An Enschede woman whose photo was handed to the police by SNS Bank and used on a television crime show is going to court later this week to get her name formally cleared as well as financial compensation.
Fatima L’Bouhdidi was horrified when friends and family alerted her to the fact her picture had been shown on TV Oost programme Onder de Loep as a wanted Whatsapp fraudster who had stolen €3,000 from several victims.
“I was completely hysterical and so embarrassed,” she told RTL Nieuws. “Everyone saw me as a criminal.” She rang the police alarm number in panic and two officers came to her house to calm her down.
The officers realised quickly that L’Bouhdidi was no fraudster and that she had only taken out €10 from an ATM on the day in question. The film was removed from social media but, the damage had been done.
A few days later she rang the police again to find out what had happened, only to be told that SNS had delivered the right footage and she was the suspect they were looking for after all.
L’Bouhdidi was called to the police station for an interview and advised to bring a lawyer. The duty officer insisted she was the person they were looking for and needed to be photographed and fingerprinted.
It was not until an hour later that the mistake came to light. There had been an IT problem at the bank which meant the time of the cash withdrawal and the photograph of the real crooks did not match. L’Bouhdidi was recorded on the time clock as withdrawing cash from the con victims.
Since then L’Bouhdidi and her daughter have struggled with stress and other problems relating to the incident. On Friday she will appear in court in Utrecht in an effort to get to the bottom of what went wrong.
“My client and her daughter are still suffering the impact of what happened,” lawyer Gert Poot from STIP Advocaten told the programme. “People who watch tv crime shows assume that the photos shown are correct… it is important that the bank recognises this and takes responsibility.”
SNS Bank told Dutch News that it had apologised via the television programme and had tried since then to speak to L’Bouhdidi personally.
“We have tried several times and using different avenues to get in contact with her,” a spokesman said. “We will continue to do so, even though we have unfortunately not yet managed to do so.”
“It is our duty to provide the images if the police ask for them,” the spokesman said. “Whether and how the police use them is part of their investigative role… For Ms L’Bouhdidi, this has turned out to be very unfortunate. As we have said, we deeply regret that.”
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