Russia circumvents sanctions via front companies in the Netherlands

Russia circumvents sanctions via front companies in the Netherlands

Posted Nov 2, 2022 3:53 p.m. Updated Nov 2, 2022 4:59 p.m

The Russian military intelligence service GRU is said to have set up a large number of companies in the Netherlands to buy products that Russia can no longer source due to the sanctions. In an interview with the Dutch daily newspaper FD, the director of the Dutch military intelligence service (MIVD), Jan Swillens, revealed that dozens of companies would be involved.

Through intermediaries, consultants, and individual contractors, the Russians are getting their hands on advanced sensors, radars, maritime technologies, and microprocessors. There is also strong demand for products that can be used in both the civil and military sectors, such as special coatings for vehicles or rubber.

A privileged playground

The Netherlands seems to be becoming a privileged playground for foreign intelligence agencies. Diplomatic officials from the Iranian embassy recently filmed anti-Iranian regime protesters in the Netherlands. And last week the press revealed that China uses two totally illegal “police stations” based in the Netherlands and uses Chinese police to pressure dissidents based in the kingdom. Also in France a current topic.

The Dutch Assembly demands that the government take action against these illegal activities. “It is embarrassing that the Dutch high-tech sector is unknowingly contributing to the Russian war machine. The government should protect these companies more actively. It is important that this stops as soon as possible,” said MP Hind Dekker-Abdulaziz of the liberal party D66, one of the ruling coalition parties.

More collaboration

When asked by Les Echos, the MIVD remains vague on the details of the GRU’s alleged activities: “It’s been going on for some time. We are now warning companies in the high-tech sector, but also all other companies, to be vigilant and research the intentions of their customers. According to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, the nationality of people registering a new company is not systematically listed. Therefore, there is no data on the number of Russian companies in the country, and it is not known whether their number has increased since the beginning of the war.

Russia would have set up this type of company anywhere other than the Netherlands. “We also see such constructions in companies from the rest of Europe,” explains Bart Groothuis, Dutch MEP for the Renew Group. In order to denounce such practices, the parliamentarian would like to see greater cooperation between the European secret services.

A European “Five Eyes”

“The solution lies in the creation of a European ‘Five Eyes’, equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon model,” said the MP, referring to the system of cooperation between the intelligence services of the US, UK and Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Under this model, the Member States of the European Union, as well as the EU institutions, would share sensitive issues within a limited group of officials.

But according to Bart Groothuis, it is important that member states trust each other more. “Paris’ mistrust of certain countries that are happy to work with the United States or the United Kingdom really needs to go,” he said. A candid message from the MEP to the Elysée, which he accuses of being suspicious of states that are more Atlantic than France, such as the Netherlands or Denmark.