Former minister under fire over 'illegal' scrapping of asbestos ship

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The Dutch government is facing accusations that it conspired to hide illegal levels of asbestos on board a ship that was sent to Turkey to be scrapped.

The Otapan lay abandoned for seven years in Amsterdam’s harbour before being exported, only to be sent back when it was discovered to contain 76 tonnes of asbestos. Only one tonne had been declared on the export papers.

The questions revolve around whether the then environment minister Pieter van Geel deliberately misled Parliament in 2006 in order to facilitate the illegal export of asbestos.

An investigation by the ministry of justice found that officials and the ship’s owners, Basilisk, covered up the amount of toxic substances on board and stated the ship would be recycled when the true intention was to scrap it.

The state prosecutor’s office (Openbare Ministerie) has already decided that nobody will be face trial because the errors were the result of a “collective failure”.

Van Geel’s actions are the subject of a debate in the Dutch lower house (Tweede Kamer) today, when the government is expected to face calls to reopen the case.

Justice and security minister Ivo Opstelten has declined to discuss the prosecutors' investigation in Parliament, claiming the information is not relevant or reliable.

Green-Left MP Liesbeth van Tongeren called it the “clearest case in years” on her Twitter page, adding: “The government and business colluded to avoid the law. Illegal asbestos export. Nobody punished.”

Diederik Samson, of the Labour party, said it was clear from a report into the Otapan that Van Geel had given Parliament “incorrect and incomplete” information.

Source: NRC: GroenLinks: Van Geel informeerde kamer onjuist over Otapan
Photo by Taco Ekkel

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