Jail term for Dutch real estate millionaire

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Millionaire Jan van Vlijmen, the main defendant in the biggest Dutch fraud trial ever, has been sentenced to four years in jail after being convicted of forgery, money laundering and bribery.

The court gave him three years less than the seven sought by the Public Prosecutor in reward for his full cooperation in the trial and a complete confession. Mr Van Vlijmen is the former head of Bouwfonds, a huge semi-public building company set up in 1946 to provide affordable housing.

The court cleared him and former Philips Pension Fund head Will Frencken of fraud in the sale of a block of flats. Philips sold the building to Fortis Insurances in 2006 through a number of intermediate steps. The Public Prosecutor had argued that both men had privately earned millions from the sale. The court, however, ruled that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Mr Van Vlijmen had bought the building for a very low price and then sold it for a much higher one.

Former Board Chairman Cees Hakstege was cleared of consorting with two criminal organisations. As a result, the court sentenced him to 240 hours of community service for money laundering. The Public Prosecutor had demanded a four-year prison term.

The case began in November 2007, when some 600 police detectives and 30 public prosecutors raided over 50 premises to seize incriminating evidence. Eventually, the Public Prosecutor’s Office charged 11 suspects seeking prison terms of up to seven years. The defendants were accused of embezzling more than 200 million euros from Bouwfonds and the Philips Pension Fund.

The Haarlem court began delivering its verdict in the country’s biggest-ever fraud trial on Friday morning. The judge is to finish delivering his verdict on the remaining charges shortly.

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