Minister ignored in investigation of police car bribery scandal: Report

Henk Kamp (Photo: Commons)Henk Kamp (Photo: Commons)

While investigating a bribery scandal in the procurement of police and defense vehicles, the Public Prosecutor did not look into possible criminal action by then Defense Minister Henk Kamp, Nieuwsuur reports based on the criminal file. Lower level officials are facing criminal charges and were dismissed for similar actions, according to the news program.

This involves the case of automobile company PON bribing officials with gifts and discounts between 2001 and 2012 in return for lucrative orders. The gifts ranged from free winter tires and discounts on maintenance to foreign trips. In return PON received the contracts amounting to about 500 million euros for providing the Dutch police and Defense fleets. The Public Prosecutor is prosecuting four Defense officials and two police officers in this case. They are appearing in court in two weeks.

One of the people being prosecuted is Defense official Gerard Lensvelt. He was fired three years ago for buying a car for 35 thousand euros from PON and getting a discount of 236 euros. 

According to Nieuwsuur, the criminal file shows that Kamp received at least as much as Lensvelt in gifts from PON, but was never considered a suspect. In 2006 Kamp took his private car, bought in Germany, for its annual road-worthy tests and approval to PON, an internal email from the car company shows. Kamp paid for the tests, but received two PON navigation CDs as a gift. The CDs are worth 250.42 euros. According to the criminal file, the CDs were "billed internally".

This service - unusual for PON as it does not usually service individuals - was offered to the then Minister of Defense in the same year that Ministry announced a tender for new army vehicles. PON eventually got that contract in December 2013. Other internal emails show that PON knew that providing this service to the Minister wasn't above board. An email about Kamp's service car states: "We must absolutely not talk about or ask the Minister how his tuned Audi A6 is doing!"

"In other words, PON paid for [the navigation CDs] not Kamp", Michael Ruperti, one of Lensvelt's lawyers, said to Nieuwsuur. "It is then of course quite striking that my client is charged for 236 euros, was fired for it and sent to criminal court. But nobody talks about Kamp's 250 euros."

Cees Kornivus, another of Lensevelt's lawyers, plans to challenge the different treatment when his client stands trial. "It is bizarre that a Minister can get a free CD for his navigation, but an official is being prosecuted for 1 percent discount." He wants Kamp to be questioned as a witness. 

PON agreed to a 12 million euros settlement on this case last year, which is why eight suspected PON employees don't have to stand trial next month. One former PON employee refused to settle, however. "A seller who sold a car, privately and with regular discounts, is being tackled. And a Minister who was bribed and did not have to pay for certain services, is not. My conclusion is that there was nothing wrong with what my client did", his lawyer Ad Westendorp said to Nieuwsuur.

In reaction the Public Prosecutor told Nieuwsuur that Minister Kamp was never suspected. According to the Prosecutor, unlike the officials, Kamp never asked for a gift. The former Defense Minister - currently the Minister of Economic Affairs and acting Minister of Security and Justice - said that he has no idea why he got discount from PON at the time.