13 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — The public prosecution said on Monday it will request the acquittal of former Nato official Jan Willem Matser and two co-suspects on charges of money laundering, but will press ahead with allegations of fraud and membership of a criminal organisation.
On the first day of the Dutchman’s trial in Haarlem Court, the prosecution said it could not prove that Matser was guilty of laundering USD 200 million in drugs-trafficking earnings.
The prosecution said it had failed to prove the existence of the funds and that “it’s difficult to launder money that is not there”.
Matser worked as an Eastern Europe advisor for Nato and traveled frequently throughout the region, especially Romania. His lawyer denied the trips were linked with criminal activities, Dutch public news service NOS reported.
The case came to light when authorities at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam intercepted a package from Columbia containing a deposit slip for USD 200 million from a Bogota bank.
Prosecutors initially alleged Matser was planning to cash false Colombian bank bonds to use for investments in Romania, but he denies he knew the securities were not genuine, BBC reported.
After listening in on various telephone calls, authorities arrested Matser in Belgium in February 2002. Three other suspects, two Dutch and one Italian, were also arrested.
Two suspects, a 52-year-old man from Uithoorn and a 60-year-old suspect from Nijmegen, appeared in court on Monday. Both suspects claimed they played a subordinate role in the affair.
The Nijmegen suspect claims he played a mediation role for Matser without knowledge of what the Nato official was involved in.
Matser was due to appear in court on Tuesday, while the fourth suspect, a 52-year-old man from Capelle aan den IJssel, is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news