Former health minister publishes face mask text messages


Former health minister Hugo de Jonge has made public dozens of pages of text messages from himself and his political advisor about efforts to acquire enough face masks and other PPE at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary debate on the face mask scandal, in which the government paid €100 million for masks which were supposed to be non-profit but which created three millionaires.

Last month the Volkskrant revealed that De Jonge had direct contact with former civil servant and CDA activist Sywert van Lienden about the deal, which netted him and his two colleagues €20 million between them.

De Jonge told his successor Conny Helder in a letter on Wednesday that he now believes he should have informed parliament earlier about his dealings with Van Lienden. At the same time, De Jonge has stressed that offers for PPE were the responsibility of his fellow minister as minister for medical care.

De Jonge, now minister for housing, will take part in Thursday’s debate to answer questions about his role in the affair. He has also been criticised for using his private email address for ministerial issues.


The messages released on Wednesday make it clear that Van Lienden told De Jonge the deal was being arranged via a non-profit foundation, but this later transpired not to be true.

He later claimed the limited company had been set up at the behest of the health ministry. But according to Follow The Money, Van Lienden’s partner Bernd Damme commissioned work to start on forming the limited company on April 9, before any proposal had been sent to the health ministry and before detailed talks on the plan had taken place.

The public prosecution department is currently investigating the deal following a formal complaint by staffing agency Randstad, which provided several workers free of charge to what it thought was a non profit venture.

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