Minister’s husband admits knowing of fraud
13 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — The husband of Transport Minister Karla Peijs has admitted he was aware of a system of illegal secret agreements in the building industry.
Former building industry executive Rinus Platschorre said that competition regulations did not seep immediately through to the building industry, where secret preliminary consultations continued despite European Union bans.
He said many building industry executives thought the old system of secret consultations and illegal price agreements would return despite the EU ban imposed in 1996, news agency Novum reported.
“It was wrong what happened and I should have intervened, but I didn’t do that,” Platschorre admitted to newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad on Saturday.
He said the illegal practices were primarily aimed at sharing industry turnover. But he also said building company profits barely made it above 2 percent of turnover and the agreements were thus not intended for the accumulation of wealth.
The retired industry executive has denied any allegations of fraud and dismissed claims he was involved in a cement cartel and illegal price fixing while serving as chairman of the Dutch cement industry association VNC about 20 years ago.
The most important members of the cartel were fined by European authorities in 2000 to the tune of EUR 110 million, public documents from the European Commission and the European Court have indicated, newspaper De Volkskrant reported last week.
But he said the allegations of his involvement in the cartel were “totally absurd” and “a form of libel”. Platschorre also claimed he was involved in the cement industry long before European regulations came into force.
In response to the Volkskrant report last week, the chairwoman of the Dutch Parliament’s commission charged with the recent building fraud investigation, Marike Vos, demanded answers from Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
Vos was concerned that Balkenende knew about Platschorre and his alleged involvement in fraud when he approved the nomination of Peijs as transport minister in 2003.
But Balkenende has refused to reveal details of the meeting he had with Peijs prior to her appointment as Cabinet minister. Peijs has also refused to provide details about the meeting.
The Netherlands was shocked in 2001 by revelations of large scale fraud and cartel formation in the domestic building industry, costing the government large sums of money on overpriced infrastructure projects. A parliamentary inquiry was completed in December 2002 and prosecution inquiries continue.
But “shadow account keeping” documents also indicated earlier this year that the extent of the fraud was much larger than previously thought. The public prosecution authority OM and competition watchdog NMa are presently conducting follow-up inquiries.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news