Fraud is in KPMG’s genes, a plea for a boycott in St. Maarten’s reconstruction

21 October 2017

Fraud is in KPMG’s genes, a plea for a boycott in St. Maarten’s reconstruction

Fraud and corruption, it seems to be in the genes of KPMG. Even the construction of their own headquarters in Amstelveen was a fraudulent affair, one that involved millions of euros. KPMG offers its clients customised work. That can be messing with the books, such as with the Vestia housing corporation, or misleading numbers at the now bankrupt, Imtech; Foreign bribes (Ballast Nedam) and the payment of bribes (SBM Offshore) or large-scale fraud (as in Weyl meat processor).

As a rule, the accountant comes away with a settlement, which never teaches them a true lesson. Also in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, I constantly come across KPMG when a business fails financially; even recently, when we had to pull the plug from the new population register in the Netherlands. A terribly expensive ICT project, 100 million euros was discarded, under the supervision of KPMG. The company can provide financial advice and carry out all kinds of constructions. In fact, KPMG can even do research on fraud!

All of those different tasks are at odds with one another, especially in the Caribbean, where I often encounter KPMG's name in scandals. We must now prevent this company from having a role in the economic reconstruction of St. Maarten.

St. Maarten’s gambling boss Francesco Corallo is currently in custody in Italy, where he is suspected of bribing influential politicians surrounding former Prime Minister Berlusconi. The accountant of Corallo was KPMG. This bribery of politicians took place via Fortis Bank, which was controlled by KPMG again. The fact that the accountant seems to do the books of all kinds of gambling bosses is not surprising. KPMG also plays an important role in many government companies on the islands; also at the Curaçao telecom company UTS.

This makes illegal gambling possible worldwide, with a lot of criminal money being laundered. A very large insurance company on the islands is ENNIA, where many people have a mortgage, a pension, health insurance or insurances for damages. Iranian oil billionaire Hushang Ansary just took hundreds of millions of euros out of the company, the Dutch media reported. ENNIA is controlled by KPMG.

The influence of KPMG on St. Maarten and Curaçao is great, in the financial and legal world, but also in politics. These worlds seem connected through shady networks. Regularly I hear of the ‘Grupo Sopi’ (soup group), founded by KPMG people, where bankers and supervisors supposedly do business with politicians over a bowl of soup. Sometimes we tend to forget that KPMG is an accountancy business. This is a company that has to check annual accounts in order to prevent fraud and corruption.

In real life, it seems to be a company that would like to appeal to criminals. On the initiative of the SP and the VVD parties a few years ago, an investigation has been launched into the connection between the upper world and the criminal world on St. Maarten and Curaçao, especially between politics and the (illegal) gambling industry. The new Dutch Government has decided to continue that research in the coming years and to provide a great deal of resources and means.

I fear that we will encounter the name KPMG more often in those investigations. The accountant, of course, also has the task of investigating possible maladministration in his own company, but I never hear anything about that. If I was a Commissioner of KPMG, I would not rest before all the criminals left the company. Unfortunately, I am not a Commissioner of KPMG. Laetitia Griffith (VVD) and Jolande Sap (GroenLinks) are. I would like to appeal to these former colleagues to break the silence and to seriously investigate.

The Dutch Government is currently working on a 100 million euros reconstruction fund for St. Maarten. Consultants have undoubtedly already set their eyes on this fund. It probably has the attention of KPMG which of course would like to be involved in such projects. But we should not do that this time. The Dutch Government puts high demands on the integrity of members of the local government to prevent the money falling into the wrong hands. So I think a boycott of KPMG is in place.

Ronald van Raak is a Member of the Second Chamber for the Socialist Party (SP). His columns, including this one, are regularly published on ThePostOnline.

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