Sunday 20 June 2021

Minister agrees to look into €100m face mask deal funding


Medical care minister Tamara van Ark has agreed to an extra investigation into a €100m deal to import face masks from China, which netted three young entrepreneurs with no experience of PPE €20m in profits.

Van Ark told MPs on Thursday she had only just discovered that the health ministry fully funded the deal upfront, and said she wanted to find out exactly how this was done. The ministry also covered the cost of transporting the masks, which are still in storage, to the Netherlands.

Former civil servant and CDA manifesto writer Sywert van Lienden put the deal together ostensibly via a charity and claimed repeatedly it was a non-profit arrangement.

But the face masks were actually imported via limited company he and two associates set up specially for the purpose. Journalism platform Follow the Money later determined that the three had earned €20m on the deal.

Van Ark told MPs that the deal, one of several sealed last spring which required payment in advance, was agreed at a time when there was a major shortage of face masks. In addition, parliament had demanded that ministers organise sufficient PPE as quickly as possible, she said.

‘The most important thing is that we had the face masks,’ she told television programme EenVandaag. ‘We did not have the luxury of choice. If we needed to pay upfront, then we did.’

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