Netherlands justice minister resigns over deal with drug trafficker

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dutch justice minister resigned late Monday, March 9, in an ongoing scandal over a deal worth millions of guilders (euros) struck by prosecutors with a famous drug trafficker 15 years ago.

"There has been uncertainty over this matter for too long," Ivo Opstelten told journalists at a press conference in The Hague.

"I take full responsibility, so I have just submitted my resignation to the king."

Opstelten and secretary of state Fred Teeven submitted their resignations hours after the ministry said it had found evidence of the exact amount paid to trafficker Cees H at the time – 4.7 million guilders (2.4 million euros).

The deal made by Teeven – then Attorney General – in 2000 saw the money, which has been seized as part of an investigation, paid back to Cees H via accounts to Luxembourg without notifying tax authorities.

Last year Opstelten said there was no evidence of the agreement when questioned by MPs following media reports about the affair.

"The investigation failed to find bank statements or other documents but I have indeed digital proof that the $4.7 million guilders was transferred to Cees H," Opstelten said Monday.

"I have to find that the information was indeed available and could have been released earlier," he added.

His resignation allows the government of Mark Rutte to avoid a potentially embarrassing debate originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 10, one week before an election. –