Curacao-based ‘Rabbit’ faces jail for Ballast Nedam money laundering

UTRECHT–The Prosecutor’s Office OM in the Netherlands demanded a fine of 50,000 euros and six months of conditional prison sentence against 70-year-old Rob A., who is said to be guilty of laundering 1.5 million euros in bribes.

The suspect took that money for himself out of the hundreds of millions of euros of bribes that contractor Ballast Nedam paid to Saudi and Surinamese officials and politicians around the turn of the century.

The Prosecutor also wants to reclaim 858,497 euros in an illegally obtained benefit from A.

Rob A. was financial director of Ballast Nedam International and director of Ballast Nedam Group. After his formal departure from the construction company in 1997, A. continued to advise Ballast Nedam until 2002 and remained with the Chamber of Commerce as director of the construction company.

According to the Prosecutor, an unconditional prison sentence is in place for Rob A. But because of his advanced age and because the facts have taken place so long ago, the Prosecution Service softened the demand.

Rob A. is the first and until now only employee of Ballast Nedam against whom punishment is demanded in this extensive corruption case. The construction company reached a financial agreement instead of prosecution in 2012.

The owner of Ballast Nedam during the bribe payments, the defence company British Aerospace, reached a settlement with the American justice. Accounting firm KPMG arranged this affair with the Dutch Prosecution.

Partly because of the settlements with other parties involved, the court in Utrecht recently declared the OM inadmissible to prosecute three former KPMG auditors. They would have covered bribe payments by Ballast Nedam in a shadow financial administration.

Rob A. was not present at his trial on Tuesday. He lives in Curaçao where he has a sugar cane company.

It is said to be “plausible” that A. paid himself 37.5 per cent of the US $4.5 million he sent to the Deputy Director General of the Saudi tax authorities via the Liechtenstein company Roveco on behalf of Ballast Nedam in a Swiss number account.

Part of the then-Netherlands guilder 34.4 million of the bribe that Ballast Nedam paid to the Surinamese political party of President Bouterse, Rob A. paid to himself, without Ballast Nedam being aware of it.

According to counsel for Rob A., Gerard Spong, the accusation of the Prosecutor against his client amounts to the fact that he “took a few crumbs” from the number of bribes from Ballast Nedam.

It is a fraction of the bribes that Ballast Nedam paid to Saudis and Surinamese according to the Prosecutor.

Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal alone received a total of US $458 million in bribes, the president of the Utrecht court quotes from the criminal file. Ballast Nedam paid these bribes to Saudis and Surinamese to win contracts. In Saudi Arabia it concerns the construction of military airfields and in Suriname the construction of two bridges.

Ballast Nedam employees called the bribes “facilitating payments.”

In the shadow financial administration, the recipients received names like Lucky Luke, Bassie and Adriaan. Rob A. goes under the pseudonym “Rabbit,” according to the prosecutor.

Spong called the persecution of A. “class justice,” because the companies settled. “This is a totally unacceptable arbitrary attitude of the Prosecution.”

According to Spong, the court must declare the OM inadmissible. According to him, the prosecutor drew a settlement offer to his client too late. As financial director, A. “only implemented the policy from above”. Spong: “Bribe was in the DNA of Ballast Nedam.”

On Thursday, a second former Ballast Nedam director will be brought to trial for the appropriation of part of the bribe that was intended for Saudi workers.

Source: The Daily Herald