Professor: ‘State attorney Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted for money laundering'

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Professor: ‘State attorney Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted for money laundering’

State attorney Pels Rijcken was hit hard after the million-dollar fraud by board chairman Frank Oranje. But the office seems to be recovering. A motion by MPs Michiel van Nispen (SP) and Pieter Omtzigt, which could have led to the resignation as state lawyer, did not receive a parliamentary majority in December. The expert in crisis communication that Pels Rijcken hired is off to her next job, at Schiphol.

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After Pels Rijcken revealed the fraud in March, the office was initially covered by Minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice and Security, CDA). The Public Prosecution Service paused its own fraud investigation; Pels Rijcken hired consultancy Deloitte to conduct further research. Conclusion from this: Orange was a loner, the office had compensated the victims and could therefore continue as a state lawyer.

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Also read: Racism and shouting at state lawyer Pels Rijcken

Until summer at least. Pels Rijcken had to confess in July that the fraud was more extensive than previously reported. Orange had stolen more than 11 million euros for at least eighteen years, money that he managed as a notary for clients. The dean – supervisor of the legal profession – placed Pels Rijcken under stricter supervision when a lack of social security at the office was also revealed. Pels Rijcken decided in the autumn to abolish the notarial profession. The House was still debating Pels Rijcken’s position, and the minister promised to look into it. The committee of experts that Grapperhaus promised has not yet been appointed.

Gerrit van Maanen, emeritus professor of private law at Maastricht University, now thinks “Pels Rijcken is getting away with it too easily.” Last year he was the first eminent lawyer to argue that the national government should bid farewell to the office. Reason for this: the Promoting Integrity Assessments by Public Administration Act (Bibob) prohibits governments from instructing organizations that were involved in criminal activities.

Do you think the fraud has been sufficiently accounted for?

„No, about the examinations of blanket and [financieel toezichthouder] BFT have published only brief press releases. The Deloitte study has not been made public at all – the results have been shared globally with the House of Representatives.

“The picture that arises is that the parties involved wanted to minimize the damage to Pels Rijcken in order to avoid hassle. After all, the state is intertwined with Pels Rijcken through many ongoing procedures. But that should not be a reason not to attach any consequences to the fraud.”

Why do you think that?

“Because Pels Rijcken was involved in money laundering of the stolen funds from Frank Oranje. This follows from a letter that the state attorney sent to the ministry this summer. It states that Orange beat his hours and paid false invoices for so-called notary services from ‘accounts in his own sphere’.

“Let that sink in: if Orange paid his false declarations to Pels Rijcken from accounts on which he had stolen money, Pels Rijcken’s account will be covered. The money also ended up with Pels Rijcken’s partners, who divide the profits. This makes the office guilty of money laundering.”

Professor: ‘State attorney Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted for money laundering’

Fragment from the letter that Pels Rijcken sent to the ministry

What do you think the consequence should be?

“That Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted criminally and that the state can no longer keep Pels Rijcken as state lawyer.

“I assume that no one else than Orange has knowingly participated in fraud and money laundering. But they are involved and legally responsible. For over eighteen years, all internal control mechanisms have failed miserably. This is culpable and leads to legal liability for Pels Rijcken as an office for fraud, embezzlement of funds and money laundering.

“Compare it with ING that in 2018 bought off criminal proceedings for 775 million euros for negligence in preventing money laundering. ING had not deliberately cooperated in money laundering, but had failed to check. ING, like probably Pels Rijcken, had violated the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act – which is very strict.”

Professor: ‘State attorney Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted for money laundering’

Also read this portrait: the lifelong doubles game of Frank Oranje

Pels Rijcken has repaid the stolen 11 million euros with interest to injured parties. For the minister, this compensation was an important reason to continue the relationship.

“That’s not as nice a gesture as it seems. Those millions were entrusted to the Pels Rijcken office and were stolen by someone in that office. Pels Rijcken is responsible for this and must in any case compensate that damage under civil law. And criminally it is not true that if a thief returns stolen money, he will not be punished. No, it’s still theft.”

Isn’t it going too far to prosecute all of Pels Rijcken if Orange was the only fraudster?

“Orange was not just an employee, he was chairman of the board from 2018. If he paid his own false declarations with stolen money during that period, his act is identified with the legal entity Pels Rijcken. Then even a stricter variant of money laundering applies: intentional money laundering. But even if Pels Rijcken has only done too little to prevent the crime, there is still money laundering. The Public Prosecution Service must get to the bottom of this.

“I already thought that Pels Rijcken cannot remain a state lawyer because of the Bibob legislation, but money laundering reinforces that opinion. Our entire society is based on trust: in each other, social institutions, the government. High on that ladder is the notary to whom you entrust money. That trust has been shamed by Orange and all civil-law notaries in the Netherlands suffer from this. Restoring trust really needs a signal. It is sour for all those honest lawyers who work there, but saying goodbye to Pels Rijcken as state attorney seems to me the only right way.”

Professor: ‘State attorney Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted for money laundering’
Source link Professor: ‘State attorney Pels Rijcken should be prosecuted for money laundering’

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