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Source: Government of the Netherlands

Criminal networks and subversive practices in which the underworld and legitimate society threaten to become entwined can be tackled in a smarter way. The key condition is that government organisations should be given a wider range of options to share the information at their disposal with one another, so the data can be analysed collectively. This is the crux of the Data Processing Partnerships Bill (Wetsvoorstel gegevensverwerking door samenwerkingsverbanden, WGS) that was submitted to the House of Representatives by Minister Grapperhaus of Justice and Security today, also on behalf of Minister Dekker for Legal Protection.

Minister Grapperhaus wishes to enable optimal exchange of data between government bodies, such as municipalities, the police, the Public Prosecution Service and the Tax and Customs Administration. In order to tackle serious and subversive crime, authorities that possess relevant information should be able to exchange that data with one another in order to take more effective action.

Given that there is no statutory basis for such shared processing of data at present, there is a lack of clarity in many aspects regarding the existing legal options for information to be shared with and processed collectively by multiple government organisations. Minister Grapperhaus wishes to resolve this issue with this bill, which establishes a legal framework for joint data processing. Where strictly necessary, information can also be exchanged with private parties, such as banks, to a limited extent.

The legal economic structures and sound infrastructure of the Netherlands also appeal to criminals for their illegal trafficking practices and to launder their illegally obtained assets. For that reason, it is crucial that investigation authorities and other government agencies should be able to cooperate with one another more intensively – including, on occasion, with businesses and industries. In order to maintain control over the exchange of data, particularly with a view to safeguarding privacy, the bill is accompanied by additional safeguards concerning the use of the data.

At present, government organisations only have limited opportunities to conduct joint data analysis with each other’s data. When it comes to tackling the production, trafficking and transit of synthetic drugs, cocaine, heroin and hemp, money laundering and fraud, joint, cross-domain data processing appears to be a vital means in rapidly identifying criminal networks and their key actors. Furthermore, specific persons and undertakings may be linked in joint case discussions.

A number of issues in relation to the exchange of data with private-sector parties must also be resolved, for example, in order for the knowledge available in the business community on new developments, risks and technologies to be used more effectively. Banks, for example, play a crucial role in relation to tackling financial and economic crime.

This bill removes these obstacles and applies to partnerships designated by or pursuant to this law. First and foremost, this includes the joint data processing of four existing partnerships: the Financial Expertise Centre (FEC), the Criminal and Unaccountable Assets Infobox (iCOV), the Regional Information and Expertise Centres (RIECs) and the Care and Safety Houses (ZVHs).

These partnerships cooperate in order to provide a comprehensive approach to the integrity risks of the financial system, money laundering or fraudulent schemes, organised crime and complex issues surrounding individuals in the field of care and security. The bill facilitates not only the provision of information to, but also the processing of data within those partnerships, and extends to the provision of information from such a partnership to participants or to third parties, subject to specific conditions.

To ensure flexibility, Minister Grapperhaus also wishes to ensure that the exchange of data should be made easier for new partnerships, which will be designated by means of a general administrative order (AMvB). This general administrative order will outline precisely what the purpose of the partnership should be, as well as the specific rules that apply to the processing of data. Parliament will be involved in this process from the outset.

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