High profile arrest made in controversial face mask deal
Entrepreneur and lobbyist Sywert van Lienden was arrested on Monday in an investigation into a controversial provision of face masks a few weeks after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The arrest was confirmed by sources after De Telegraaf broke the story.
Van Lienden is in custody, along with another suspect involved in the nonprofit organization he helped found, the Stichting Hulptroepen Alliantie. The organization helped provide face masks under the guise of being a not-for-profit venture, but reportedly netted Van Lienden and his partners a 30 million euro windfall from their deal with the Ministry of Health.
Three homes and an office were searched in the investigation, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) reported. The OM already announced on Monday it was starting a criminal investigation into the face mask deal, and was targeting three people involved, including Van Lienden. Temporary employment agency Randstad pressed charges in the case, which triggered the investigation.
Randstad previously supplied staff to the nonprofit organization, believing it to be in support of a charity. "The (former) directors of the foundation repeatedly communicated in the media that they were acting without a profit motive. However, it later turned out that the (former) directors, in addition to the foundation, had also set up a private company that was used during the purchase and sale of face masks," the OM wrote in a statement.
The OM also stated that media reports indicate that even more parties may have become involved in the foundation's activities similar to Randstad's involvement. "The Public Prosecution Service does not rule out in advance that an investigation will also be conducted into these cases."
Reporting by ANP