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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Is the liberal-conservative party VVD in The Netherlands ‘for sale’? Dutch ‘Entrepreneurs’ party seems involved in growing number of incidents at the brink of bribery.

The Netherlands is – by itself – a very clean and uncorrupted country. In 2011, Transparency International put the country at the seventh spot of least corrupted countries in the world. Still, corruption is a multi-headed beast and even the cleanest country cannot rest on its laurels, thinking ‘things like corruption don’t happen here’.

Especially in economically difficult times, the business world plays for keeps and tries to increase its influence: legally, through clever lobby-programmes, but sometimes at or even over the brink of legality.

In 2012, there is a growing number of incidents, concerning local and even national members of the VVD: the liberal-conservative Dutch party that has very warm feelings for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and that has many entrepreneurs among its representatives.

A few months ago, I wrote upon the criminal investigation that had been started against VVD delegate for the province Noord-Holland, Ton Hooijmaijers on multiple charges of bribery, forgery and money laundering

In the meantime, the VVD Senator (member of the First Chamber of Parliament), Roermond alderman and former delegate for the province Limburg, Jos van Rey has become subject of a criminal investigation too. I didn’t report upon this investigation through this blog, as I had other priorities at the time. Still, I followed this case quite closely.

Van Rey is currently under suspicion of leaking classified information, concerning the nomination process for the mayorship of Roermond. This information – which specific questions would be asked during the job interview for the position of mayor – had been leaked to a VVD candidate for this position.

That’s not all: Van Rey is also under suspicion of being bribed by a real estate project developer in Limburg, Piet van Pol. Although not all details have been disclosed yet, it is at least clear that Van Rey has borrowed Van Pol’s royal mediterranian holiday residence for free on multiple occasions. Besides that, it seems plausible that Van Rey also directly received bribe money through Liba Adviesbureau, a consulting company associated to his children. Van Rey is currently accused of favouring Van Pol at a number of building projects.

Today, the name Van Pol also popped up in an investigation by Dutch newspaper NRC ( against VVD-member in the Second Chamber of Parliament Karin Straus and VVD-State Secretary of Finance Frans Weekers.

Here are the pertinent snips of this article:

The Limburg’ Member of Parliament Karin Straus had her September, 2012 election campaign financed by Piet van Pol, a project developer from Roermond, who is currently under suspicion of bribery. When Straus accepted Van Pol’s support, he had already been discredited for over a year, due to his mixed-up interests with VVD-senator and Roermond alderman Jos van Rey.

VVD Chief Whip (i.e. fraction leader) Halbe Zijlstra qualified her modus operandi as ‘clumsy’, after a thorough conversation with Karin Straus. The controversial project developer Van Pol, has also been involved in the election campaigns of Jos van Rey and Finance State Secretary Frans Weekers (VVD).

The public prosecution is currently investigating Van Rey and Van Pol. Van Rey would have favored his friend Van Pol as an alderman. On October 19, the Governmental Investigation Department (in Dutch 'Rijksrecherche') has searched the houses of the politician and his children. Three days later Van Rey abandoned his political functions.

Van Pol was one of the financiers of Liba Adviesbureau, a consulting bureau, owned by the children of Jos van Rey. Liba received more payments from enterprises with whom Van Rey had been doing business as an alderman.

The €15,000 campaign of Karin Straus has reputedly been supported financially by Liba. Besides that, Straus has accepted that Van Pol donated another €1000 for her campaign. This has happened after an investigation committee had concluded that Van Pol and Van Rey had been mixing up interests.

Also Finance State Secretary Frans Weekers, ex-employee of Van Rey, had his election campaign partially sponsored by Van Pol, this autumn. This happened via Van Rey, who rented a billboard alongside the A79 motorway at a token price from a company, belonging to Van Pol.

The remainder of the NRC article informs the audience upon a private consultancy firm, established by Straus, which she ‘forgot’ to report to the Public Register of Additional Jobs for Members of Parliament. She also forgot to mention that she did a one-off paid job for the Limburg’ chemical company DSM through this private consultancy firm, at the time that she was already an MP.

I’m not in favor of starting a witch hunt against the VVD. Most local and national VVD representatives are very honorable men and women. Besides that, the VVD is not the only party whose representatives sometimes make a faux pas (infringement of the rules) in local or national politics. On the other hand: the iconization of entrepreneurs within the VVD party can cause VVD representatives to think that they should act as entrepreneurs in their public functions too. This is not true, however.

Public representatives must remember that they act on the behalf of all Dutch and/or local citizens and that they do so while being paid with tax money. These people are under the looking glass and for a very good reason. Politicians must be not for sale and must avoid any matter that could spread doubt about their credibility and loyalty to the Dutch citizens.

The number of incidents involving VVD party-members during the last months and especially the seriousness of the accusations against them, should be a cause for serious reflection and investigation within the party. Otherwise the VVD might lose its credibility as a serious and incorruptable political party.

If incidents like these happen too often, The Netherlands might even lose its seventh spot on the TI  list of incorruptable countries in the near future. That would be a real shame.

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