Criminal law does not allow Tax Authority's prosecution in benefits scandal: court
The Tax Authority will not be criminally prosecuted for the childcare allowance scandal. The appeals court in The Hague made this ruling on Wednesday in a complaint procedure. According to the court, criminal law does not offer the possibility to prosecute the service despite the “unprecedented injustice” done to the victims.
Many victims filed criminal charges against the Tax Authority, accusing the service of professional discrimination, extortion, and coercion through abuse of authority. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) decided not to prosecute, after which many complainants went to the Court of Appeal with an Article 12 procedure to force prosecution. According to them, there is enough evidence.
The OM found that the Tax Authority had not committed any criminal offenses. The service also enjoys criminal immunity, the OM said at the time.
According to the Court of Appeal, there is “reasonable suspicion” that the Tax Authority is guilty of professional discrimination. But its criminal immunity stands in the way of criminal prosecution, the court ruled. For the other points in the declaration, there is not enough evidence for successful prosecution, even apart from the question of immunity, the court said. And professional discrimination allegedly committed before 2016 is time-barred, the court said.
In its ruling, the court said that the “allowances affair has caused a lot of suffering to parents and their children and the impact on their lives has been great. Hard regulations, strict interpretation of the law, and the lack of human touch have done them an unprecedented injustice.”
The Cabinet, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, the National Ombudsman, and the Dutch Data Protection Authority have all established that the Tax Authority acted improperly and unlawfully. According to the responsible State Secretary, the service committed “institutional racism.”
Another case, in which dozens of victims filed racism charges against individual Tax Authority employees, is still ongoing. Lawyer Anis Boumanjal said on behalf of the victims that the OM is still processing their declarations. “The approach of my clients’ decorations is different. This declaration was filed against individual employees who allegedly discriminated against them. They have therefore not acted in the public interest and can therefore be considered punishable.”
“I had foreseen legally from day one that the Tax Authority as a whole, including the senior officials who pull the strings, could not be prosecuted,” Boumanjal said. “The Tax Authority simply enjoys criminal immunity. As far as I’m concerned, the time is right to review those immunity rules.”
Reporting by ANP