According to Dutch criminal law, both the individual who is directly responsible for the criminal behaviour of the company and the company itself can be held responsible for white collar crime. Accordingly, members of the management board may in the event of mismanagement be held personally liable and may face criminal sanctions.
The Dutch government recently introduced the Act on the expansion of possibilities to act against corporate, economic and financial white collar crime (hereafter: the ‘Act’ and in Dutch:‘Wet verruiming mogelijkheden bestrijding financieel-economische criminaliteit’) in two tranches (January and March 2015) and subsequently the Dutch government was provided with a significant expansion of possibilities to detect and prosecute corporate, economic and financial white collar crime and to impose stricter sentences for these offences.
As a consequence of the introduction of the Act, the maximum prison sentence for corporate, economic and financial white collar offences has increased. In addition, the consistent violation of minor economic corporate crimes, as referred to in article 6 paragraph 1, section 2 of the Economic Offences Act (in Dutch: ‘Wet op de Economische Delicten’) is now punishable. A systematic violation of these laws could now lead to a prison sentence of up to four years or a fine of € 81,000.
Furthermore, an adjustable fine limit has been introduced for companies violating corporate, economic and financial white collar regulation. For example, if a company is held liable for the offence of abuse of governmental subsidies or the bribing of officials and non-officials, the court can now impose a fine upon the company of up to the higher of € 810,000 or 10% of its annual turnover. Moreover, the possibility to deduct costs from the criminally obtained gain is limited.
The Act does not only affect companies and their management (in that they only risk higher sentences and are being deprived of gains obtained through criminal means) but it also provides the Government with broader methods of detection and additional coercive measures which it can deploy against companies and their management. In addition to the increase in the maximum sentence for non-official bribery and the penalties for systematic violation of the minor economic corporate crimes, it is also possible for the authorities to arrest suspects and take them into custody even if they are not caught in the act. Moreover, the authorities in charge of investigation have extended authority to record telecommunications.
Another notable extension is in relation to the statute of limitations for non-official bribery and (consistent) violation of the Economic Offences Act, which has been extended from six to twelve years. As a result, companies and their management are exposed to the risk of prosecution for a substantially longer period of time.
Following the introduction of the Act, we come to the conclusion that addressing corporate, economic and financial white collar crime is high on the agenda of the Dutch government. The expansion of the capabilities of the government to detect and prosecute corporate, economic and financial white collar crime demonstrates the substantial importance of controlling white collar crime in the Netherlands.