University

RUG fraud case in court

‘Hans concocted a plan’

Hans G.’s voice is even and he looks self-assured. This in great contrast to his wife, who is sitting next to her lawyer a few seats away. Her voice trembles and she occasionally bursts into tears. She keeps repeating that she does not know anything.
By Peter Keizer / Photo by Traci White / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

At the courthouse in Almelo, the case against former RUG manager Hans G. has started. He is suspected of committing large-scale fraud.

To Hans, everything can be bought. He sent the RUG fake invoices for building materials that were never used for the university. The materials were sold or used elsewhere. He and a handyman shared in the profit.

When the RUG purchased solar panels, Hans made sure his secretary got them as well.*

The RUG also paid the fake invoices for work done on the grounds around his house.

He used a fake invoice to pay his secretary 7,500 euros when she was having money problems. And his son was put on the payroll at two engineering companies in exchange for work at the RUG.

His wife saw the fat envelopes full of cash, as well as her son’s sudden new car, but was afraid to ask about it. ‘We just each did our own part’, she says carefully. ‘He took care of the money and I did other things. That was our arrangement.’

Reading time: 7 minutes (1,291 words)

A year ago, the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigative Services (FIOD) raided their home in Harkstede. The entire house was turned upside down. The FIOD confiscated 11,000 euros in cash, their cars, and their boat, and her husband was arrested. Now she has to appear in court on suspicion of money laundering because she paid the groceries with money from an ABN Amro envelope that her husband often replenished with new bills.

She looks defeated. ‘I don’t know anything, I never got involved’, she says softly. But Hans G. knew exactly where the money came from. But he did not tell his wife, not even when she asked him. ‘I hated it when she did that. I worked hard’, he says by way of explanation.

The Public Prosecution Office (OM) considers Hans G. to be at the centre of the largest fraud case the RUG has ever known. He is suspected of money laundering, forgery of documents, and corruption of public servants. The RUG manager would ask installation and construction companies to bypass official channels and give him money or do favours for his family in exchange for maintenance contracts with the university. He allegedly put his son and his daughter-in-law on the payroll of two companies. He is accused of embezzling more than 1.1 million euros over the course of eight years.

Merchant

‘I come from a merchant family’, G. tells the judges. ‘I always carried 200 or 300 euros in cash. If something caught my eye, like a bicycle or a scooter, I would buy and resell it.’

It becomes clear during this first hearing that this is the main theme of the investigation. The court session started on Monday in Almelo, and the entire proceedings will last two and a half weeks. To Hans, everything can be bought. This is also how he approached his job as manager at the RUG.

For thirty years, he was involved in the maintenance of RUG property. He worked together often with his good friend Marinus P., owner of engineering firm Postma. Together with handyman Teun B. who works for the university as an independent entrepreneur, Hans came up with a clever little plan.

It worked like this: they bought materials in Postma’s name and created a fake invoice. Hans signed the invoice and the costs were charged to the university. Handyman Teun sold or used the materials and shared the proceeds with Hans. The owner of the engineering firm, Marinus, was told to charge ten percent extra in his invoice to the RUG as his earnings.

Hans and Teun earned an additional 30,000 euros from the university on top of their regular pay cheques. Marinus earned approximately 4,000 euros. ‘So the risk was all yours. You did all the dirty work for them and you only got ten percent of the proceeds,’ the judge said, surprised. ‘I had no choice. It was eat or be eaten’, the business owner explains. He had to join them, or he would lose all his work for the university, he says.

Free solar panels

But Hans saw even more opportunities. When the university wanted to install solar panels, he made sure other people could benefit from it, Marinus says. Solar panels were installed on Hans’ neighbour’s roof, Marinus’ roof and his secretary according to the FIOD investigation. The business owner says that they paid for it themselves, Hans’ neighbor, who is not a suspect in the case and is not present at the trial, informed the UK via email that he also paid for his solar panels himself.*

But the judge still wanted to know whether Postma had subsequently declared the costs through the RUG, like Hans’ secretary, Margreet B., did. ‘I claimed expenses for those panels at the RUG, plus ten percent’, Marinus admits.

Margreet B. previously told the FIOD that she had no idea the solar panels she received were free. According to her, she received the panels because Hans had told her that the RUG wanted to test their efficiency. In return, she kept careful track of the data.

Hans also had a driveway built for one of his acquaintances. Through Marinus, he charged the RUG for the job. He did the same for work done on the grounds surrounding his house.

Home renovations

Hans also took care of the renovation of Danny von H.’s house. Danny von H. is his direct supervisor. Von H., who had been warned by a business owner in 2011 that Hans was committing fraud with receipts, asked Hans for help when the contractor working on his house went bankrupt. Hans made use of his network. But Marinus, who usually took care of this kind of work, was not allowed to join. ‘Hans didn’t want anyone to see any vans that also worked at the RUG’, the business owner told the judges. Hans then made sure that Von H. paid him in cash. Once, he received an envelope containing 5,000 euros. He would put that money in the safe at home – a small safe disguised as a book, which he kept in a bookshelf.

Marinus is unable to remember all the directions that the cash flowed in. The public prosecutor is also unsure how all the deals went exactly. But she concludes that the whole thing is weird.

Sinterklaas

Charges against Von H. were previously dismissed by the court. He figured that he paid for everything following to normal procedure. But according to Marinus, that renovation was not on the level. ‘Hans concocted a plan so he would benefit from it’, he says.

Hans looked after other people as well. When his secretary had money problems, he asked Marinus to transfer 7,500 euros to her account and to mark it as ‘boat purchase’. Marinus, in turn, claimed the expenses from the university – plus ten percent. ‘Because I don’t run a charity’, the business owner says.

Son

When his son Michiel needed money to pay his mortgage, Hans put him on the payroll of two engineering companies. Later, he also put his son’s girlfriend on the payroll. One of these companies belonged to Marinus.

‘The idea was that Michiel would do some work here and there. He joined Hans on several trips to the KNIR in Rome to deliver materials. He took pictures of RUG properties damaged by earthquakes. But at some point, he just stopped showing up’, Marinus says. ‘I wasn’t in a position to comment on that to Hans.’

Hans wouldn’t take no for an answer

Hans G. fabricated fake jobs for his son. The fake invoices were sent to the RUG. Between 2008 and 2016, his son earned more than 331,000 euros gross, or a net salary of 2,100 euros a month.

During the investigation, Michiel said he was afraid to talk to his father about it. ‘I suspected that something had been finagled. I spoke to my father about my fears of losing the house if someone were to find out.’

Marinus did more than just pay Hans’ son a fake wage. He also gave him a car to use. For three years, Michiel drove a VW Caddy worth 31,000 euros. ‘He had to pay for fuel. We took care of insurance and road tax’, says Marinus P. ‘Hans suggested doing it like that, to ensure the work for the RUG. Hans wouldn’t take no for an answer, so it was hard to refuse him.’

Withheld

Hans’ wife did not fail to notice the fat envelopes full of cash and her son’s new car. She asked about it, but never got an answer. ‘You were afraid to ask anything else’, the judge reads from the investigative report.

Hans G. acted as a witness during her hearing, but left the room after his statement. ‘I expected your husband to remain here to see how you were doing. Why isn’t he here? He should be here to support you’, the judge prods. ‘We feel like something is being withheld. Am I supposed to conclude that your husband is so dominant that there was no way for you to oppose him?’

‘We just each did our own part’, she says carefully. ‘He took care of the money and I did other things. That was our arrangement.’

* This passage has been revised from the original version of the text in order to avoid giving the impression that the Hans G.’s neighbour did not pay for the solar panels.