Fmr. Justice Min. admits 'crucial mistakes' in drug dealer payoff

Former Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten admits that he made "crucial mistakes" around a settlement deal made with drug criminal Cees H. in new biography Opstelten, een leven in het openbaar bestuur published on Thursday. In the book, he says that he "totally underestimated" the issue and that he ignored the advice of his officials, AD reports. 

The settlement deal was made with Cees H. by then prosecutor Fred Teeven in 2000. The case was revealed by Nieuwsuur in 2014. It caused a major commotion in The Hague and finally led to the resignations of Opstelten as Minister of Security and Justice and Teeven as his State Secretary. 

The problem was that Cees H. was allowed to keep a lot more money than was reported to parliament and the Tax Authority. Opstelten told the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, that the drug dealer was allowed to keep 1.25 million guilders of his criminally earned money, when in fact he was allowed to keep 4.7 million guilders. It did not help that the Ministry was very secretive about this matter for years, and said that the documents on the deal could not be found. Nieuwsuur finally found the "receipt" in 2015 and Opstelten and Teeven stepped down later that year. 

In the book Opstelten said that he guessed about the amount in parliament. He now calls that an "improvisation" that was "extremely stupid", according to AD.

Opstelten was replaced as Justice Minister by Ard van der Steur, who also had to eventually step down over this drug dealer payoff

The Volkskrant reports that then VVD leader Halbe Zijlstra had been pushing for Opstelten to step down for six months before he did so. Zijlstra did not want to publicly condemn Opstelten himself, so he tried to make the VVD's former head of information Henri Kruithof influence the former Minister. 

Optstelten claims that he was never aware of such signals from his party, according to the newspaper.