these data sources with the police, judiciary and tax authorities. It is believed that a strong, well-informed public administration would hence hinder the further development of crime.
Such an approach is also known as the administrative approach toward tackling organized crime. The central proposition of this approach is to prevent illicit enterprises and criminal networks from using the facilities of public administration that they require to carry out illegal activities or invest illegally acquired capital. For example, governments can exclude criminal organizations from public sectors or refuse to provide subsidies or licenses for certain activities in order to prevent the investment of criminal capital into the legal economic sector. A major challenge in doing so is the collection of information. In Amsterdam, this policy is known as Van Traa, and the team assembled a collective force ot tax authorities, the police, and city administration to collect information on properties and the utilization of buildings.
Of course, such an approach complements the efforts of the police and the judiciary that are already existing in the Netherlands.
I. The current state of Dutch organized crime
In February 2018, the Dutch police association warned that the Netherlands is beginning to resemble the narco-state. While crime is on a downward trend, the police asserts that this is due to victims not reporting incidents and organized crime syndicates receiving lax attention from authorities. According to the de Telegraaf, “Only one in nine criminal groups can be tackled with the current people and resources,” with a parallel economy emerging in the Netherlands.
The problem, however, has gone further than the sale of cannabis and other drugs. According to the Guardian, Amsterdam’s police chief, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, claimed that the Amsterdam police force is spending 60 to 70 percent of its time combating gang-related hit jobs because young men in Amsterdam are now carrying out assassinations for as little as 3000 euros.
The following are some key case studies on various manifestations of organized crime:
A) Production, trafficking, and smuggling of synthetic drugs
In recent years, the production and export of precursors of synthetic drugs (used to chemically synthesize these drugs in a laboratory) have been limited in China and Russia, which has caused organized crime groups to start looking for alternatives. Today, these groups have begun to import precursors of these precursors, which are not illegal, from China to synthesize into precursors, and eventually synthetic drugs in the Netherlands.
The challenge for legal authorities lies in the fact that these substances are legally tradable, but they lead to the production of illegal drugs. Dutch nations would often order the substances via the Internet and import these substances via chemical companies they have established in Eastern Europe and Hong Kong. To avoid inspection, incorrect labels will be applied on the dangerous substances, but such mislabelling may cause dangerous situations during sea or air transport.
B) Sexual exploitation
In the Netherlands, it is legal for adults to provide paid sexual services, but offering or paying for sexual services when it is a case of sexual exploitation and/or if the service is provided by minors constitutes a criminal offense. The challenge with tackling sexual exploitation is that the industry is underground, hidden under the legal cover of certain paid sexual services, and victims often stay hidden to the authorities. Victims who are brought to the Netherlands from overseas often have a problems of language, and they are confused as to where to find help or whether to reach out to the police. After all, some victims do not even realize that they are victims of exploitation in the first place, and others live in fear of being deported from the Netherlands.
While the majority of suspects that organize sexually exploitative schemes are men, women, commonly the partner or sister of the male suspect, also often play a facilitating roles by arranging the journey abroad or providing the house. Another key player is middlemen who perform odd jobs with respect to housing and arranging documentation.
Many of these victims are first selected through the Internet, where photos and clips of a sexual nature of the victim (sexting) is used as blackmail to force women to work as prostitutes. Recruiters now use a combination of physical violence and deception, bringing victims from Eastern Europe and beyond with Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania as entry points. There are also migrants and asylum seekers outside of the EU who are increasingly victims of such schemes. This does not preclude, however, that Dutch victims of trafficking to exist.
Traffickers of these victims often select and set the place of work for these victims and determine their working hours. Victims often work long days (between 12 and 19 hours) and still have to work when they are tired, ill or having their period. Their clients, on the other hand, come from online advertisements for their own friends and these is concealed using prepaid telephones and the use of cash instead of bank cards.
C) Human smuggling and the refugee crisis
Human smuggling, defined as persons who provide assistance to another person to unlawfully obtain entry to the Netherlands, is related closely to the refugee crisis with refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq would go through the Eastern Mediterranean route running for Turkey to Greece, then reaching the Netherlands through the Western Balkans.
While the Netherlands used to be transit country for migrants on their way to the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, it is slowly becoming a destination country, especially for Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers (although it is important to note that not all of these asylum seekers have engaged in such smuggling activities). The problem with human smuggling lies in the fact that smugglers would charge exorbitant fees to carry refugees into the European Union, but also engage in high-risk travels that lends to the images of capsized boats and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. Thousands of people die each year due to smugglers using unsafe boats, and this also exerts psychological damage.
Overall, the problem of human smuggling in the Netherlands and its ties to the refugee crisis are complex, but nevertheless it becomes a node in the organized crime network in the Netherlands. The question lies in how to improve the safety of the journey of these refugees, implement humane and legal methods of asylum-seeking, and to identify the exact role organized crime networks play in facilitating this journey.
D) Illegal trafficking of firearms and explosives
Since 2012, the demand for automatic firearms in the Netherlands have increased with conventional arms mostly coming from Germany and Belgium, as well as Slovakia and Bulgaria. For example, criminal groups would often purchase deactivated firearms from Slovakia arms stores to be activated in the Netherlands while others would purchase Turkish pistols in Bulgaria via the internet and then assemble and modify them in the Netherlands. The ordering of these firearms come from webshops or the dark net and transactions take place via TOR networks. The Netherlands not only become a node in transit crime that imports such firearms, but groups have also found ways to internationally ship them to places like the United States.
To evade capture, firearms dealers would engage parcel companies to covertly ship batches of firearms from within Europe to the United States. According to the 2018 National Threat Assessment, many of these groups come from linked travelers, outlaw motorcycle gang members, criminal groups from the former Yugoslavia or Antilles or criminal youth gangs. The risk with having a large volume of firearm sale is that it is used not only in direct murder but also in public violence, home robberies, extortion and manslaughter.
E) Fraud, the distribution of counterfeit money, and money laundering
Financial crimes have also been a major component of organized crime in the Netherlands. First, there has been a surge in the number of counterfeit euro notes that is detected from 29,500 in 2012 to 66,500 in 2015. Individuals known as “money mules” would smuggle large amounts of counterfeit notes by train, plane, or cars as well as through the dark web and then exchange them with real money by making small purchases and receiving change. They would often do so in mom-and-pop stores, pharmacies, department stores, as well as through online shops.
Second, fraud has also become more common. There are many different types, but a major point of similarity is the use of straw men and identity fraud. Straw man refers to youths, students, or those in direct need of money who make their bank account numbers available, open bank accounts, take out telephone plans, or have companies or legal entities put in their name as an intermediary for criminals to better hide their identities. Oftentimes, these straw men are not informed by their complicity but they allow the suspects to perform their routines convincingly. Identity fraud, on the other hand, occurs when someone feigns to be another person to make a purchase or obtain money using forged documents.
Third, money laundering is conducted to conceal the origins of illegally obtained money through the use of foreign banks or other businesses. For example, some money laundering schemes involves setting up trust office foundations in the Netherlands. These foundations are set up with the purpose of investing capital in the Netherlands, hence these accounts are often misused and the legal ownership in the registers are often inaccurate. In 2007, Utrecht University calculates that the Dutch money laundering market concerns an amount of 18.5 billion euros, but recent innovations in blockchain technology have provided a new challenge in the mixing and transfer of criminal funds with a company’s legitimate sales and property investments.
II. Organized crime investigation, prosecution and prevention
While the Dutch police conducts investigation with unobtrusive methods such as wiretapping, the fact that many organized crime activities have been shifted to the online have led police to also investigate using web monitoring. The development of cybercrime in the Netherlands possess a new major challenges as many small and medium-sized enterprises and governmental organizations with poor IT systems have become victims of extortion through ransomware. DDoS attacks have also been used for extortion purposes rendering websites inaccessible.
McAfee and Deloitte estimate that the total loss suffered by the Dutch economy as a result of cybercrime is at 8.8 and 10 billion euros respectively, around 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In this era of digitized crime, it is important to consider how the government can tackle the medium of the Internet a s atool for concealment and the hiding of data, identities, communications, and financial transactions from the government.
III. Social embeddedness and other socio-economic factors
To solve the problem of organized crime, we need to further understand the factors that drive people into joining organized crime groups. Social relations form the basis for criminal cooperation and its structure is fluid and changes over time. Ina lot of cases, illicit opportunities are introduced by family, friend, and other acquaintances, and then spread through the same channels. In transit crime, trust in criminal cooperation becomes vital, which pushes many to rely on those closest to them.
Those involved in organized crime also have a variety of occupations. Some occupations though, such as those related to logistics and transport allow for participants to develop international contacts and travel which provide opportunities to conduct such crime. Furthermore, the ‘social’ nature of occupations also play a part with occupations that offer more opportunities to meet other potential co-offenders being more lucrative.
Indeed, there is a large risk of young people becoming involved in organized crime through recruitment, but in actuality, three quarters of offenders are aged thirty and older. 72 percent of all offenders have encountered the Dutch judicial system before and they come into contact for the first-time at approximately age 27. Research from the * found that people get involved in organized crime through a multitude of channels, from existing social relationships, people you meet at work, people you meet after work during leisurely activities, through recruitment, or through life events. These include bankruptcy as well as serious debt. For these people, they commonly switch at a certain point from their lawful occupations to trade in illegal goods, thus triggering further involvement in criminal activity. Others, on the other hand, merely conduct such illegal trade as an extension of their legal jobs.
At its core, organized crime in the Netherlands is a form of transit crime where the Netherlands becomes just a node in the broader movement of people, goods, and illicit enterprise. A question to consider is how to investigate the relationship between transit crime with the porous EU borders. Thus, the problem of organized crime also becomes one of immigration and borders.
Questions to Consider
I. To what extent should the Dutch government change its approach towards drugs to combat the rise in organized crime? Instead of a two-tiered drug policy, should the Dutch prosecute both producers and users of cannabis?
II. How do new methods of monitoring and investigation conflict with privacy issues, and how should law enforcement address the challenges of monitoring through the web and other digital appliances?
III. How should the Dutch government treat border control in the context of organized crime? Should there be increased security and checks, or stricter controls? In the midst of a nativist rise in the Netherlands, how can other political groups scapegoat immigrants in the fight against organized crime?
IV. Why do people engage in organized crime in the first place? Are there any socioeconomic factors at play? How can we strengthen the economy to eliminate push factors from people to engage In organized crime?
V. How should we strengthen the police apparatus in its efforts to eradicate organized crime?
VI. How can we strengthen the administrative approach to fight organized crime?
Resources for Further Research
Here are some resources you can utilize for further research: