It’s hard to tie possessions to some Russians, says investigative journalist Dimitri Tokmetzis of Follow The Money. He is investigating this case with an international group of journalists. “Often there are parent companies above them and the assets are not in their own name. You definitely notice that with real estate,” Tokmetzis told EditieNL.
This makes it difficult to search the land register, which contains this type of data. “You can search for natural persons, but it is of no use to you. The rich Russian does not buy the house himself. This goes through a holding company, an intermediary company, which is then registered in Cyprus, for example. What is this farm called? I’ve no idea.
The research group suspects that there are canal houses in Amsterdam that are owned by Russians. “We know that many Russians in the Netherlands are active in business. This mainly concerns businessmen from the oil world. Several oil refineries and drilling platforms in the Netherlands are – in part – in the hands of the Russians. It is almost inevitable that they are here too. have houses.
Tokmetzis finds it frustrating that it is not possible to get the information in the Netherlands. “Kadaster is a very closed organization. Under cover of confidentiality, sometimes they can’t share things, or you have to pay a lot for it,” explains the journalist.
Kadaster states in a response that they are not allowed to register by nationality and therefore cannot be searched: “There must be a legal basis and a formal assignment if Kadaster is to be able and be authorized to carry out this mission and which is currently the subject of an investigation by the ministry.”
If you have found out where the Russians have their property, this does not immediately mean that you can or should do something about it. “We agreed to freeze the assets of wealthy Russians, which is different from taking them,” says criminal lawyer Robbert de Bree.
Even if, according to him, freezing is also complicated. De Bree explains: “It is possible and allowed by European sanctions law, but it is particularly easy with financial assets, i.e. money in the bank. You can easily freeze that, but how to freeze a house or a boat?” It is not easy. “It would then have to be seized, as is currently the case in England with the superyacht”, continues the lawyer. “But that requires additional work from the government. There are countries in the EU that are actively pursuing ownership, but to us that now seems like a bridge too far.”
From a legal point of view, taking possession of a property is also “very difficult”. “There’s currently no law for that in the Netherlands and you haven’t just made one. I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
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