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Maruha Nichiro Buys Dutch Fish Trader
AMSTERDAM, Thursday - Japanese fish giant Maruha Nichiro is buying a majority of the shares in Seafood Connection, a Dutch fish trader from Urk.
Seafood Connection, started in 1995, is active as importer and exporter of deep-frozen fish. The company generates annual sales of 80 million euros and handles 25,000 tonnes of fish. It has a head office in Urk and 60 employees.
The Japanese are acquiring a bare majority of the shares, at 52.5 percent. The takeover price was not disclosed. The other shares of Seafood Connection will remain in the hands of managing director Jan Kaptijn.
With the purchase, the Japanese will give substance to an important goal: Growth on the European market. The Japanese company is bourse-listed and can call itself world market leader with sales of 8 billion euros.
The takeover will not lead to great changes. The Dutch management is staying on. With the advent of the Japanese, more capital will however be available for expansion and other types of fish can be handled.
Geert Wilders Wants to Team up with Flemish Nationalists
THE HAGUE, Tuesday - Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders plans to form a European alliance of anti-European and anti-immigration parties, including Belgian party Vlaams Belang.
Wilders has so far always ruled out a partnership with the Vlaams Belang, formerly known as Vlaams Blok. In May 2009, the PVV leader described as "absolute nonsense" rumours that he was in talks with Vlaams Belang leader Philip Dewinter on cooperation in a new European alliance to be formed between rightwing parties, partly because of the "anti-Semitic sentiments" of this Belgian party.
Now, Wilders says he wants to hold talks with the Flemish nationalists. He also plans to involve France's Front National. He declined to say which other parties he is in talks with and would not say whether he might team up with new German party Alternative fur Deutschland. "Some don't want it to be public," Wilders did note.
Wilders recently met Front National leader Marine Le Pen to discuss his ideas for a pan-European rightwing bloc. "We think the same about 90 percent of things, perhaps more," Wilders said in De Volkskrant this weekend.
Wilders said the meeting with Le Pen is the first of many he plans to have with other European party leaders in an attempt to forge an alliance in next year's European elections. "Next year we can make an enormous advance. Parties which are against what we call the elite are growing in popularity. These are parties which support the national interest, the national identity."
A political revolution is under way "from England to Germany, from France to the Netherlands and Italy", he added. "We are going to judge people by what they are, without fear for the electoral consequences."
Court: Disturbed People Do Not have to be Prosecuted
AMSTERDAM, Thursday - Disturbed people do not have to be prosecuted for offensive statements as long as there is no reason to suppose that they will become violent, a district court in Amsterdam ruled Wednesday.
The judges stated in a case against Jeroen de Kreek that it is better to ignore him than to prosecute him. The former lawyer, holocaust denier and notorious insulter, was in court for the umpteenth time, this time for insulting the then MP Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and Arab world expert Hans Jansen.
The judge decided to throw out the case against De Kreek. What he has said is on the face of it an offence. But carrying on would mean that he was taken seriously and again given a platform” to “once again exhaustively show off his ‘ideas’.”
De Kreek is completely non compos mentis, in the view of the district court. As long as nobody is actually endangered, it is better to pay on attention to the man, according to the court.
''The court questions whether the prosecution of someone like De Kreek would serve any useful social purpose.” His statements about the Holocaust are “complete nonsense for any thoughtful person,” and he keeps making them, despite earlier sentences.
Big Office Complex near Amsterdam to Become Student Campus
THE HAGUE, Tuesday - The Diemervijver office complex just outside Amsterdam in Diemen, which is 90 percent empty, is to become a students’ campus specifically aimed at foreigners. The project is the biggest transformation to date of empty offices for a new use.
Within a few months, the 50,000 sq.m. in offices will be turned into a student campus with about 1,000 rooms and 4,000 square metres of facilities such as a restaurant, a sports school, cafes and a supermarket. “This is a unique spot: As well as a metro and train station, behind the complex is a park, and there are squares where you can meet one another,” says project developer André Snippe.
Snippe and his partners, building company Van Wijnen and Marcel Boekhoorn’s Chalet Group, tapped the complex for a mere 15.5 million euros from HSH Nordbank. All in all, they say they are investing 70 million euros, partly financed by FGH property bank (Rabobank).
While most project developers have difficulty in finding financing due to the crisis in the property market, Snippe says he easily completed it. He is building independent student homes from 28 square metres in the Diemen offices. The students will all have their own spot for cooking and their own shower in their rooms.
Rent will start at 470 euros a month, but those that want extra luxury or a fully-equipped room will pay more. The first 500 students can arrive in August, while the other rooms will be delivered in the course of 2014. Residents must move out six months after graduation.
The concept will appeal mainly to international students, the initiators predict. These students do not want a room with a shared shower, but a ‘fully equipped concept’. Parents want to know that their child is in a safe spot. “So (the complex) will have a police post and its own private security guards.”
Shareholders Hold Imtech CEO Liable for 1 Billion Damages
AMSTERDAM, Saturday - Shareholders’ association VEB is holding former Imtech CEO René van der Bruggen and his former financial right-hand man Boudewijn Gerner personally liable for the damages suffered by shareholders of almost 1 billion euros.
A writ from the VEB obtained by De Telegraaf newspaper shows that the VEB is accusing the former top executives of “improper management” and “misleading.” Should Van der Bruggen and Gerner not want to make a settlement with the VEB, it will go to court.
The Imtech company, the present manage- ment and supervisory board also have liability proceedings hanging over their head, another document aimed at the concern shows. All documents were delivered by a court bailiff Friday, says VEB deputy director Errol Keyner.
These are the preliminary shots across the bows which can result in years of legal proceedings, according to Keyner. “We want the investors to be compensated as much as possi- ble. There is a cool 900 million euros in bourse valuation that evaporated.”
Imtech warned earlier this year of problems in Poland and Germany. The technical services company will have to write off almost half a bil- lion euros on projects in the two countries and announced a 500 million euro rights issue.
Lower House Speaker in Tears following Criticism
THE HAGUE, Saturday - Lower House Speaker Anouchka van Miltenburg burst into tears after a number of parties accused her of partisanship in a debate.
The incident occurred when the opposition pressed for an interlocutory debate with Finance State Secretary Frans Weekers. Van Milten- burg, like Weekers a conservative (VVD) party member, gave the impression she wanted to keep Weekers out of this. He has hit the head- lines because he apparently knew about large- scale subsidy fraud by Bulgarian gangs for a long time without informing the Lower House about this.
According to Christian democratic (CDA) leader Sybrand Buma, the Speaker tried to “steer in a certain direction” the course of busi- ness in the House, whereby he was suggesting that Van Miltenburg had her eye primarily on coalition interests. Other parties also made complaints.
The Speaker appeared to have difficulty with the criticism. She suddenly suspended the meeting and ran out of the chamber. Out of sight of the cameras, she burst into tears. When she came back, she offered the opposi- tion her “humble apologies” for the fact she may have given the impression to have lost her objectivity.
Small Christian party ChristenUnie’s MP Joël Voordewind, a member of the presidium (management) of the House termed the perform- ance Friday on BNR Nieuwsradio ‘’unworthy of a House Speaker’’. Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party, also a member of the presidium, indicated that Van Miltenburg herself does not want to comment further on the commotion.
EU Immigrants Maintain Right
Tax Regime for
House Majority Backs Shale Gas
THE HAGUE, Thursday - A Lower House majority is in favour of drilling for shale gas. As well as the conservatives (VVD), Labour (PvdA) has now also come round to this.
The Lower House was debating on the extraction of shale gas on Wednesday. PvdA MP Jan Vos said his party supports the drilling on condition that “it can be clean and safe.” The VVD had already said that it was in favour of the drilling.
According to VVD MP René Leegte, the method is not new; the drillings are the same as with the extraction of natural gas. The only difference is that gas will not now be extracted from sandstone, but from shale, he said.
The drilling is controversial. Water company Vitens warned recently that in a calamity, tens of thousands of people could be stuck for a long time without water. Brewers and soft-drink manufacturers like Heineken and Coca Cola also then expressed their concern.
Residents of areas where drilling could take place are afraid the value of their homes will deteriorate due to possible ground sinking that causes cracks in walls. There could also be environment damage, say activists, because chemicals are used in the extraction of shale gas.
René Leegte of the VVD qualified these objections. "We have already been drilling for 60 years without problems with groundwater.” If it did after all turn out that the drilling was not safe, or if it is not economically feasible, the Netherlands should not do it, he conceded.
According to the VVD MP, energy prices are coming down throughout the world except in Europe. “We are in crisis, and this has to do with energy prices among other things. By using shale gas, we can keep energy affordable.”
Shale gas is no permanent solution to the energy deficit. Gas could be extracted from the ground for at most 10 years. Shale gas can be extracted mainly in Noord-Brabant and Flevoland.
PvdA Guarantees Illegal Residence Will Become a Crime in Netherlands
THE HAGUE, Thursday - Labour (PvdA) leader Diederik Samsom has guaranteed that illegal residence in the Netherlands will become an offence. At the same time, the PvdA members are threatening to put forward a motion against this plan.
That illegal residence should become an offence was agreed by the conservatives (VVD) and PvdA in the coalition accord. Recently, much opposition has arisen within the PvdA against the proposal, but Samsom and VVD parliamentary leader Zijlstra said in an interview on Wednesday’s TV programme Nieuwsuur that this will go ahead as planned.
A motion will be put forward at a PvdA party congress this Saturday to vote against the coalition agreement. This motion comes from the PvdA branches in Amsterdam, The Hague, Tilburg and Eindhoven.
If the motion is adopted, Samsom will either have to snub his own grassroots or the VVD. In the latter case, this would spark a cabinet crisis.
Samsom appears to be opting for the agreements with the VVD. At the congress in Leeuwarden, there will be “room to debate,” but the agreement in the coalition accord will stand, as far as he is concerned. The PvdA leader does say that help given to illegals, such as the provision of accommodation, will not become an offence.
Under the previous cabinet, the PvdA strongly opposed the planned criminalisation of illegal residence. A motion from The Hague branch to be put forward Saturday states that “great damage will be done to the credibility of our party if we renounce our principles, values and ideals s social democrats by cooperating on the criminalisation of illegal residence.”
According to the plan, illegals can be fined or ultimately put in prison for the sole fact that they are in the Netherlands without permission.
PvdA chairman Hans Spekman - as an MP, an opponent of criminalisation - is not planning to bow to the increasing pressure. “We stand for this agreement from the coalition accord,” said the executive in voting advice to the congress.
‘Without Shale Gas the Dutch State Will Miss out on Billions’
THE HAGUE, Wednesday - The government will miss out on billions if no shale gas is to be extracted in the Netherlands, warns director Jan Dirk Bokhoven of EBN, the state participatory body that participates in all gas and oil extraction in the Netherlands.
"From 2020 to 2030, the amount that the Treasury will miss out on could run up to 4 billion euros a year if the gas that is more difficult to extract remains in the ground. In total, it will then be around 30 billion euros,” says Bokhoven. This relates to shale gas and also among other things to gas from coal layers.
Bokhoven was reacting to the growing opposition to shale gas extraction in the Netherlands. Recently, Het Financieele Dagblad reported increasingly negative discussion of shale gas in messages on the Internet, particularly via micro-blog service Twitter. A small group of activists is responsible for the opposition noises.
The economic affairs ministry has introduced a moratorium on drilling for shale gas. It first wants to chart the risks for the environment. This research has to be completed on 1 June, after which a decision will be made on extraction of shale gas in the Netherlands.
Bokhoven acknowledges that the opponents of shale gas are better organised than the supporters, particularly in the Dutch gas sector. “The opponents to shale gas are currently the top party in the debate on shale gas.”
Cocaine Dealers Acquitted on Prosecution Blunder
DEN BOSCH, Wednesday - Six suspects in a big cocaine smuggling case were acquitted Tuesday due to a blunder by the Public Prosecutor (OM). There is insufficient evidence because the drugs were destroyed too quickly.
The men were on trial for the import in 2007 of some 1,600 kilos of coke, hidden in a consignment of coffee from Costa Rica. A district court in Rotterdam earlier came up with jail sentences running up to 9 years and 10 months for the chief suspect, John Hilkens. But an appeal court in Den Bosch acquitted him and the other five suspects Tuesday due to lack of evidence.
The OM showed in an investigation report that the men shipped cocaine. But this conclusion could no longer be checked via a second opinion because samples of the drugs smuggled to the Netherlands were prematurely destroyed.
The samples formed the core of the evidence in the case. The lower court in Rotterdam considered the first test sufficient, but according to the appeal court in Den Bosch, the suspects could not receive a fair trial due to the lack of the possibility of a second opinion.
Amsterdam Stalls up to 90 Percent of Building Projects
AMSTERDAM, Tuesday - Amsterdam municipality is only going to develop building projects when it is sure they will be sold. This means that 60 to 90 percent will be postponed, Land Affairs Alderman Maarten van Poelgeest said Monday.
The so-called equalisation fund means that the municipality earns money with the sale of ground and invests again in new building projects, is running according to the most pessimistic estimate at a loss of over 200 million euros in 10 years. To reduce this loss, the city executive only wants to go ahead with projects that will yield money for Amsterdam in the next four years.
The alderman believes around 10 percent of the planned building projects can be developed with a profit. For about 30 percent, this is doubtful and 60 percent will definitely be put on ice “because there is little chance that a buyer will come forward in the short term.” In this last case, this concerns some 24,000 houses. One of the plans affected is the prestigious IJburg 2 project.
Read the NIS Dutch housing market archive
Bulgarian Fraud: Subsidies to be Checked Beforehand
THE HAGUE, Tuesday - Finance State Secretary Frans Weekers no longer wants to approve subsidies, such as those for healthcare and rentals, without checking them beforehand. He was responding to reports on large-scale fraud by Bulgarian gangs.
At the moment, in cases of fraud, the tax service has to try to claw back subsidy already paid, which is often impossible, especially when the perpetrators have left the country. Weekers now wants to first check up, and only after that, pay out subsidies for house rent and healthcare bonuses for low-incomes. “I think that it is important for the sustainability of the system that it cannot be used as a cash machine.”
The conservatives (VVD) want to quiz Weekers on his plans in Question Hour in the Lower House on Tuesday. The Party for Freedom (PVV) also wants concrete proposals from the state secretary.
RTL Nieuws reported at the weekend that police are investigating widespread fraud by Bulgarian gangs. They bring Bulgarians to the Netherlands and place them in houses owned by the gang. They then apply for house rent subsidy and healthcare benefits.
These benefits are awarded to the applicants and retrospectively checked. If someone is not eligible they should pay the money back once this is discovered, but the Bulgarians are back in their country by then.
The Bulgarians give their bank cards to the gang, which cashes thousands of euros in subsidies and pays them a couple of hundred euros. According to RTL Nieuws, the gang organises bus tours to the Netherlands for the fraud.
Court Compels Dutch Black Savers to Come Clean
AMSTERDAM, Saturday - The tax service has chalked up a win in a court case against suspected black savers who refuse to give information. Four suspected holders of a savings account with Kredietbank Luxemburg (KB Lux) will now have to come clean, a district court in Amsterdam has ruled.
The account-holders argued that the tax service is not allowed to bring civil cases to prise out information. But the district court found against them. If the four continue to refuse to provide information, a daily fine of 2,500 euros will be imposed on them. This can run up to a maximum of 100,000 euros per case.
The tax service is conducting another 200 similar cases over these weeks. Most are being heard in Amsterdam.
The KB Lux case has been going on ever since 2000. In that year, the tax service received microfiches from its Belgian counterpart that showed that 5,500 Dutch individuals kept current accounts at KB Lux in the mid-1990s.
The tax service launched a hunt for hidden savings behind the accounts. Most account-holders reported their secret funds, in exchange for coulance. But a group of 20 have kept silent right up to the present.
A piquant detail is that the data in Belgium was obtained in an unlawful manner via setting a house search in motion. But the Supreme Court in the Netherlands ruled earlier that the tax service could go ahead and use the information.
Willem-Alexander more Popular than Beatrix
THE HAGUE, Saturday - While Maxima remains the most popular member of the Royal Family by some distance, Prince Willem-Alexander has overtaken Queen Beatrix, according to a survey by DVJ-insights commissioned by RTL Nieuws.
Beatrix was still more popular than her son last January. But Willem-Alexander has since overtaken her, with 9.8 percent of respondents finding him the most sympathetic compared with 8.6 percent who chose Beatrix.
Mother and son cannot however hold a candle to Princess Maxima. Nearly half of the respondents (49.7 percent) find the incoming queen the most sympathetic member of the Royal Family.
The interview that Willem-Alexander and Máxima gave on Wednesday for NOS and RTL Nieuws has contributed to confidence in the future king. His image has changed positively for over half (54 percent) of respondents.
It is not necessary to say King, Queen or Your Majesty to Willem-Alexander and Maxima, said the incoming royal couple in the interview. “I am no protocol fetishist,” said the Crown Prince. “People can address me as they like, because they can be comfortable then". Maxima agreed: "Everyone calls me Maxima."