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Parliament wants answers on spying on Booi, El Hage

THE HAGUE--The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament is demanding a quick answer from the cabinet of Prime Minister Rutte on media reports that Bonaire politicians Ramonsito Booi and Burney el Hage were watched by the Dutch intelligence and security agency AIVD.

Parliament wants a letter from the Dutch cabinet by Tuesday, 12:00 noon, which clarifies the reasons and background as to why the AIVD spied on Booi and El Hage of Bonaire’s UPB party between 2005 and 2010.

If the answers are not to Parliament’s liking members might very well decide to call in Ministers of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk and Ivo Opstelten of Safety and Justice for a debate.

Initially, Member of the Second Chamber Linda Voortman of the green left party GroenLinks filed a request for a debate with Plasterk and Opstelten, but a majority of Parliament was in favour of asking for a clarifying letter from government first before convening a debate.

Voortman called for a debate during Thursday’s plenary session following the publication of an article in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper that the AIVD spied upon the two Bonaire politicians from 2005 to 2010, at the time of the constitutional negotiations.

Voortman called the eavesdropping, which took place without the knowledge of the Government of the Netherlands Antilles and then Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage, “a very serious issue.” “We cannot take this lightly,” she said.

Gerard Schouw of the Democratic Party D66 agreed that this was a very serious case and suggested asking the Dutch Government for a clarifying letter. In this letter, which was supported by most parties, the cabinet would also have to explain whether the top of the Ministries of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK and of Safety and Justice (V and J) knew about the AIVD operation in Bonaire. Jeroen Recourt of the Labour Party PvdA said it was “very relevant” to know whether AIVD had operated legally.

The cabinet has to send a letter to the Second Chamber before Tuesday noon, after which Parliament can decide whether a debate is necessary. The agenda point would either be added to the debate on the draft 2014 budget of Kingdom Relations on Wednesday, or a separate plenary meeting will be held on the matter.

Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) said that this latest event showed how bad the relations between the Netherlands and the overseas countries of the Kingdom are. “It shows how forced the relations are and how big the distrust is. We pretend to be friends while at the same time we dispatch intelligence agencies to each other,” he said.

Action is merited if the article in the NRC Handelsblad is indeed true. It means that AIVD would have operated illegally because there was no approval from the Government of the Netherlands Antilles or from AIVD’s Antillean counterpart, the VNA. “A secret service also has to stick to the rules,” said Van Raak.

The MP did not want to anticipate the possible consequences of the alleged illegal operations by AIVD in Bonaire on the criminal case against Booi and El Hage. “But, I fear that this action will only strengthen their position in the Court,” he said.

The Court case will start Monday, November 25. Booi and El Hage have to appear before the judge on several charges. Both politicians have been charged with corruption. Booi is also charged with forgery of a notary deed, while El Hage is suspected of having committed fraud in connection with his mortgage.

The suspects’ lawyer Gert-Jan Knoops said that he plans to bring up the matter of the alleged-illegal spying by AIVD in Court. “Something illegal may have happened. We have to look into the implications and the effect that this might have on the case,” he said.

Knoops said the revelations in the NRC Handelsblad took him by surprise. “Considering this new information, we will have to adapt our own investigation. I don’t know as yet how we will do that. But it is certainly relevant for the criminal case against my clients,” he said. Knoops might initiate his own investigation into the matter, but he might also request the Court to do so.

The information on Booi and El Hage was gathered by an AIVD informant. It was this informant who spoke to NRC Handelsblad journalist Joep Dohmen. According to the informant, whose name has not been released, the contact with AIVD was established through the then acting Representative of the Dutch Government in Willemstad Vincent Stokman.

Stokman, who worked in St. Maarten as the Representative of the Dutch Government in Philipsburg between 2003 and 2005 before going to Curaçao, apparently set up an appointment between the informant and the AIVD liaison in Aruba, who in turn arranged contact with the secret service in the Netherlands.

According to the newspaper it was understandable that AIVD was interested in collecting information in Bonaire because for more than 20 years there were reports of corruption and integrity violations by members of the local government. The newspaper said it was general knowledge that Booi used his political power to enrich himself.

The informant reported to AIVD in detail about the transactions and the real estate deals in which Booi and El Hage were involved. He provided information on the actions by Booi, El Hage and others to set up illegal constructions to evade taxes. “I listened, gathered information and the AIVD absorbed it,” the informant told the NRC.

The informant stopped his operations in 2008, after an AIVD agent told him at a debriefing in the Netherlands that he had been exposed and that it was no longer safe to do his work in Bonaire. The informant said that AIVD told him not to get in contact with them and to wait until they got in touch with him. “They never answered emails or Skype requests after that,” the informant told the newspaper.

The NRC reported that the AIVD information was not part of the criminal dossier against Booi and El Hage.

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