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VVD senator criticised for ‘conflict of interest’ in social work reform

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A senator with the VVD party has come under fire for voting on a controversial bill to reform social work that was drafted with the help of her own advice bureau.

Investigative website Follow The Money reported that Anne-Wil Duthler’s company, Duthler Associates, was hired in 2013 by the public health ministry (VWS) to advise on the draft text of the Social Support Act (Wet maatschappelijke ondersteuning).

A number of recommendations were included in the bill presented to Parliament. After being approved by the lower house, the bill scraped through the senate by a majority of one (37-36).

Duthler was one of the senators who voted in favour. Wim Voormans, professor of constitutional law at Leiden University, said there was ‘at the very least a conflict of interest’ in Duthler’s dual role, while Muel Kaptein, professor of business ethics at Rotterdam School of Management, said her behaviour went ‘directly’ against the principle of keeping government and parliament separate.

A spokesman for the VVD told Follow The Money Duthler played no direct role in advising the government and her agency had been hired due to ‘lack of time’ within the ministry.

Duthler chairs the senate’s standing committee on justice and security and is also a member of the committees on home affairs, general affairs (the prime minister’s department) and immigration and asylum. (DutchNews)

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Four dead, two children, in apparent family murder suicide in Papengracht

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police are investigating what they say appears to be a murder suicide at a family home in Papendrecht, just north of Dordrecht.

The family, a 32-year-old couple and children aged four and six, were found dead at their home on Saturday morning after the emergency services were alerted following reports of a fire at their terraced home.

A preliminary investigation showed that the children had ‘died violently’ and police now assume that the man killed his wife and children before killing himself, Dutch media reported.

The family had been under social services supervision since summer 2017 following a string of domestic disturbances. (DutchNews)

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Parents jailed for one year for snatching child from foster mother

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Parents who snatched their baby from a foster parent in January last year and took the child to Germany have been jailed for 12 months, four suspended, by judges in Den Bosch.

In addition, baby Hannah’s father was found guilty of physically assaulting the foster mother, by hitting her to force her to give up the child. The court said the couple had put their own interests ahead of those of the child.

‘In addition, their action had a direct impact on their child because she had to be placed in a new foster family,’ the court said. The baby and her parents were found on a German holiday park in Bad Bentheim, close to the Dutch border in January 2017, a few days after she was snatched outside a supermarket.

Hanneke was taken into care when she was seven weeks old after social workers became suspicious about two broken ribs sustained by the baby, plus other injuries.

The public prosecution department told the court the couple were fully prepared when they grabbed back the child and had been searching the internet using terms such as ‘escape child services’ and ’emigrate to Portugal’. (DutchNews)

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Big brother is watching your car: tax office to get new powers to snoop

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The tax office is to be given new powers to check car owners have paid road tax by scanning every car on the Dutch roads and comparing the number plate to a data base, RTL reported on Friday.

The measure is included in the government’s tax plans for 2019 but was hidden away under ‘other fiscal measures’, the broadcaster said. The tax office will make use of footage taken by speed cameras and cameras used to monitor road conditions using technology known as ANPR.

There are some 800 ANPR cameras monitoring Dutch roads. ANPR technology allows officials to record the number plate, the date, the time and the location of every car passing by.

The tax office will then process this to find out who has not paid their road tax. It expects the measure to raise €10m a year. The tax office used to use the ANPR system to try to catch company car drivers who were breaking the rules on private use but was forced to stop after the courts ruled this was illegal.

Approved

The Dutch privacy watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens told the AD that the new proposal had been approved. ‘The tax office has been very clear about why they want the images and why it is necessary,’ the spokesman said.

‘It is still not allowed to check the private use of company cars.’ However, a tax office spokesman said that research is underway into using the ANPR system to collect information about lease car drivers’ whereabouts as well.

Tax inspectors already use cars fitted with special scanners in an effort to track down people who use their company cars for private business. Festivals, out-of-town shopping centres, sports events and other popular destinations are targeted in particular. (DutchNews)

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Nicky Verstappen murder suspect has not confessed, his lawyer says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The man suspected of killing 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen 20 years ago and arrested after new techniques gave a dna match, has not confessed to the crime, his lawyer told judges in Maastricht on Monday.

‘If he had made a confession, we would be having a completely different conversation,’ lawyer Gerald Roethof told a remand hearing on Thursday. Roethof told the court that the public prosecution department does not have sufficient evidence to convict his client.

Roethof told RTL Nieuws earlier this week that the dna evidence against Brech is weak. ‘We have to be very careful about the dna and drawing conclusions based on it,’ he said.

As well as Brech’s dna, traces from five other people were also found on the boy and there is no blood or sperm link, Roethof said. Brech was arrested in Spain at the end of last month.

He was identified via a mass dna testing, launching a Europe-wide hunt. Nicky Verstappen was murdered on a campsite in Limburg in July 1998. (DutchNews)

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NL-born Moroccan, involved in football linesman’s death, told to leave

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 22-year-old Moroccan national who was born and brought up in the Netherlands but has never applied for Dutch nationality, has been told he has to leave the country for at least 10 years.

Ibrahim C was one of a gang of six young football players who attacked linesman Richard Nieuwenhuizen after a match in Almere in 2012.

Nieuwenhuizen died of his injuries in hospital shortly afterwards. C, who was given a 24-month sentence for his role in the attack six years ago, was 16 and captain of the Nieuw Sloten B1 team at the time.

He has since been in trouble with the police several times for drugs and shoplifting, although his lawyer told the court he is now having treatment for his problems. He does not have a Dutch passport because, the court was told, his mother never had the funds to pay for one.

C was not in court to hear judges uphold the immigration service to deport him because he is considered ‘a threat to public order’. In 2016 he was told that his temporary residence permit would not be renewed, broadcaster NOS said.

Nationality

The Dutch justice ministry also has the power to strip people of their Dutch nationality if they are convicted of, or suspected of, involvement in, terrorist activities or otherwise being a danger to national security.

And earlier this week it emerged judges had given a lighter sentence to an Afghan for raping an 18-year-old girl so he wouldn’t risk losing refugee residency status.

The Volkskrant reported that in 2017 90 people with official refugee status had their permits withdrawn after being found guilty of a serious crime or forming a threat to public order. (DutchNews)

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Arnhem villa murder convictions may be biggest miscarriage of justice in NL

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nine men who served five to 12 years in prison for a 1998 robbery which ended in murder may be victims of the biggest miscarriage of justice ever to take place in the Netherlands, the NRC reports.

The case, known as the Arnhem villa murder, revolves around the robbery of a 63-year-old woman in her home in Arnhem. She was shot through the head and killed, and her 33-year-old friend was wounded and survived.

The robbers got away with a couple of bank cards, some money and a bracelet. Nine men, eight of whom were of Turkish descent, were arrested for the crime.

Their convictions are now deemed to have been ‘potentially unsafe’ according to a report sent to the public prosecutor’s office by Acas, a panel of independent legal experts.

The panel said video footage of the interrogation of the men was ‘worrying’ and showed the suspects were put under undue pressure. In some cases, ‘words were put into their mouths’ even though they spoke little Dutch.

In addition, forensic investigation into fingerprints and blood could not be linked to the suspects, and that is now to be re-tested, the paper said. If the investigation into dna evidence turns out to be unrelated to the men, a request to review the case will be filed at the High Court.

Meanwhile the men have completed their prison terms. One man committed suicide in his cell, leaving a note saying, ‘I am innocent’, the NRC reported. (DutchNews)

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Rapist gets lighter sentence to protect his residency status

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A judge has given a lighter sentence to an Afghan for raping an 18-year-old girl so he wouldn’t risk losing refugee residency status, the AD reports.

Zaman S, 38, was found guilty of raping the girl, who has learning difficulties, in the back of a shop where he worked. The girl came into the shop to buy a bag but was lured into the back where S accosted her.

The norm for the crime is 24 months but S was given 20 months because, the judge said, the suspect is from an unsafe country and wants to start a family with his wife who has also come to this country.

A higher sentence would have ‘far-reaching legal consequences for his status in the Netherlands’, he said. Other factors contributing to a lighter sentence where the fact that the rape took place over two years ago and the defendant had no criminal record, the paper writes.

Lawyer Richard Korver, who acted for the victim, said the status of a person who has committed such a serious crime should not be taken into consideration. MPs have said they want more clarity on the guidelines in these cases.

‘This can’t be what the law means, and we will ask the justice minister for an explanation,’ the AD quotes CDA MP Madeleine van Toorenburg as saying.

The Volkskrant reported that in 2017 90 people with official refugee status had their permits withdrawn after being found guilty of a serious crime or forming a threat to public order. (DutchNews)

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A good news budget? Most don’t believe they’ll have more to spend next year

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The third Mark Rutte-led Dutch government will publish its first budget on Tuesday, after the outgoing coalition brought out a holding budget last year.

Much of the economic forecast has already been leaked and most of the substance will have been included in last year’s coalition agreement. Nevertheless, the budget presentation is an opportunity for the government to put its own stamp clearly on policy for 2019 and beyond.

Despite leaked assurances that nearly everyone will have more to spend next year, over three-quarters of the population simply don’t believe it, according to a new poll by current affairs programme EenVandaag.

The drive to boost spending power is one of the government’s key themes but, the survey shows, just 17% of those polled believe that their own spending power will go up in 2019.

‘The increase in value added tax (btw), rising rents, rising energy bills… no pay rise can keep pace with that,’ one respondent told EenVandaag. In particular people on low incomes are concerned – just 6% believe the government’s assurances of having more disposable cash.

King

The Prinsjesdag rituals – including the king’s speech to open the new parliamentary year – are enshrined in the Dutch constitution and will take place as they always do.

That means king Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima will travel to the parliamentary complex in the heart of the The Hague in a horse-drawn coach.

There the king will address the members of the upper and lower houses of parliament, plus the diplomatic corps, and outline the government’s plans for the coming year in the grand setting of the Knights Hall.

Later, finance minister Wopke Hoekstra will brief parliament on the country’s economic prospects. MPs will start their debate on the government’s plans on Wednesday and continue on Friday, rather than Thursday because the prime minister has to attend an EU summit.

In the weeks thereafter, each individual ministry budget will be scrutinised and debated. What has been leaked: 95% of the population will have an average of 1.5% more to spend; People on social security benefits will see a 0.9% increase, the average rise is 1.5%.

The economy will grow by 2.5% in 2019 Unemployment will continue to fall The state debt will dip under 50% of GDP Brexit could cost the Netherlands 1% to 2% of GDP; The budget surplus will hit €10bn, but the structural deficit will drop to 0.4%; More money will be spend on education, defence, security and the infrastructure; The government forecasts a monthly rise of 10% in health insurance premiums.

The 15% tax on dividends will be scrapped, costing an estimated €1.9bn Corporation tax will be lowered from 25% to 22.24%, rather than 21% to pay for the dividend tax cut; Announced earlier and implemented in 2019 The number of tax bands will be reduced to two – almost 37% up to €68,507 and 49.5% for all income above that.

Home owners who have almost or entirely paid off their mortgage will again have to pay tax on the value of their property – more details are expected today The 30% ruling for international workers will be cut from eight to five years.

We will find out today if there will be a transition period after all. The low rate of value-added tax (btw) which applies to food and entertainment will go up from 6% to 9%; The rules for having a company bike will be simplified. Users will have to add 7% of the value of their bike to their income for tax purposes.

What we won’t hear

Broadcaster NOS states that nothing will be said about efforts to reform the pension system, which the government is keen to carry out but which are bogged down in talks between unions and employers.

Nor will there be any comment on the cost of the recent climate agreement because many of the measures needed to phase out the use of natural gas in the Netherlands are still being worked out in talks involving various interest groups.

‘Both the climate and pension are very complicated issues,’ NOS correspondent Xander van der Wulp said. ‘The cabinet does not want to impose its will but hopes the talks will result in something.’ (DutchNews)

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Budget will make NL stronger, safer and more prosperous: finance minister

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told MPs on Tuesday afternoon that government policy in the coming years is aimed at making the country ‘stronger, safer and more prosperous.’

The minister was outlining the government’s strategy, following the official opening of the parliamentary year by king Willem-Alexander. ‘Our current wealth is no guarantee for prosperity in the future,’ Hoekstra told MPs.

This is why the government is investing in society, and boosting spending power for citizens, the finance minister said.

Macro-economic

The economic substance of the government’s plans leaked out earlier. Hoekstra forecasts an average rise in spending power of 1.5%, that the economy will grow 2.6% and that the structural budget deficit will reach 0.4% of GDP, just above the 0.5% limit set down in eurozone regulations.

Despite the rosy picture, the minister warned his audience about stormy waters ahead in the shape of trade wars and Brexit which, he said, ‘threatens our exports, our jobs and our wallets’.

Prime minister

Speaking after Hoekstra’s presentation, prime minister Mark Rutte confirmed that the government will press ahead with the controversial plans to scrap the dividend tax, despite the fact only 11% of the population support it.

‘The worry is that a couple of the biggest Dutch companies may leave and we have to prevent that,’ Rutte said. If those companies do leave, the prime minister said, ‘jobs, innovation and the stock exchange’ would all be affected.’

Parliament will debate the government’s plans on Wednesday and Friday. (DutchNews)

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