Construction bosses ‘implicated in secret deals’
4 March 2004
AMSTERDAM — As investigations into the building fraud scandal continue, it was alleged Thursday that six prominent industry figures were personally involved in secret talks to form illegal cartels.
Secret documentation outlining under-the-counter deals between several construction companies allegedly implicate two senior figures in employers association VNO-NCW, two construction company commissioners and the chief executive of the firm Dura Vermeer in illegal activities.
In making the allegations, newspaper De Volkskrant also claimed on Thursday the illicit deals defrauded the Dutch government of vast sums of money.
The shadow bookkeeping documents are the first indication since the initial building fraud scandal of 2001 that industry chiefs were involved in crime.
During the parliamentary inquiry into the first revelations, the heads of the construction industry denied they were involved, and instead they pointed the finger at middle management.
But documents uncovered by investigators have since indicated that Dutch building industry fraud was bigger than previously thought.
De Volkskrant has named six industry chiefs allegedly involved in illegal activities. They include: Jan Holleman (VNO-NCW board member and former chief of construction company Ballast Nedam), J. van Spaendonck (a supervisory board member at SBB Bouwgroep and former chief of building firm Vermeer), J. Veraart (supervisory board member of engineering company Haskoning and former chief of building giant HBG) and D. van Well (chief of Dura Vermeer).
It is alleged that the six men participated in illegal preliminary consultations in at least one of the following construction projects: the Zeeburgertunnel in Amsterdam (1984), the hydropower planet in the Maas River (1986), the Social Affairs Ministry in The Hague (1987) and the Golden Bridge at Gouda (1987).
The shadow accounts, which have been lodged with a notary, contained detailed reports of illegal meetings, and in two cases, the details are confirmed by reports made by another contractor, De Volkskrant said.
Holleman claims he can no longer remember the tendering for the contract at the Social Affairs Ministry, but admitted if the documents indicated he was involved, than it must be true. Van Spaendonck, Veraart and Van Well claim they no longer remember the tendering processes either.
Building companies are accused of entering into illegal cartels and fixing construction project prices above the real costs and dividing the additional profits between them. The deals and illegal accounting practices were recorded in the so-called shadow accounts.
Judicial inquiries are still being conducted into the revelations that first surfaced in 2001 — relating to government infrastructure projects — but recent uncovered documents have prompted inquiries by the Public Prosecution (OM) and the competition watchdog NMa into illegal practices in the construction of government buildings and commercial premises.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has said that companies that voluntarily hand in their shadow accounts to the NMa will only be fined, escaping criminal prosecution. And as extra incentive, these companies will not be excluded from future government contracts.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news