Dutch take aid group to court in ransom battle

27th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

27 July 2004 , AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry has confirmed it will take aid organisation Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG) to court to reclaim ransom money paid to obtain the release of kidnapped Dutchman Arjan Erkel earlier this year.

27 July 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry has confirmed it will take aid organisation Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG) to court to reclaim ransom money paid to obtain the release of kidnapped Dutchman Arjan Erkel earlier this year.

Foreign Minister Ben Bot had previously told MPs by letter that the Dutch government would take legal steps if AzG (known in English as Doctors without Borders) continued to refuse repayment.

Bot still claims that the Foreign Ministry paid the greatest part of a EUR 1 million ransom on agreement that the aid group would repay the money. AzG denies it ever gave the ministry that assurance.

The Dutch government is reportedly demanding the repayment of EUR 770,000 and a ministry spokeswoman confirmed on Tuesday that legal action to recoup the ransom will now go ahead, news agency ANP reported.

The court battle is taking place in Switzerland because Erkel worked for the Swiss division of the international aid group, newspaper De Telegraaf reported. The legal action was lodged in Geneva on Tuesday.

Erkel was released in April 2004 after spending almost 20 months in captivity in the Russian republic of Dagestan. He was head of mission for AzG when he was kidnapped at gunpoint in the Dagestan capital Makhachkala in August 2002.

Both the Russian and Dagestani authorities said they had been involved in freeing him and later a group of former KGB officers said they had been recruited to negotiate his release.

Erkel has since said it was "unpleasant" his employer was refusing to pay the ransom and that it was the responsibility of AzG to have paid for his release. He spoke critically of the fact the dispute was being fought in the media and said he no longer wished to work for AzG.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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