Expatica news

Dutch news in brief, 20 September 2004

Firms, executives face building fraud prosecution

Dutch justice officials are to prosecute 12 executives and four large construction companies for their role in the building fraud scandal, newspaper NRC reported Saturday. One of the executives is on the board of construction company Heijmans. These are the first criminal summons issued resulting from the scandal which first hit the headlines in 2001. The Dutch competition authority has already imposed EUR 100 million in fines on 22 companies. The Dutch government was defrauded of millions of euros over several years as construction companies entered into illegal price agreements and besides criminal cases, various wings of government are now also launching civil procedures against construction companies.

James Hardie overcomes shareholder showdown

Asbestos victims and unions lost their bid last week to prevent the Amsterdam-based James Hardie Industries winning shareholder approval to spend excess cash on buying back its shares. A delegation of two victims and two union members had flown to the Netherlands to attend the former Australian building products company’s annual general meeting in Amsterdam on Friday, Australian newspaper The Age reported. They opposed a resolution that extended approval for any share buybacks, claiming that the company had cut itself off from its asbestos liabilities. But shareholders voted in favour of the resolution. James Hardie relocated to Amsterdam in 2001, leaving behind a compensation shortfall for asbestos victims that could be higher than AUD 1.5 billion. Australia is seeking a bilateral treaty with the Netherlands allowing victims to seek compensation in Dutch courts.

Kroes guards against possible conflicts of interest

Candidate European competition commissioner Neelie Kroes has promised to not engage in any more business activities after her term ends in 2009 in a bid to prevent any possible conflicts of interest. The former Dutch minister had previously said on 1 September to cease all existing business activities, newspaper De Telegraaf reported. Kroes has held various posts on company boards of commissioners and according to the European Commission’s legal service, she should not pass judgment in future over any of these companies. Kroes has thus advised future EC President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso that she will defer on cases relating to incidents in the times that she was a company commissioner or adviser. Concerns have been raised about Kroes’ past activities, raising doubts about her suitability for the job of competition commissioner. The European Parliament has the authority to reject every candidate commissioner, but the new EC must start work on 1 November this year.

Dutch to demand biometric passport or visa

The Netherlands will demand from October 2005 that foreigners entering the Netherlands carry a passport with biometric details, such as a digital photo and unique facial identity features. Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said the European Union is moving to introduce a similar system being implemented in the US, news agency Novum reported. The Netherlands is currently conducting a trial with the biometric passport in various cities and the new system is designed to prevent the use of forged or stolen passports. Anyone who wishes to enter the Netherlands after October next year without a biometric passport will need to obtain a visa.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news