‘Hans G. was like Santa Claus’
The RUG employees did not profit from it financially, but they definitely knew something was going on, say sources both within and outside the university.
G. had a group of people around him of whom he brooked no argument. ‘It was almost like a family, and Hans was the smartest family member by far’, according to one of the sources. It struck people within the university that G. always worked with the same companies and that others stood no chance. ‘That is a clear signal that something is up.’
Hans G., head of the maintenance department, was arrested by the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service (FIOD) two weeks ago. He is the main suspect in an investigation into corruption, forgery of documents and money laundering. All in all, eight suspects have been arrested, including his son and daughter-in-law. G. has worked at the RUG for 33 years and the investigative service says he has caused hundreds of thousands of euros worth of harm to the university.
A business owner whose company was involved in the fraud describes him as a Santa Claus-like figure to the people around him. ‘I don’t think he gave them any money, but he would come by with pickled herring sometimes. People didn’t want that to end. And all those people keeping their mouth shut are missing that Santa Claus.’
The Service Management department at the RUG is closely connected to several installation and construction companies in the region. They get a call when a building needs painting, a heating system needs fixing or a window needs replacing. Sometimes, the companies loan out employees to the university for years.
That is useful, say employees at the RUG. ‘Because when a window is broken, you don’t want to first put a contract out. You want a quick fix.’ However, this enabled G. to decide which companies were awarded the lucrative maintenance contracts and which were not.
They are often small companies with the RUG as their only large client. ‘G. would pressure you if you didn’t play ball. He would threaten to not give you any more work.’
G. would have the companies send in invoices for materials and work for private use, according to one of the business owners. He would have the external mechanics write receipts for work that had not actually been done for the RUG. The installation and construction companies would then submit an invoice, and the university had to foot the bill.
The alleged fraud had been going on since at least the early ‘90s. G. would do things like invite the companies to fishing competitions or dinners, for instance, and then send them steep bills that were much higher than the actual costs incurred, says a business owner. Companies that did not want to take part or argued with G. would lose any chance of a contract, business owners say.
According to a comment below a news story on the case on OOG TV, the university was warned about the fraud in 2011, but nothing came of it. The RUG has declined to respond to this message, as have employees at the Service Management department.
FIOD’s investigation into the fraud is still ongoing, according to a spokesperson. This Thursday, the judge will decide whether there is sufficient reason to detain G. for the investigation. ‘There is the question of whether there is a chance of recidivism or whether he is a flight risk. If this is not the case, he will be released. But that says nothing about the seriousness of the fraud’, according to the spokesperson.
The RUG has already decided to take steps. During a press conference on Tuesday, the Board of the University will explain these steps further, says RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens.
The business owners and RUG employees we talked to for this article chose to remain anonymous. Their names are known to the editorial staff.