Demissionary Minister of Finance Hoekstra (CDA) had a stake in a mailbox firm in the British Virgin Islands before becoming minister for many years. That write Trouw, the Financial Dagblad and research platform Investico. They have access to 12 million leaked documents from trust offices through the international journalists collective ICIJ: the so-called Pandora Papers.
The company is called Candace Management and it has about 40 people involved, including several people from the Dutch banking world. They invest in a safari company in East Africa. It is not prohibited by law to use tax structures.
The construction is controversial, says Investico researcher Karlijn Kuijpers. “The Netherlands has been taking all sorts of measures for almost ten years to make those paradise ceases to exist.”
“The ratio of this construction completely escapes me,” says Ruud Pruijm, professor emeritus of administrative engineering at Erasmus University Rotterdam. “Its not easy to do it that way, not really neat. Theres a lot of money flowing to and from tax havens and nobody knows who it is and where it goes.”
Hoekstra had a stake in Candace Management for 26,500 euros when he was a senator for the CDA in the Senate. He was then on a committee, which involved, among other things, bills to combat tax avoidance. A week before Hoekstra became Finance Minister in October 2017, he sold his shares in the firm and donated the profit of some 4800 euros from his investment to charity.
Hoekstra says in an extensive response to Twitter that he made the investment twelve years ago and had not realized where the company was based at the time. “Of course, I should have deepen myself better in that afterwards.”
He further says that he had informed former former Rutte about his investment prior to his office as minister. “I have always adhered to all the rules that apply to members of the government and the First MPs. I have always included this investment in my tax return.”
According to Dirk Waterval van Trouw, the 40 people who are still in the private investment club are all top positions in Dutch business. These include Maarten Muller (Commissioner at Van Lanschot Kempen), Alexandra Schaapveld (former Commissioner of State Bank FMO) and Joost Kuiper (former Commissioner ING).
Tom de Swaan, now President of State Bank ABN Amro, is also a striking name. He was appointed by Hoekstra in July 2018 and still has his shares run through the mailbox firm.
In a comment, De Swaan says: “As a friend club at the time, we supported our former colleague financially with the realisation of his dream, namely an ecofriendly safari company in Africa. An entirely legitimate investment (which has never yielded any return and is considered as a gift by me). This investment has been known to the Dutch tax authorities from the outset.” ABN Amro sees no need to respond.
Hoekstra: didnt know about The Swaan
“All participants from this investment club say that they simply reported their shares to the Tax Authorities, and thus did nothing wrong,” Waterfall says. “But there has been so much fuss about these types of tax havens in recent years because they cover up fraud and corruption. There was an international fight against these countries. From then on, the people who stand behind this battle could have concluded that it would be better if they dont sit there. These people didnt conclude that.”
Hoekstra tells the journalists that he had not known that De Swaan was also involved in the investment club. The lists of shareholders that several investors in the group say they have been routed regularly, says Hoekstra never saw. He would have invested because he was friends with the founder of the safari company through his old student association from Leiden. That company would have rigged the construction to easily attract international investments.