Lawyers flouted rules on large-scale cash payment: NRC

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Dutch criminal lawyers have flouted their own code of conduct on a large scale by accepting cash payments when there is no practical need to do so, an investigation by industry watchdog Financieel has shown. Toezicht Advocatuur (FTA unit) and shared with the NRC.

Lawyers are only allowed to accept cash if a client does not have a bank account or if the bank account has been placed in escrow.

However, the survey, of some 45 law firms across the country, found crowdfunding by relatives led to cash payments and lawyers accepting money from working clients. in industries where this is more common, such as automotive or hospitality. sector.

Payments over €5,000 were often not discussed with the relevant authorities, which is also a rule.

The survey, which covered the years between 2018 and 2020, found that the rules had been broken in a large number of cases until the practice began to attract attention in 2020.

“It’s a serious matter that the rules weren’t followed to such an extent,” Evert-Jan Henrichs, chairman of regional bar chiefs’ organization Dekenberaad, told the NRC.

“We must conclude that a culture may have developed in which the rules surrounding cash payments were largely ignored. And we as regional leaders may not have been as vigilant as we could have been,” he said.

There is a risk that lawyers may have been guilty of money laundering, but, Henrichs said, investigators and the prosecutor will not actively pursue the perpetrators.

The investigation is “thematic and not a criminal investigation,” Henrichs said. Many lawyers have since stopped accepting cash, although in a number of cases deans are conducting “further investigation”.

Deans also announced tougher controls and a €1,000 limit on cash payments as well as a new annual survey to monitor the practice.

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