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Internationally acclaimed Dutch interior designer fined 250,000 euros

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) has imposed a penal order on 57-year-old Dutch interior designer Eric Kuster from Huizen and his namesake interior design company. The company is fined 150,000 euros, and the interior designer himself is fined 100,000 euros along with a community service sentence of 140 hours. According to the OM, he and his company are guilty of laundering approximately 3.5 million euros. Additionally, the OM judges that Eric violated the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act by accepting large cash amounts from criminals, mostly indirectly, and issuing false invoices for them.

Kuster had previously been arrested in a major criminal case. Now, his name has surfaced in communications between two suspects in a separate case, discussing the furnishing of a house in Morocco.

Company in Malta
The investigation revealed that the interior designer, in addition to regular clients, also served a significant number of criminal clients, furnishing homes in Morocco and Dubai, among other locations. A large portion of the (international) clientele was serviced through the company's Maltese branch. Clients were not fully or correctly registered under their (full) personal details in the company's administration and could make cash payments through a branch of the interior designer in Morocco. These cash payments were then transferred to the Maltese company via unrelated third parties from countries including Hong Kong, Dubai, England, and Belgium.

According to the OM, the interior designer and his company thus engaged in laundering a total of 3,416,052 euros for various clients. In money laundering, a person (not always intentionally) conducts laundering activities while reasonably suspecting the money to be derived from crime, without trying to prevent it. Given the payment methods and the conversations with clients, where the desire for anonymised administration was repeatedly discussed, it can be assumed that the interior designer should have suspected that the funds received on behalf of those clients were derived from criminal activities and should have conducted customer due diligence.

During a search on May 17, 2021, a cash amount of 35,000 euros was found and seized at the interior designer's premises. The interior designer stated that he had received this amount in cash from one of the (according to the OM, criminal) clients, thereby constituting money laundering of this cash amount. Moreover, the interior designer should have reported this unusual transaction, failing to do so also constitutes a violation of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act.

The OM imposes a penal order in the form of fines and a community service sentence on the 57-year-old man from Huizen and his company, allowing the case to be concluded more swiftly without court intervention. The man is fined 100,000 euros and must perform a community service sentence of 140 hours. The company is fined 150,000 euros. Additionally, he forfeits the cash amount of 35,000 euros. 'He has also submitted documents indicating the (planned) liquidation of the company in Malta and has brought his internal compliance and client screening up to standard. Moreover, with this penal order, the 57-year-old interior stylist now has a criminal record,' says the prosecutor.

The investigation
The investigation focused on a specific part of the interior designer's business operations. The company served not only regular clients but also clients who, according to the OM, are involved in criminal activities. From another criminal investigation, the interior designer emerged in message exchanges between two suspects discussing the furnishing of a house in Morocco. Following this message exchange, the FIOD initiated an investigation to determine the extent of this practice and whether he should be held criminally responsible.

Source: OM

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