7 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — The husband of Transport Minister Karla Peijs was reportedly involved in illegal agreements between the large European cement companies.
As chairman of the Dutch cement industry association VNC, Rinus Platschorre, was involved in meetings of a cement cartel, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday.
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 reportedly indicated.
In response, the chairwoman of the Dutch Parliament’s commission charged with the recent building fraud investigation, Marike Vos, has demanded answers from Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
Vos is 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 Platschorre claims that he was “screened” during the Dutch building fraud scandal before his wife was appointed to the Cabinet. He said his involvement in the cement cartel was not considered a problem because the company he was a director of, ENCI, was acquitted on appeal.
But the Volkskrant said the European public documents indicate that the branch association VNC was directly involved in illegal agreements. The European Court found the VNC guilty on appeal of breaching the ban on cartel formation, but escaped a fine.
Platschorre denies he was involved in meetings where illegal agreements were made, but the documents indicate that he personally participated in meetings at which the large European cement companies discussed strategies to protect their markets.
After Peijs was appointed Transport Minister last year, Platschorre was forced to resign as a commissioner of the BAM Groep, the largest construction company in the Netherlands. Of all the Dutch ministries, the Transport Ministry contracts out the largest amount of public infrastructure projects.
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/building fraud