Tuesday 05 July 2022

Inquiry into €20 million face mask deal extended to money laundering

Sywert van Lienden in a still from a Hulptroepen.nl YouTube promo

Three entrepreneurs who earned €20 million in a deal to import face masks that was presented as a non-profit venture are being investigated for alleged money laundering, the prosecution service has confirmed.

Former CDA party activist Sywert van Lienden and his two associates, Bernd Damme and Camiel van Gestel, procured the masks at the start of the pandemic in April 2020, ostensibly through an organisation called Stichting Hulptroepen Alliantie.

But it later emerged the bulk of the deal to supply 40 million masks to the health ministry had been routed through a limited company, Relief Goods Alliance, of which the trio were shareholders.

Van Lienden, who said in media appearances at the time that he had not gained financially from brokering the deal, later admitted it had earned him €9 million.

The prosecution service began an investigation into whether the trio should be charged with fraud after personnel agency Randstad, which provided 15 staff to work for Stichting Hulptroepen Alliantie free of charge, filed a formal complaint.

The investigation, codenamed ‘Full Sutton’ after a high-security British prison, was later extended to include embezzlement after it established that the three men paid themselves millions of euros in dividends from Relief Goods Alliance.

A source told NRC that prosecutors were examining whether the large payments amounted to laundering the proceeds of a criminal act.

Van Lienden and Damme are also involved in a separate court case in Amsterdam to decide if they should be disqualified as directors of Stichting Hulptroepen Alliantie.

The hearing is part of a civil case brought by seven former members of staff and the prosecution service, who claim the two men illegally incorporated the non-profit making organisation into their commercial business.

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