Millions in EU subsidy fraud alleged against Drenthe couple

Arrest (Photo: Politie). (Arrest (Photo: Politie))

On Tuesday morning the police arrested a 45-year-old woman and a 60-year-old man in the Drenthe town of Hijken on suspicion of fraud with European subsidies. They're suspected of stealing around a million euros by getting subsidies for fake research, the police said in a statement.

The police launched this investigation in August 2016, after subsidy provider SNN reported that various European subsidies for innovations in SMEs in Noord-Nederland were not being used for their intended purpose - innovative research and building prototypes. Investigation led the police to the couple.  According to the police, the couple received several subsidies, both for their own company and the companies of others. 

The couple's home in Hijken was searched by the police in October 2016, during which administration was seized. The police found numerous double invoices, both real and counterfeit. It was also discovered that the subsidy money was used for paying wages and buying expensive machines. The couple stole around a million euros in this way, the police believe. They are suspected of forgery, fraud and money laundering.

SNN did not immediately discover the fraud, because the couple always submitted a budget in advance and in most cases submitted a research report afterwards. The investigation revealed that this research was largely plagiarized. "Sometimes a small amount of research was done, but not in accordance with the invoiced amount", the police said.

Late last year the police arrested six other suspects in this investigation. They are all owners or shareholders of companies that used the couple to get subsidies. "An owner or shareholder always has the responsibility to apply for and use subsidies in the correct manner", the police said. The six suspects were all released after questioning. Though the police did seize five homes and bank balances from them.

On Tuesday the police, in consultation with the Public Prosecutor, decided to arrest the couple - the main suspects in this case. The police searched their home and seized administration, two cars and two trailers. Two houses were also seized. Both suspects are in custody for further investigation.