Last week I went to a private exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler gallery. I started a conversation with a Dutch lawyer Reinier who expressed an interest in my book ‘When you are Super Rich who do you Trust?’ In Reinier’s opinion ‘The Dutch trust no-one; they are paranoid about privacy. None have profiles on Facebook and they do everything they can to keep away from publicity’.
This paranoia stems, so he told me, from Willem Holleeder known to the Dutch as the ‘Nose’ who faced trial in May this year in Amsterdam, for a number of gangland killings after years of ruling the Dutch underworld. He is the most famous gangster in the Netherlands; best known for his role in the kidnapping of the beer tycoon Freddy Heineken in 1983.
Freddy Heineken’s daughter, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, was so disturbed by it that now aged 63, she is a reclusive figure; her alleged net worth is said to be around $10 billion.
Holleeder’s crime was years ago but he still lives on in the minds of the wealthy Dutch. It all started on 9th November 1983, when Freddy Heineken and his chauffeur were kidnapped in broad daylight. They were eventually released on payment of a large ransom; 35 million Dutch guilders (US 21.73 million) which was buried in woods near the town of Zeist.
It is not so much the kidnap which has instilled terror into the hearts and minds of the Dutch because Freddy and his chauffeur were released unharmed, it is knowing what Holleeder was capable of. He is accused of six murders and four attempted murders. His long-time friend and fellow conspirator Hout was shot dead in 2003 and another friend Willem Endstra, whose real estate business was allegedly being used for money laundering, was seen on a bench in front of Endstra’s office with Holleeder, only hours before he was killed. Endstra, was said to be worth 350 million euros.
In 2015 a film was made of Holleeder and Hout ‘The Kidnapping of Freddy Heineken’, which Holleeder tried to prevent being distributed because he was apparently unhappy with the way he was portrayed. His nickname is "The Nose", because of his prominent proboscis, but in the film he was played by the handsome Australian actor Sam Worthington. British actor Jim Sturgess starred as Van Hout. Holleeder is not intimidated by the publicity, he is feared, that is all he needs to know. The publicity only increases his reputation as ruthless, and the fear of him amongst the rich and famous.
The attitude of the Dutch is not unique. In 2008, a total of 4,820 people held close protection licenses in Britain. Now there are 14,073. Before this surge of business, the only people who wanted close protection were those who needed it - due to their political profile or public opinion, and those who wanted to be seen to need it – pop stars, celebrities and other people who seek attention.
Now, however, there is a third type; the ordinary, rich, anxious. The type of bodyguard they are looking for is covert surveillance; bodyguards who blend into the background, who are trained to have peripheral vision – who can see tension building or who know when something is out of the ordinary. They are there to avoid trouble, to pull you out of danger, once suspected. They are there to protect wives on shopping trips, kids to and from school and teens on a night out.
Where I live there has been a sharp increase in bodyguards – I see them sitting in halls, walking up and down the street and riding in escort vehicles, some have tell-tale earpieces, but others are just ordinary folk, ‘hanging around’.
The private client industry should be keen to serve this growing concern of their clients. They need protection not just against physical attack, but from information getting into the wrong hands. Our clients are being villainised as ‘fat cats’.
Tax authorities around the globe have combined forces to eradicate offshore structures. Regardless of their legality, governments now have the means and power to investigate and impose heavy fines on anyone with a trust structure. Trusts are seen as a vehicle to avoid tax and should therefore be eradicated. This puts the responsibility on us to protect our clients and their freedom - as well as our industry.
Governments, the press and the public think it is ok that the privacy of the rich is compromised – whether financial or personal. It is not ok, for the personal safety of anyone – whether rich or poor, to be compromised without good reason!
At GFOS we view CRS as an opportunity to plan, think of new ideas and find solutions to protect our clients. It is however, essential that our clients are tax compliant, with this as our benchmark, we then do what we can to protect their privacy, in an honest, law abiding manner.
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Feel free to contact us if you have similar concerns or would like to discuss matters surrounding privacy and control of our wealth ownership structure or any other relevant matter.
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