The Dutch state is taking legal action against a controversial company that supplied millions of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic but has not yet said on what grounds.
Former CDA activist Sywert van Lienden and two others procured 40 million masks at the start of the pandemic in April 2020, ostensibly through a non-profit organisation called Stichting Hulptroepen Alliantie.
But it later emerged the bulk of the €100 million deal to supply masks to the health ministry had been routed through a limited company, Relief Goods Alliance, of which the trio were shareholders.
Van Lienden at the time maintained he had not gained financially from brokering the deal, but later admitted it had earned him and his associates more than €20 million.
The decision to press ahead with a civil procedure has been taken on the advice of government lawyers, care minister Conny Helder told MPs in a briefing. “I cannot go into details in the interests of the legal proceedings,” she said.
Last December it became clear that the government would try to recover some of the cash and the public prosecution department also launched a criminal investigation. This case is unconnected to that probe.
The Volkskrant reported in June that the Dutch government prioritised “politically sensitive” bidders for protective equipment contracts at the start of the coronavirus pandemic because it was anxious about negative publicity.
The paper said that the health ministry drew up a ‘VIP lane’ of 239 bidders, mostly big businesses and well connected entrepreneurs, out of the 3,600 offers to buy face masks, surgical gloves and other medical garments.
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