Thursday 25 February 2021

Prime minister, ministers under fire over drug dealer payment

Dutch parliamentPrime minister Mark Rutte and the two justice ministers came under heavy fire in parliament on Wednesday afternoon as MPs debated a deal struck between a senior ministry official and a convicted drugs dealer in 2000.

The deal between Fred Teeven, who went on to become junior justice minister, and Cees H ,involved a 4.7 million guilder payment to H, which was never disclosed to the tax office. The deal also allowed H to escape prison.

An independent report on the case last week said the deal showed ‘serious shortcomings’ and criticised the way parliament has been misinformed.

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.

At that point, written evidence of the settlement had not yet been traced in the justice ministry archives, he said.

Astonished

D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said during the debate he was astonished at the way parliament had been misinformed about the deal and the involvement of the two then-MPs. ‘Good journalistic detective work’ had been dismissed, he said.

During the debate, which is set to continue into the evening, several party leaders said that Van der Steur and Dijkhoff, while MPs themselves, had helped the minister give wrong information to parliament.

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.

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