24 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — Construction companies that voluntarily hand over their secret accounting files to Dutch competition watchdog NMa cannot be prosecuted for fraud based on those documents and instead can only be fined, MPs have been informed.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Economic Affairs Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst said legislation states that people or businesses do not need to co-operate with their own convictions, public news service NOS reported on Tuesday.
Therefore, the voluntarily-supplied details of shadow bookkeeping cannot be used by the prosecution. The NMa may only fine the involved companies and cannot pass the documents on to prosecutors because it is bound by an obligation of secrecy.
A rising number of companies are handing in their shadow accounts to the NMa, including construction company BAM, one of the most important suspects in the Dutch building fraud scandal.
Construction companies that do not hand in their secret accounts — which recorded how much above the normal price companies charged for various building projects — will be placed on a black list and in principle will be excluded from future government contracts.
Green-left GroenLinks MP Marijke Vos — who was the chairwoman of a parliamentary commission assigned the task of investigating the first building fraud scandal — is extremely displeased with the two government ministers.
She is opposed to the fact that construction companies can evade the wheels of criminal justice by simply handing in their secret accounts to the NMa.
But an MP with main opposition party Labour PvdA, Staf Depla, said that the government could not detour around the law and said a large fine was better than nothing.
Recently uncovered documents at construction company Boele & Van Eesteren have sparked concerns that construction industry fraud is much worse than previously thought. Former government minister Annemarie Jorritsma is allegedly implicated in the scandal, but has dismissed any allegations of wrong doing.
The Public Prosecution Office (OM) is examining the latest revelations as its inquiries are still being conducted into the first building fraud scandal, in which construction companies formed illegal cartels and overpriced government infrastructure projects.
The latest allegations allegedly implicate installation and utility construction companies, indicating that commercial enterprises have also been the victim of overpriced building projects.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news