Ministers involved with rewriting a press release about the 4.7 million guilder deal agreed between a senior justice ministry official and a drugs baron told parliament on Wednesday evening they deeply regretted their actions.
The deal between Fred Teeven, who went on to become junior justice minister, and Cees H was never disclosed to the tax office. An independent report on the case last week said the deal showed ‘serious shortcomings’ and criticised the way parliament has been misinformed about the amount of money involved.
Since the report was published it has emerged that newly appointed justice minister Ard van der Steur and his deputy Klaas Dijkhoff were closely involved in determining how the cabinet should deal with the fall out from media revelations about the deal earlier this year.
The two men were MPs at the time but have since replaced Teeven and his boss Ivo Opstelten who both resigned because of the scandal in March.
The two MPs advised ministers to strongly deny claims in television show Nieuwsuur that the deal had involved returning 4.7 million guilders to Cees H. ‘That was because it could cause confusion,’ Van der Steur said ahead of Wednesday’s debate.
Despite the apologies, opposition MPs voted in favour of motion of censure against the two ministers and prime minister Mark Rutte. This is not as serious as a motion of no confidence and Rutte said there is no reason why he should resign.
‘Apologies cannot undo the damage that has been done,’ D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said.
ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers said the debate is about more than politics. ‘How can we expect the man in the street to obey the law when they are getting the impression that politicians don’t have to? he said.
The ruling coalition, made up of the right-wing VVD and the Labour party, has 76 of the 150 seats in parliament.
During the debate, Rutte said his defence of Fred Teeven’s actions last week had been ‘unbelievably stupid, which only made things worse.’
‘I have been in politics for 13 years and this is the most difficult debate of my political career,’ he said. ‘I should have taken control much earlier. ‘
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