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Dutch security agency spied on Booi, El Hage

THE HAGUE--Bonaire politicians Burney el Hage and Ramonsito Booi have been illegally spied on by the Dutch intelligence and security agency AIVD, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported on Thursday. The Dutch Labour Party is seeking clarity from the Dutch Government.

The two politicians of the UPB party were watched by the AIVD between 2005 and 2010, the newspaper reported. Both men are suspected in the Zambezi corruption and fraud case which the Court will handle on Monday, November 25.

Booi has been charged with four cases of corruption and forgery in a notary deed, while El Hage is accused of having committed mortgage fraud and corruption. El Hage has tendered his resignation as Commissioner and former Commissioner and Member of the Antillean Parliament Booi is no longer the leader of the UPB party.

According to NRC Handelsblad, the AIVD operation was illegal and took place without knowledge or consent of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles under which Bonaire resorted at the time.

The AIVD was only allowed to carry out information and safety operations in Bonaire with the permission of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles or the head of the Antillean intelligence agency VNA.

Former Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage told the newspaper that she knew nothing of the AIVD operation. "I am shocked," she said. The AIVD operation should have been carried out under the supervision and authority of the VNA.

The AIVD reportedly gathered information via informants. The information apparently indicated that Booi and Elhage might have been involved in corruption and abuse of power. A spokesperson of the AIVD told the newspaper that it never commented on individual cases.

Sources said that top civil servants of the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK had knowledge about the information gathered by the AIVD. According to the sources the situation was "problematic" for the Ministry because Booi and Elhage were involved in the negotiations with The Hague to integrate Bonaire in the Netherlands. On October 10, 2010, Bonaire became a public entity of the Netherlands, along with St. Eustatius and Saba.

At the time of the negotiations, the UPB party had been in power for more than ten years and the party was also a member of the Antillean Council of Ministers. Elhage was Minister of Economic Affairs between 2006 and 2007.

The Hague kept the negotiations with the UPB politicians going despite the "worrisome" AIVD reports, stated NRC journalist Joep Dohmen in the article. The AIVD continued keeping an eye on the movements of Booi and Elhage.

The Public Prosecutor's Office initiated a criminal investigation of Booi and Elhage after then State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ank Bijleveld-Schouten reached an agreement on the constitutional future of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Dutch detectives carried out house searches at the residencies of Booi and El- hage in September 2009.

The newspaper article prompted Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Roelof van Laar and Jeroen Recourt, both of the PvdA, to pose written questions to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, also of the PvdA.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) want to know if indeed the AIVD spied on Booi and Elhage and whether this operation was legal or illegal. They asked the Minister if he was aware of this operation and whether he had given permission for it.

"Were the politicians in Bonaire informed before or after this operation? Are other politicians in the Kingdom being bugged at this moment? Did this operation have influence on the negotiations for a new constitutional future of Bonaire? Did the information lead to a criminal investigation," asked Van Laar and Recourt.

Ramonsito Booi stated in a short reaction Thursday afternoon: "I will be the most sought, investigated and scrutinized politician of the Caribbean if the report in the NRC Handelsblad is true."

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