ING: Covid skeptic Engel used €50K in donations to buy land in Spain
Covid skeptic Willem Engel used 50 thousand euros in donations, donated to his action group Viruswaarheid, to privately buy a piece of land in Spain, was revealed in summary proceedings between Engel and Dutch bank ING. The bank blocked Viruswaarheid's business account over that transaction last year. The court now ruled that ING's measure was not justified, but was critical of Engel's conduct, AD reports.
ING launched an investigation into Engel's accounts last year. The bank found that Engel had been using his dance school's account to receive Viruswaarheid donations for some time, without coordinating this with the bank. ING also came across an "irregular transfer" of 50 thousand euros with "a suspicious description", the bank said in the court documents. In the summer of last year, Engel had used that money, donated to Viruswaarheid, to purchase a plot of land in Spain, ING said.
According to Engel, the 50 thousand euros was a loan from Viruswaarheid to him to pay for a project in Spain. "A loan agreement was signed to make everything run as orderly and transparently," he said, according to the newspaper. He said that the loan was short-term and has been repaid, and that it was only needed "because ING refused to finance".
But according to ING, "nowhere did it appear" that Engel had been transparent with his donors about the use of donations for private purposes or that the donors had consented to this. ING said that during the investigation, the bank repeatedly asked Engel to substantiate this loan financed by donations. Because Engel refused to submit a loan agreement, ING was "not able to perform its investigation and obligations under the Financial Supervision Act and the Preventing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act", the bank said.
ING added that Engel "had in no way shown that he realized that his behavior was unacceptable. There was therefore a high risk of repetition and an increased integrity risk for ING," the bank said in the court documents. ING therefore suspended Engel's bank account, and said goodbye to Viruswaarheid as a customer. In the letter informing Engel and his action group, ING said that it has lost confidence in Viruswaarheid's integrity and that it cannot complete the customer due diligence.
Engel filed a legal objection to this, and on Tuesday the court ruled in his favor. "Although the conduct of Engel can certainly be questioned, as mentioned above, there are no concrete indications of money laundering or other criminal activity," the court ruled. The court ordered ING to make the accounts available again as soon as possible, on pain of a fine of 5 thousand eruos per day.
An ING spokesperson told AD in response that it was disappointed by the verdict, "but we respect it and will implement it". She stressed that the bank is not taking a position on Viruswaarheid. "But ING does take a clear position when it comes to possible irregularities in an account that are not or insufficiently clarified. If customers do not cooperate sufficiently, ING runs a risk within the framework of legislation and regulations and ING may decide to say goodbye to a customer."