Expatica news

Marines on drugs charges, accused of bribery

25 March 2004

AMSTERDAM — In a double scandal for the Dutch military, four marines have been arrested in Aruba on drugs charges after cocaine was seized in the suspects’ houses and cars, while peacekeeping marines in Iraq have been accused of corruption.

The public prosecutor’s office in the Aruban capital Oranjestad has confirmed that the four men were arrested on 17 March, but a spokeswoman refused to reveal the quantity of drugs seized.

The drugs were found during raids jointly carried out by the military police, customs officials, police and the Co-operative Investigative Team, news agency ANP reported.

Two of the marines are still in custody and a judge has extended their remand detention by an extra eight days. Investigations are being conducted to determine the full extent of the marines’ alleged involvement in the drugs trade.

The four marines were deployed on the Caribbean island of Aruba with about 200 other Dutch soldiers. The Netherlands is in the midst of a crackdown against the drugs trade between Amsterdam and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

A body scanner has been installed at the airport on the Antillean island of Curacao and stringent checks are being made at the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which will soon make use of a body scanner also to detect smugglers carrying drugs hidden inside their body.

Several emergency jail complexes have also been set up across the Netherlands to house drug smuggling detainees.

Rounding off a five-day visit to the Antilles, Defence Minister Henk Kamp has said Dutch marines will assist the Antillean coast guard crackdown on the cocaine trade, public news service NOS reported.

Large quantities of cocaine are transported by speed boat to the islands and many drug shipments are then smuggled to the Netherlands.

A military spokesman said the two marines who have been released from custody will be repatriated to the Netherlands and if found guilty, will be discharged from the military. The other two men still in remand also face repatriation and dismissal.

The prosecution has not ruled out further arrests.

Meanwhile, government coalition party Democrat D66 has demanded answers from Minister Kamp after Dutch peacekeeping marines were accused of corruption in Iraq.

An Iraqi construction employer has accused Dutch marines of accepting money and jewels in recent months. Iraqi interpreters have allegedly demanded huge sums of money in negotiations over reconstruction projects.

In exchange for the bribes from local construction companies, the Dutch troops are allegedly giving preference to local contractors. Local politicians and other construction companies have reportedly confirmed the allegations.

It is alleged the all offers are made via local interpreters — who keep USD 5,000 per deal, the equivalent of 10 years wages in Iraq — and the offers then go to Dutch marines who share the bribes, news agency Novum reported.

But a Dutch military spokesman denied that marines had accepted money or jewels, dismissing the allegations as nonsense. He said there are no known cases of corruption and no indications of illegal practices.

Despite this, he agreed that the marines had refused to work with some local interpreters who did not appear to be reliable enough.

He denied claims of large scale corruption and said the large majority of Dutch military interpreters had been thoroughly screened in the Netherlands and that no problems have been reported.

There are presently 1,300 Dutch troops stationed in the south of Iraq. The government is poised to extent the peacekeeping mission until at least the end of this year. No casualties have been reported among Dutch troops.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news