Inquiry into 2008 financial crisis begins

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The second part of the parliamentary inquiry into the financial crisis of 2008 is getting underway in The Hague.

Over the next five weeks, senior government and banking officials will be heard, including former prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and his finance minister Wouter Bos.

Interest in the inquiry has grown because of its relevance to the current euro crisis. The Netherlands has committed more than four-and-a-half billion euros in loans for Greece and is being asked to guarantee 98 billion euros for the European Financial Stability Facility fund.

The De Wit inquiry - named after its chairman, Socialist Party MP Jan de Wit - is charged with looking into measures taken by the Dutch government in 2008 to help shore up the country's banking sector. They included the almost 17-billion-euro takeover of ABN-Amro bank and part of Fortis Bank. A 200-billion euro fund was created to guarantee bank loans - 50 billion of which was actually used.

Bad mortgages held by ING bank were guaranteed to the tune of 22 billion euros and another 20 billion euros was made available to ING and two other banks.

The De Wit inquiry is focussing on measures taken by the government. Witnesses are being heard under oath and may, therefore, face prosecution if they are found to be lying.

This is the second part of the inquiry. The first part, looking into the causes of the credit crisis, was completed last year.

The likelihood of the investigation leading to any resignations by members of the current Dutch government is believed to be insignificant. However, the last time parliament completed an official inquiry of this kind was in 2002. It examined the Dutch role in events surrounding the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 and its findings ulitmately led to the collapse of then prime minister Wim Kok’s government.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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