Dutch minister steps down seven weeks before elections

The Hague, Jan 27 (IANS) Seven weeks before the general elections in the Netherlands, Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur has quit his post.

The move came on Thursday after a debate in parliament following new allegations on a controversial crime deal, Xinhua news agency reported.

Van der Steur said he did not feel the confidence of the members of the parliament any more and that he did not want to wait for a possible motion of no confidence.

The debate therefore ended with the minister resigning.

“I already took my decision, but I wanted to do this debate to defend myself against false accusations,” Van der Steur told the parliament.

According to revelations in a book by journalist Bas Haan, Van der Steur misinformed the parliament on knowledge he had about an amount of money paid in a crime deal.

Van der Steur claimed the revelation did not contain new information and that he never had the intention to hide something, but opposition parties claimed he wanted to fool members of parliament.

Van der Steur is not the first political victim of the “Teeven deal”, a controversial deal with a convicted drug lord which dates back to 2001.

In exchange for information on an even bigger drug lord, Fred Teeven, the public prosecutor at the time had given 4.7 million Dutch guilders ($2.24 million) to criminal Cees H., who led a drugs syndicate in the eighties and nineties.

At that time, the deal was kept secret from the tax services.

Van der Steur’s predecessor Ivo Opstelten and Teeven, who was State Secretary of Justice, stepped down in March 2015 following misinformation on the settlement.

In December 2015, an investigation committee slammed the controversial deal, stating it should not have been struck.

Following a report by the commission, Anouchka van Miltenburg, at that time president of one of the chambers of the Dutch parliament, the House of Representatives, also stepped down.

Her role had been blasted because she had put a letter from an anonymous bell-ringer, in which all the details of the Teeven deal were pointed out into a shredder, and denied any knowledge of the deal against the commission.

For Van der Steur, a period of no longer than two years as minister comes to an end. It was not the first time he came into trouble since his appointment in March 2015.

In April last year, the 47-year-old had already survived a vote of no confidence during a fierce debate on the fight to end terrorism.

The opposition parties questioned whether the terrorism fight was in good hands with Van der Steur after he had made a series of mistakes and had given misinformation.

Stef Blok, currently acting as Minister for Housing and the Central Government Sector, will replace Van der Steur.

–IANS

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