Ahold execs escape with discount sentences

22nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

22 May 2006, AMSTERDAM — Prosecutors are considering appealing after a court in the Dutch capital imposed suspended sentences on former CEO Cees van der Hoeven of Dutch retail giant Ahold. His former right-hand man, CFO Michiel Meurs, received a similar sentence.

22 May 2006

AMSTERDAM — Prosecutors are considering appealing after a court in the Dutch capital imposed suspended sentences on former CEO Cees van der Hoeven of Dutch retail giant Ahold. His former right-hand man, CFO Michiel Meurs, received a similar sentence.

Prosecutor Hendrik-Jan Biemond confirmed shortly after the verdicts were announced on Monday that appeals were being considered. He said the court was right to convict three former Ahold officials on fraud charges. "But in considering penalty the court came to a different conclusion that the prosecution," he said.

The Public Prosecution Service (OM) had sought 14-month custodial sentences against Van der Hoeven and Meurs.

Van der Hoeven also indicated after the hearing he would consider appealing the conviction against him.

The court in Amsterdam sentenced Van der Hoeven and Meurs to nine-month suspended sentences and fined both EUR 225,000 for their roles in the bookkeeping affair that nearly collapsed the supermarket group three years ago in one of Europe's largest scandals.

Jan Andreae, the former Ahold board member responsible for Europe, was given a four-month suspended sentence and fined EUR 120,000. A fourth person, former Supervisory Board member Roland Fahlin, was acquitted.

Shareholder's rights campaigner Peter Paul de Vries described the sentences as "unbelievably low".

Explaining the court's decisions, Judge Frans Bauduin said earlier that the major portion of the fraud that almost bankrupt Ahold had been perpetrated at its US Foodservice business. The three convicted men were not on trial for this. They faced charges arising out of improperly consolidating the results of several retail subsidiaries and adding sales of joint ventures in Scandinavia and South America to Ahold's accounts.

Prosecutors in the US have demanded much heavier sentences for accounting scandals there. Former Enron executives face possible prison terms of up to 30 years and former WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years. He is currently free pending an appeal.

Judge Bauduin said the laws are different in the Netherlands and unlike cases such as Enron, there had been no question of personal enrichment at Ahold. "The sentences are to show disapproval of fraudulent behaviour by people occupying important roles in society, whose behaviour should really act as an example to others," he said.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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