Prison possible for natural gas bosses over Groningen earthquakes: Famed atty

Police guard in a detention center
Police guard in a detention center. Photo: Politie

The directors of Dutch oil and gas giant NAM may face up to 15 years in prison should the company end up being prosecuted for earthquake damage to houses in Groningen, according to well-known Dutch lawyer Gerard Spong. On Thursday the Arnhem-Leeuwarden court ordered the Public Prosecutor to over damages caused by earthquakes that resulted from years of gas extraction in the province.

The court ruled that there are indications that NAM deliberately damaged homes, possibly leading to life threatening situations. That is illegal under Criminal Code Article 170. That crime goes with a punishment of up to 15 years in prison, Spong said to Dagblad van het Noorden. "The responsible directors thus risk years in prison." Spong is representing a group of Groningen residents and the movement Groninger Bodem Beweging in this case. 

Whether or not prison sentences will come into play remains to be seen, press spokesperson for the Arnhem-Leeuwarden court Leo Wemes said to the newspaper. "This case is against NAM. And only natural persons can be sentenced to prison. The company NAM therefore cannot. Should it later come out that someone from the NAM made mistakes and should be criminally prosecuted, a prison sentence is possible."