Dodgy face mask deal suspect now investigated for money laundering
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) now also suspects the three founders of the foundation Hulptroepen Alliantie - Sywert van Lienden, Bernd Damme, and Camille van Gestel - of money laundering, sources close to the investigation confirmed to NRC. They were already facing charges of fraud and embezzlement.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Van Lienden and his two business partners imported a large number of face masks from China to the Netherlands. They claimed to work with their foundation “for no money” - not for profit. But in reality, they channeled payments from a large number of customers, including the Ministry of Public Health, to a commercial company called Relief Goods Alliance. This company is separate from the Hulptroepen Alliantie foundation, but all three were company shareholders. The three made over 20 million euros in profits from the deal with the Health Ministry alone.
At the end of February, the OM launched a criminal investigation into the course of events at Hulptroepen Alliantie. On April 29, the OM announced that the three founders were accused of fraud and embezzlement. According to the OM, they harmed the foundation by sending millions of euros intended for it to the commercial company. The authorities seized the Dutch bank accounts of Van Lienden, Damme, and Van Gestel, worth 11.5 million euros.
The authorities now expanded the suspicions against the three to include money laundering because they paid themselves millions of euros in dividends from the Relief Goods Alliance. This step, in which they took money for themselves that may have resulted from a crime, amounts to money laundering, sources close to the investigation said to NRC.
On Tuesday, Van Lienden and Damme will appear in court in another case. This one revolves around whether they should be fired as the directors of the Hulptropen Alliantie foundation.