Hook, line and sinker
Ever since maintenance manager Hans G. was arrested by the FIOD, his department – the RUG’s maintenance department – has been extra careful. Receipts get checked twice and there is a list of suspected companies shared via email.
At the top of that list is engineering firm Postma, owned by Marinus P. and son, which performed maintenance at RUG buildings. Marinus P. was arrested by the FIOD at the end of January.
Marinus and Hans know each other well ‘from work’. Marinus would also come to the Krikke Visdag, a fishing trip for RUG retirees and friendly contractors organised by Hans G.
Hans G. allegedly took companies for dinners or fishing tournaments, only to then send exorbitantly high invoices. Those who did not pay would no longer get jobs. He also had the companies write extra receipts for work that was never done.
Marinus P. and his son also made money off the RUG through the company Display Noord. This company rented out items such as podiums, a red carpet and sign posts to the university. According to insiders, these products used to belong to the RUG.
It has been three months now since Hans G. was arrested for fraud. The FIOD caught wind of him after a different company, Mennes & Jager, went bankrupt.
This was one of the companies that Hans prefered to work with in his capacity as maintenance manager at the RUG. During the investigation into the abuses at the bankrupt company, it became clear that the RUG employee had asked for favours in return for contracted work.
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Since the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) hauled RUG manager Hans G. from his bed, the maintenance department – where the maintenance manager was working – has been extra careful. Receipts from service companies are checked twice and a list of suspected companies is regularly circulated at the RUG. This list consists of companies with whom Hans G. has defrauded the RUG for what was probably tens of thousands of euros over the past 20 years.
At the top of the list is engineering firm Postma, owned by Marinus P. and his son. The company from Peizermade performed a lot of maintenance at the RUG in recent years. Just like Hans G., Marinus P. was detained by the investigation service in late January. He admits that the company is involved in the criminal investigation into the fraud. ‘But they released me almost immediately. It was a short interrogation’, Marinus calmly says on the phone. ‘Now we’ll just wait and see how the investigation goes.’
Marinus (63) knows Hans well – from work, he says. For 15 years, Hans was his direct contact at the RUG. According to various sources both within and outside the RUG, they are even family. Brothers-in-law, many say. But Marinus staunchly denies this. ‘No, we’re not related, not even remotely. I don’t know why people think that. There has been so much nonsense spread about Hans and me. But you can’t believe everything you read, can you?’
One thing is clear, though: they have known each other for years. Hans G. and his son Michiel, who was also arrested by the FIOD, are friends with Marinus, his wife, his brother-in-law and their children on Facebook. Just like Marinus, Hans and Michiel are fervent fishermen. Hans organised the Krikke Visdag for RUG retirees and the contractors they came into contact with during their careers, and Marinus was always in attendance.
Marinus founded his family business with the help of a RUG email address. According to his Facebook page he was a plumber at the university, but on the phone, he denies having been employed there. ‘No, that was under my own company name’, he responds. So how did he manage to get an email address at the university? ‘Oh, quite a few people have one. Everyone who works a lot for the RUG gets one. That’s quite common. Then you can log in and get your contract via email.’
Exactly how Hans G. committed his fraud remains unknown – for now. According to the FIOD, he would ask companies for favours and payments for himself and his family in exchange for contracts for those companies. A business owner who participated in the fraud says he would take the companies out to dinner or fishing tournaments and then send them invoices that were much too big. Anyone who protested against this would not get any new contracts. That meant huge losses for the companies, for whom the RUG often represented their only large client.
He would also make them write receipts for work that had not in fact been performed at the university, such as eradication of a legionella infection at dentistry. The Postma employees skilfully installed new pipes and placed new boilers. It was a job worth millions, and insiders say some of the receipts submitted were fake.
Marinus P. will not comment on the fraud. ‘I won’t respond to that. I don’t want to talk about it while the investigation is ongoing’, he says.
The maintenance jobs were not the only way Marinus and his son made money off the RUG. Through his company Display Noord, he rents sign posts and tables to the university for conferences, seminars, and events. The signs that RUG organisations use to present themselves during the Welcoming Ceremony belong to Display Noord, as do the signposts in all the university buildings. Even the red carpet that was laid out in front of the Academy building for the RUG’s 400 year anniversary was supplied by Display Noord.
According to insiders at the university, the equipment that is now being rented out by Display Noord used to belong to the university itself. For example, the podium that was used for the lecturer of the year election and the Aletta Jacobs award used to be stored in a maintenance department garage where it could be picked up by employees. But suddenly, that same podium had to be rented from Display Noord and was delivered and set up by employees from engineering firm Postma.
‘Hans G. transferred it to Postma’, say sources who wish to remain anonymous. Marinus denies this. ‘That’s not true, either’, he says. But he will not explain. ‘I’d prefer not to elaborate on that, if that’s alright.’
His lawyer Mathieu van Linde is unhappy that his client’s company is being named. ‘I know the case, and Display Noord is not remotely involved in the criminal investigation.’
At any rate, Hans G. will be in pre-trial custody for several weeks, awaiting the outcome of the FIOD investigation. It will probably be months before the case is heard in court. The internal investigation that the university has tasked Bureau Hoffmann with is expected to be finished in four to six weeks.
In the meantime, Marinus P. continues working, although that is not easy. ‘The RUG is our largest employer. It’s going to be quite a struggle to survive. It’ll be really difficult.’
Terrible tax evader
For years, Hans G. was able to commit the fraud unimpeded. By controlling all the contracts himself, putting pressure on the maintenance companies and keeping everyone at the university happy, no one was any the wiser. But everything went to hell when one of ‘his’ service companies crumbled and it turned out that they had been bamboozling everyone as well.
When Hans G. was arrested three months ago, it was not because the RUG had discovered his fraudulent practices. The FIOD had found him after Mennes & Jager’s bankruptcy a year ago.
This was one of Hans G.’s preferred companies and a familiar name at the university. Just like Postma, Mennes & Jager regularly performed maintenance for the university’s buildings. ‘As we understand it, Mr. Jager and Hans G. knew each other well’, says trustee Pieter Lettinga of the law firm Dorhout Advocaten.
Mennes & Jager‘s contractors were a regular presence at the RUG for years. But that ended when Jan Jager suddenly stopped paying his own employees. The director turned out to have more than one million euros in tax arrears and had high-tailed it to Germany.
The tax authorities had been keeping an eye on him for some time. But Jager kept silent, rapidly pushing through board member changes and registering his company at addresses which were nothing but empty garages. Supplies and inventories were constantly moved and new companies were set up to evade the tax authorities.
The new companies would rack up tax debts, after which Jager would abandon them and immediately start up a new company. Even after the tax authorities had seized his assets and the trustee began an investigation, Jager would do anything he could to evade them.
The RUG owed Mennes & Jager almost 140,000 euros when the company went bankrupt. The tax authorities wanted that money, so they seized it. But Jager quickly set up a new company and sent an invoice to the university. However, the tax authorities saw through his sham construct and warned the RUG. The RUG then suspended the payments, and Mennes & Jager went bankrupt.
Trustee Pieter Lettinga investigated the sham construct and spoke with most of the employees at Mennes & Jager. ‘During these talks it emerged that, among other things, an employee at the RUG had asked for favours in return for contracts he had extended on behalf of the RUG. It was unclear at this point whether this was actually true. We did not have the necessary information to verify this story, but we shared what we’d been told by the employees with the tax authorities. I’m assuming that they subsequently began further research in consultation with the FIOD.’
This was the beginning of the investigation that involved the search of two commercial properties and six houses, including Hans G.’s home.
According to Jager, who continued his malfeasance in Germany, his bankruptcy was mainly due to bad staff and lack of work. But according to the trustee, Jager is mainly to blame.
That this was a case of bad management is very clear. Prosecution, however, seems impossible. Jager kept his accounting on his laptop, and he says that the laptop was stolen from his car. And without the bookkeeping, it is difficult to pinpoint a suspect.