Why am I not surprised that VVD celebrity Neelie Kroes has been discredited again? Why do I not fall out of my chair over the fact that the former politician, who for a period was called ‘the most powerful woman in Europe’, turned out to be for sale as an advanced pensioner for Uber’s taxi cowboys?
Am I perhaps not surprised, because our powerlady fits seamlessly into the list of Robin Linschoten, Henry Keizer and a whole host of other liberal pickpockets? Oh no, even though VVD is definitely a frontrunner in shady cases, we just as easily find these types among the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats and politicians of a different color.
One messes around with statements, the other favors a project developer and another third does a little bribery, money laundering and forgery. Then you also have the junks with permits, the slum landowners and ministers who drop out in the meantime to cash in on business; preferably in the sector in which they were already active.
But Neelie is a different story. The former minister and EU commissioner already has a bad smell since her friendship and business contacts with criminal real estate baron Dirk Paarlberg; ultimately sentenced to the highest court for money laundering on behalf of top criminal Willem Holleeder. And to make it even more shocking: it involved millions who had been extorted from Willem Endstra, the underworld’s liquidated banker.
At the time, Netwerk-Neelie – as the lobbyist was called after her departure from Dutch politics – did not know how quickly she had to leave the 14th-century castle Paarlberg in Maarssen – where she was allowed to hold office for free. She would even have packed her things in the middle of the night. Like she left her husband Bram Peper when he got into a receipt affair as mayor of Rotterdam.
There had been controversial contacts before, which Neelie got away with. For example, she was chairman of the board of the automation company Newtron, a company in which Nina Brink and Willem Smit participated. We still remember Nina Brink from her later wind trading with World Online, and Smit was (erroneously) discredited for alleged insider trading in shares of her company Datex Software.
‘Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are,’ reads the proverb. And Neelie knows that all too well. Did she leave earlier with a deficit, as if she had discovered too late that she “was dealing with people who did not know the difference between mine and yours” or a slogan like “I have found out” gradually Mrs. Kroes seems very often involved in shady business.
Such as the million grant that she awarded as minister to the waste treatment company TCR, while she had been explicitly warned that TCR was committing environmental fraud. She was suspected of having subsequently leaked that the National Police put the company under scrutiny; parliamentary inquiry, however, provided no evidence to substantiate this.
Her presidency of a consortium of Dutch companies trying to sell six frigates to the United Arab Emirates did not end completely unscathed. It turned out that in that role she also took care of her friend Joop van Caldenborgh’s business interests. She had to resign from her position, but it still left her with a scam at a company in the Bahamas; something she – while now EU Commissioner – forgot to mention until it was published in the Panama Papers ..
How often can someone immaculately be discredited? Neelie is anything but naive. Calculation and cunning seem like better qualifications. A slightly flattering biography has been published about her, which leaves no room for misunderstandings. The leaked emails from Uber executives now paint a disturbing picture of an elderly woman breaking the rules and walking down winding paths to pull in some extra cash. And that for a lady of power who in 2010 still had a chance to become the first female Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
In her place we got Mark Rutte. Like Neelie, not a model for reliability. In fact, it seems to deceive, lie and cheat Mark’s biggest hobby. But I can not imagine that Rutte whores for a few pennies. I would definitely fall off the chair.