(Updates with reaction from industry group)
By Bart H. Meijer
AMSTERDAM, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Trust management firms in the Netherlands must tighten their procedures against money laundering and tax evasion or face higher penalties for wrongdoing, the Dutch central bank said on Tuesday.
The Netherlands, with dozens of tax treaties, is a hub for corporate entities shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions. But it has come under increased international pressure to crack down on tax evasion.
A Dutch parliamentary inquiry in June found that trust managers, who oversee financial assets on behalf of their owners, often ignore international rules and regulations, enabling tax-dodging and other criminal behaviour.
“Progress in the trust management sector has been too slow for too long,” central bank director Frank Elderson said at a meeting with reporters. “The bar for trust managers is being raised and they have to act accordingly.”
In a response to the parliamentary inquiry, the government earlier this month announced new legislation that gives the central bank more power to act against trust managers .
“This will strengthen our supervision,” Elderson said. “But there still are limits to what we can do. The sector needs to improve itself. It’s in the firms own interest to get everyone on the right path.”
The trust offices, which have no obligation to share client details with authorities, are seen as a pivotal player in the financial structures used by companies and wealthy individuals to limit their tax bills.
The Dutch industry group for trust offices, Holland Quaestor, is trying to get companies to qualify for a certificate of good behaviour, by going beyond existing rules and regulations. But Elderson called progress on that front disappointing.
Holland Quaestor said in a statement that stricter rules for the certificate will be introduced shortly. The industry group said it will keep working to improve quality in the trust management.
The central bank estimates there are around 200 trust management organisations in the Netherlands. “The numbers are declining”, Elderson said. “And we expect that to continue, as it gets harder to comply to the rules, especially for small offices.” (Reporting by Bart Meijer, Editing by Jeremy Gaunt, Larry King)