Generous with stolen cash
Robin Hood of the RUG
For the second week in a row, the court in Almelo is handling the fraud case at the university.
The main suspect is Hans G., a former RUG manager. The Public Prosecution Office suspects him of corruption of public servants.
Allegedly, G. accepted gifts from service companies in exchange for work at the RUG. He is also said to have put his son and his former daughter-in-law on the payroll of these companies despite the fact that they were not in fact employed there.
He used shady means to bill the RUG for these costs.
G. admits he made mistakes. But he also told the judges that these deals made him very valuable to the RUG.
G. sees himself as a kind of Robin Hood; he stole from the RUG and shared the loot with his colleagues and family.
‘I wanted to create situation where everyone at the department was happy. I just wanted everything to go smoothly.’
Reading time: 8 minutes (1,650 words)
‘I made some really big mistakes.’ Hans G. has no problem admitting it. But there is an undertone of disbelief in his voice, as though he is not entirely convinced that what he did was wrong. ‘I wonder how this happened to me. Why is this happening to me, when I have such a good track record?’
A little over a year ago, the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigative Service (FIOD) knocked on his door. After one of the companies that the RUG had been working with went bankrupt, a trustee discovered that a public servant at the university had asked for favours in return for job assignments.
Soon thereafter, Hans, his son, and his then daughter-in-law were arrested. During a search, his boat, his accounting books and 11,000 euros in cash – hidden in a money box on a bookshelf – were seized.
Out of proportion
G. is visibly affected by the whole ordeal. He looks tired, and angry: Angry with the media who, according to him, have ‘blown everything out of proportion’. He has lost a lot of friends because of it. ‘I’m really shaken by the way this has been handled in the media. A week after the first articles appeared, my entire house was ransacked from top to bottom. They took my wife’s jewellery and all my fishing gear.’
He makes no attempt to hide his anger. In the hallway at the Almelo court he, just like his son, nonchalantly informs the reporters that he looked them up. Just like they found out everything about his private life, he did the same to them.
But he is also disappointed in his colleagues. The way he sees it, the people he worked with for dozens of years who he thought would back him up, have betrayed him. He has the report by Hoffmann Bedrijfsrecherche, the investigative agency that the RUG hired to investigate the scam, at home. It contains all of the incriminating statements. The names have been blacked out, but he can easily deduce from the context who is who.
‘That really affected me’, he tells the judges. ‘I was idolised at the department. At the entire university, in fact. But reading all these stories from the people I worked with; it’s like they’re all out to save their own skins.’
Other people’s money
He also feels misunderstood. ‘I honestly improved life at the RUG’, he starts. ‘What I’ve done is truly objectionable. But there’s another side to it as well. And nobody ever asks about that. I think that’s weird. The money I made through these deals was largely spent on the university. There are people using computers that were bought with that money. There is furniture at the university that that money paid for. For ten years, I paid for every single working lunch and going away present. I contributed to training for employees.’
What he is trying to say is: Sure, he stole from the RUG. But he shared the loot with his colleagues and family. Sort of like Robin Hood, who just meant well by everyone. ‘I wanted to create a situation where everyone at the department was happy. I just wanted everything to go smoothly.’
‘That’s a noble ambition’, one of the judges responds. ‘You stood up for other people and took care of everything. But you were playing Santa with other people’s money.’ And, as the hearings over the past few days have shown, none of the suspects actually wanted his help. Or so they say.
‘He won’t take no for an answer’, Margreet B., Hans G.’s former contract manager and secretary, told the judges on Monday. ‘He is a domineering man, both professionally and privately.’
When her boss told her that engineering firm Postma – one of the companies held responsible for the fraud together with Hans G. – would deposit 7,500 euros into her account under the name ‘boat’, she immediately protested, says B. ‘But I felt pressured to do it this way. I told G. I didn’t need the money. But he has too much authority for people to resist him for long. He just keeps pushing and pushing and pushing.’
G. thought that Margreet deserved a raise. He felt that because of her devotion, she should enjoy a commensurate income. His boss, Danny von H., rejected this several times. So G. figured he would take care of it himself. ‘I never thought there was anything hinky about that. I completely trusted G.’, B. told the judges.
But the public prosecutor is suspicious. When she was being interrogated by the FIOD, B. told a completely different story: She claimed that she had received a boat in her divorce and that she later sold it to Marinus P., owner of engineering firm Postma. A lie, the Public Prosecution Office (OM) concludes. ‘It was a stressful situation. I just did what I was told’, Margreet B. says by way of defence.
Curious, the judges feel. But B. refuses to comment on it any further. ‘I was just told that Postma would transfer me an amount under the name ‘boat’. That’s all.’
She knew it was wrong, but she did not want to rock the boat. She accepted the 7,500 euro deposit and used it to buy a new car. ‘I wouldn’t know where at the RUG I could go to report this,’ she says, crying. ‘My boss’ boss, Danny von H., was in the same boat. He is involved in this, too. And his supervisor, Mrs. Jojo B, was also fired [editor’s note: because of this situation]. They had their own thing going with G., so they were never going to help me.’
She never wanted the solar panels on her house, either. G. told her it was a test and that she had to keep track of the panels’ efficiency in return. She was unaware that she would be allowed to keep the panels. But she did not think it was strange, either.
The same goes for Hans G.’s son and former daughter-in-law. They did not want his help either. Sure, they thought it was weird when they were suddenly put on the payroll of one of the maintenance companies without actually working for them.
The former daughter-in-law was even ashamed of it. Not that she protested all that much, though. And they did take advantage of the cars the companies gave them, as well as the house that the fake wages paid for – and that the RUG ended up footing the bill for.
‘I let myself be overruled by my father’, Michiel, Hans G.’s son says when the judge asks him why he accepted 10,000 euros from one of the maintenance company without doing anything in return. ‘I can’t rightly recall’, he continues
One of the judges is not fooled. Michiel is not dumb. He went to a university of applied sciences, speaks eloquently and politely. ‘It’s remarkable, though’, the judge says. ‘You have a good head on your shoulders. You never wondered what those 10,000 euros were even for? It can’t be for the great work you did, because you didn’t do a bloody thing. So why doesn’t that good head of yours think that something is incredibly wrong? Is that business owner out of his mind or is something else going on? Surely you know that no company would simply give 10,000 euros to an employee that doesn’t actually do anything? ‘I never suspected anything.’ Well, good luck with the rest of your life. You’re not a child anymore. You’re a grown man that was given money every month.’
The judge also tries to lean on the son. But Michiel says nothing beyond the fact that he was not suspicious and that he just accepted the way things were.
Michiel, his ex-girlfriend Kasia, and Margreet B. are all using Hans G.’s dominance as an excuse. He came up with everything, they did not even want his help, they knew it was wrong, but they were unable to stand up to G., they all say. But they also did not raise the alarm, and gladly availed themselves of the loot he shared with them.
G. keeps insisting his intentions were pure. Although he does admit to putting his son and former daughter-in-law on the maintenance companies’ payrolls. And that he drove a Mini Cooper, the cost of which – such as gas – he billed to the RUG. And that he claimed the money used for renovating his boss Danny von H.’s house – approximately 26,000 euros – with the RUG.
‘People knew who I was, people knew who to turn to in times of need. I would take care of them’, G. tells the judges. That is why he was idolised at the university, he says.
‘People do tend to like you better when you give them presents and stop checking up on them all the time’, one of the judges says. This Thursday, the public prosecutor will announce the punishment she is demanding the suspects face. Next week, the lawyers will have the opportunity to respond to that.
After that, it is the judges’ turn. Many people, including his former colleagues, have stated that Hans G. was the mastermind behind all the fraud. He himself says he merely got in on something that was already going on.
‘The question we have to consider now is whether you are telling the truth, or whether the others are’, the judge concludes.