WILLEMSTAD - It is the second disciplinary hearing against the accountant filed by the Public Prosecution Service (OM). The previous one was "disappointing for the complainant" and this second case is more or less the last push to get the accountant down, his lawyer suspects. Both disciplinary cases are related to two major criminal cases in the Netherlands and in Curaçao concerning the so-called "swiping" of dollars.
In Venezuela, barely anything can be bought with the local currency, the Bolivar, because of the hyperinflation that has been raging for years. To alleviate the worst need, Venezuelans were given a partly subsidized amount of dollars on a credit card to spend abroad on clothing and medicines, for example. Venezuelan tourists paid for goods on the island with their credit card, but were paid cash dollars instead.
Brothers Omer and Itzhak G. set up fake companies on the island that issued fake receipts with the purchase of lingerie. In reality, the Venezuelans "bought" cash dollars from the brothers, who earned a commission for each debit card transaction. Those dollars went back to Venezuela where they are worth gold on the black market. In September last year, both brothers were sentenced to 5 and 6 years in prison by the court in Zwolle for money laundering of more than 320 million dollars.
The case started when a Dutch branch of ING rang the bell. Prior to the Dutch criminal case, the Public Prosecution took the brothers’ accountant, Gianni Schob, to the Accountants Chamber. Schob was given a warning because he should have further investigated the numbers. But there was no question of ignoring fraud signals, according to the disciplinary court. According to the OM, the second disciplinary complaint, filed this month, is based on the criminal case in Curaçao.
The facts date from 2013 but only emerged from that investigation. According to the OM, at the request of one of the brothers, Schob removed the term "draft" from the company's annual accounts. The name of his accounting firm also disappeared from the concept. Schob knew that this concept would be used for third parties, according to the OM. The impression was given that these were the final figures.
With those "final annual accounts" the client could obtain pin pad terminals from the accountant. E-mails from the accountant show that the result of the draft annual accounts will still "deviate considerably" because two bank accounts had not yet been booked. "Isaac enclosed the requested annual accounts 2013. The figures are in draft and the actual 2013 result may deviate considerably from the final annual accounts 2013, as a few bank accounts still need to be booked", the accountant writes to Isaac, also known as Itzhak G. The result for 2013 was over 4 million dollars in the concept, while in previous years it fluctuated between 55,000 and 1.8 million dollars.
Lawyer Jan Garvelink started in his defense with a brief review of the earlier disciplinary case. At that session, the OM showed a video in which Schob "is associated with criminals, men in fedora hats, drug trafficking, adulterated cocaine and washing machines that wash dollars." An image that is incorrect but that haunts the accountant to this day.
Garvelink then denounced the OM's method. While both parties were still discussing the withdrawal of the appeal, there was suddenly a second disciplinary complaint. "That wasn't chic." It is not that the accountant is not to blame. “My client also feels that he should have responded differently to the client's request. He's sorry about that.”
But the accountant took measures to prevent third parties from thinking the figures came from an accountant. Hence, with the word "draft", the name of his accounting firm also disappeared from the annual accounts. Moreover, none of this had any consequences.
Garvelink thinks that the Accountants Chamber would not have imposed a more severe measure than a warning if this complaint had been included in the previous disciplinary case. He believes that the Public Prosecution Service should now leave the accountant alone.
“And if I then ask the Public Prosecution Service why this relatively insignificant gentleman should be dealt with so harshly, whether he has not been punished enough and whether he doesn't just deserve the chance to resume his existence, then the answer is that that is 'not appropriate'. I have no idea what that means.”
The disciplinary judge gives judgment within fifteen weeks.