Outgoing minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security, CDA) has misinformed the House of Representatives about his knowledge of the extensive fraud at state lawyer Pels Rijcken. Contrary to what he previously reported to the House, Grapperhaus already heard from the top of the Public Prosecution Service in August 2020 that chairman of the board and notary Frank Oranje was suspected of extensive fraud. That was even before Orange and Pels Rijcken knew about the criminal investigation. This is apparent from internal documents of the ministry that were released after an appeal from NRC on the Government Information (Public Access) Act (Wob).
At the beginning of March this year, the ministry and Pels Rijcken simultaneously announced that notary Orange had committed a mega-fraud. It is now clear that since 1998 the prominent civil-law notary has stolen at least 11.2 million euros from clients of the prestigious law firm Pels Rijcken. The majority of this was stolen in 2019 when Orange had just become chairman of the board. That money, which Orange had to manage as a notary, is still missing. The chairman of the board committed suicide in November last year.
Also read: Top notary fraud Pels Rijcken turns out to be even bigger – office under stricter supervision
Grapperhaus wrote to the House last March that he only became aware of the fraud after Pels Rijcken informed his ministry confidentially in September 2020. A few days later it revealed Financial Newspaper However, the minister was already informed by the Public Prosecution Service about the suspected fraud and an investigation in 2019. Grapperhaus quickly corrected that message by informing the House on his own initiative that he was only summarily in March 2019 “and margin” was informed of a suspicion of fraud against “a notary”.
The minister would not have been informed of the suspicion against Orange until September 2020 via Pels Rijcken. Although he spoke in August with the deputy chairman of the Board of Prosecutors General of the Public Prosecution Service, Grapperhaus wrote, he had only informed him that a criminal investigation was underway against “a notary” and that that notary would be interrogated. That Grapperhaus was already confronted with the name Oranje in August, as is apparent from the documents that NRC he could not see in a letter to the House of Representatives.
Orange had previously been in contact with Grapperhaus
Pels Rijcken – one of the country’s largest law firms – has been acting as state attorney at law since 1969. In that capacity, it is involved in hundreds of sensitive government legal issues every year. This raises the question whether Orange has also committed fraud in government work. The internal documents of the ministry show that – once they became aware of the suspected fraud against Orange – people were particularly concerned about the work that the notary performed for government officials, in the first place for Grapperhaus himself.
Also read: Is it time for another state attorney? And can it be found?
In 2017, Orange was involved in vetting various ministers and distancing business interests and financial interests of ministers who would join the new cabinet. Orange advised on files of six ministers together with the then state lawyer so that their business interests did not stand in the way of a cabinet appointment. This also applied to Grapperhaus, who until then had worked as a professor of employment law and lawyer at the Allen & Overy office. The Wob documents show that he and the Orange have known each other before 2020. For example, before taking office, Grapperhaus had contact with the notary several times.
After the ministry became aware of the fraud behind the scenes, law firm Houthoff received an urgent assignment to investigate whether Orange’s activities for the ministers and other work for the national government were properly performed. Grapperhaus would be the first to be investigated. Grapperhaus rejected that assignment, however. “I think it’s very focused on me,” he writes to his officials. He wants wider deployment immediately and the files of all ministers who had had contact with Orange be reviewed.
As a result of the Houthoff investigation, Grapperhaus reported to the House at the beginning of March that there is “no indication” that “in cases in which the State was a client, notarial standards to be set were not acted upon”. That turned out to be incorrect. Last July, Pels Rijcken reported that Orange has also committed fraud in five files in which the central government was a customer over the past eighteen years.
Minister Grapperhaus misinformed Parliament about fraud at Pels Rijcken
Source link Minister Grapperhaus misinformed Parliament about fraud at Pels Rijcken