Dutch justice minister quits over scandal

The Hague: Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur (pictured) resigned on Thursday as an old scandal over 2.1 million euros paid by prosecutors to a drug baron returned to haunt Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling party.
“I’m handing in my resignation to His Majesty the King (Willem-Alexander). Thank you,” an emotional Van der Steur said after a six-hour grilling by opposition parties.
Van der Steur is the fourth high-profile parliamentarian from the Liberal VVD party to resign since March 2015, in a move that could damage the premier’s bid for re-election in general elections now less than seven weeks away.
The controversy involves a deal by former VVD deputy justice minister Fred Teeven 17 years ago with a notorious trafficker called Cees H.
The criminal was paid back millions of guilders (euros) —previously seized in an investigation — through bank accounts in Luxembourg without tax authorities being informed in 2001.
The authorities unable to prove the money seized was linked to drug trafficking and so most of it was returned to Cees H.
In March 2015, both Teeven, then deputy justice minister and his boss, Ivo Opstelten resigned after they were called out by parliament for not releasing the amount involved in the deal: 4.7 million guilders (2.1 million euros).
In December, Lower House Speaker Anouchka van Miltenburg also resigned after opposition parties accused her too of withholding information.
On Thursday evening, Van der Steur was next to face the wrath of opposition MPs, who sniffed an opportunity to take a stab at Rutte’s party before some 12.6 million voters flock to the polls on March 15.