Sywert van Lienden.Image ANP – Remko de Waal

    It was not clear to others. In any case, Van Lienden himself made a good appearance to the outside world when he stated that any profit would at least partly benefit ‘a social purpose’. It never came to the latter: the threesome transferred the millions of profit to their own accounts.

    This is the conclusion of accounting firm Deloitte after more than a year of investigation into the controversial face mask deal. Opinions differ within the ministry about the way in which Van Lienden presented himself at the time of the deal.

    Deloitte spoke to ‘a number of stakeholders’ who did not realize that the order was ultimately not concluded with Van Lienden’s foundation but with his commercial company: Van Lienden kept the corporate identity of the foundation in his correspondence, including the statement ‘non-profit’ . According to these sources, the lack of clarity was deliberately maintained.

    Destination of the money

    Others involved say they were not bothered by this lack of clarity. They knew that they were doing business with a commercial company and that profits could be made. This did not play a role for them when considering whether to close the deal: at the time, at the height of the corona crisis, it was only a matter of getting as many medical protective equipment as possible to the Netherlands as quickly as possible.

    Deloitte emphasizes that Van Lienden and his associates themselves were not honest about the destination of the money. ‘Before and after the orders were closed, they made statements about a profit appropriation with a social character.’

    The report shows that LCH, the government’s purchasing organization, felt under heavy pressure from the ministry to close the deal with Van Lienden, although the buyers had reservations about this. Responsible minister Martin van Rijn, in turn, was under heavy pressure from the House of Representatives and public opinion. ‘The comments “buy, buy buy” and “purchase maximum” are often cited in this context,’ says Deloitte.

    Push from De Jonge

    The report confirms that the collaboration with Van Lienden was promoted internally by Minister De Jonge himself. There was great resistance within the LCH purchasing organization to a deal with Van Lienden, who had no experience in the medical world and, according to the buyers, also did not offer good conditions. When the media personality subsequently became very critical on Twitter about the government’s purchasing policy, De Jonge personally instructed Van Lienden to contact Van Lienden again. That same day, ‘an exploratory conversation’ took place between Van Lienden and a top official. Van Lienden was then asked to work out a proposal for a deal.

    When that proposal also did not lead to better cooperation with LCH, Van Lienden was even expelled from the LCH office and he continued to express criticism publicly, De Jonge asked again a few weeks later to call Van Lienden. “The criticism is too massive,” De Jonge applauded an employee. The minister himself had no direct contact with Van Lienden.