Bunq ordered designer drugs from website to investigate client

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Internet bank Bunq placed an order from a ‘designer drugs’ web shop in order to test whether its client was behind it, according to a court verdict in Amsterdam.

The bank suspected that L W Sales, which was officially registered as running a dental and lab supplies website, was also dealing in potentially forbidden substances via another site, Chemistry Bay.

Rotterdam-based L W Sales had opened an account with the bank last October and, according to the verdict of summary proceedings in Amsterdam, in June it started to receive payments linked to another site, which was offering designer drug ‘3-CMC’ in crystal and powder form. Images of a banned drug, 3-MMC, which acts like an amphetamine, were shown on the site.

In order to fulfil its legal obligations around integrity, Bunq told the court it placed an order for a packet of 3-CMC crystals from the Chemistry Bay website on August 2. It was asked to pay the account it held for the dental supplies firm, DentalVoordeel – owned by L W Sales.

Both 3-CMC and 3-MMC were defined as controlled ‘harmful new drugs’ by the European Commission in March – and the change was incorporated into Dutch law on August 18.

Bunq froze the company’s bank account, including its balance of €132,000 – according to L W Sales – for a period of four months. The Chemistry Bay site, meanwhile, informed its clients that it had a new account number with a Spanish bank.


L W Sales brought a legal case against Bunq to try to reopen its account and reclaim the balance, arguing that it did not sell 3-MMC, and that when its bank account was closed mid-August, 3-CMC was not a prohibited drug. It argued that its customers were primarily laboratories and that the bank’s investigation was ‘one-sided.’

However, the judge ruled that the firm should have disclosed ‘its exact activities with regard to the website www.chemistrybay.com’ and that it had breached the bank’s general terms and conditions. ‘It is understandable that Bunq does not want to facilitate trade in designer drugs via its paid-for services and does not want to be associated with this,’ the verdict said.

The judge ordered Bunq to refund the contents of the account to L W Sales, but ordered the sales firm to pay the court costs of €1,692.

Adil Mao, lawyer for L W Sales, told Dutch News that the company was ‘considering whether to appeal’. The money in its former bank account has been returned, he said.

Bunq said that its ‘risk-based research’ was compliant with Dutch anti-money laundering and terror financing laws. ‘By using machine learning and other means, we constantly monitor accounts for unusual transactions,’ a spokesperson told Dutch News. ‘If we detect anomalies, we are legally obliged to take action. To give fraudsters as little chance as possible to abuse our systems, we never discuss our fraud prevention methods in detail.’

The Chemistry Bay website is currently ‘under maintenance’.

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