Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (2886)

Workers with access badges to Schiphol arrested for drug smuggling

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch military police, or Marechaussee, have arrested six men and one woman for suspected drug smuggling and money laundering via Schiphol airport.

All seven worked for a company based at the airport and had Schiphol access badges. The arrest came after weeks of investigation following a tip off from the public prosecution office and involved phone taps, decoding encrypted data and observation of the suspects.

As a result, some 321 kilos of cocaine from Ecuador was intercepted at the airport on May 24 this year with a street value of around €16m, investigators said.

A police search of the homes of the in total 13 suspects arrested in the course of the operation turned up luxury goods, cars with hidden compartments and computers, all of which were impounded.

The investigation is ongoing.



Dutch police arrest youth, 19, in connection with Majorca violence

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police have arrested a 19-year-old man from Hilversum for his role in two violent attacks on people holidaying on the island of Majorca last month.

The man is suspected of kicking two people in the head, but not the 27-year-old man who died in hospital of his injuries, the public prosecution department said in a statement.

Both events were captured on camera and the teenager will appear in court for a remand hearing on Friday, the department said. He faces two charges of attempted manslaughter, based on the results of both the Spanish and the Dutch investigation.

According to the AD, the first arrestee is Sanil B, whose father has confirmed to the paper his son has been picked up but that he denies being close to the scene of the ‘drama’.

A number of Dutch youngsters aged 18 to 20, who were holidaying together in Majorca are potentially involved in a string of attacks. They all come from the wealthy Gooi region of the Netherlands.

So far, 11 Dutch nationals have given witness statements and eight of them have also reported being attacked by the gang.

More witnesses

The police are appealing for other witnesses to come forward. ‘We still need the help of witnesses to clarify exactly what happened, and this is particularly true of the violence directed at the man who died,’ the prosecution department said.

Carlo Heuvelman, 27, from Waddinxveen died in hospital four days after being attacked on the boulevard of the holiday island on July 14.

However, the video footage circulating online which shows someone being violently kicked is not Heuvelman, the public prosecution department said. Spanish authorities identified 13 potential suspects, but 12 of them had left the country by the time police visited their holiday accommodation in Palma.

The 13th was released after officers decided he did not play a major role in the incident.



Dutch airports claw back some business, Q2 passenger numbers near 4 million

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The five Dutch national airports processed 3.9 million passengers in the second quarter of this year, compared with fewer than one million in the same period of 2020, at the peak of the lockdown.

The figure for 2021 is still less than a quarter of the 18 million passengers who flew via Schiphol, Eindhoven or another airport between April and June 2019, before restrictions on foreign travel led to the virtual shutdown of the travel industry.

The biggest group of passengers – nearly 600,000 – flew to Spain this spring. The US, where restrictions are still in place, is in second place with 7% of the total.



Summer festival programme torn up after numbers restricted to 750

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Festival organisers have described the Dutch government’s decision to allow only small-scale festivals to go ahead in August as ‘yet another huge disappointment’.

The Alliance of Event Builders said the limit of 750 visitors and the ban on overnight events had prompted the cancellation of summer fixtures such as Dance Valley, Hullabaloo and Paradigm.

Berend Schans of the Association of Dutch Pop Podiums and Festivals said the decision had killed off the season for the second year running.

‘Do you know any festivals for 750 people? I don’t,’ he told ‘Even the smallest festivals have at least 1500 people, but most of them have a minimum of 10,000. It’s a really sore day for us.’

A small handful of events will go ahead in the second half of August, including Lulboompop near Oss, which sold exactly 750 tickets for its two days on August 20 and 21.

The festival complies with the rules because it does not have on-site camping. ‘ ‘It’s sheer luck that we fit precisely within the new rules,’ said organiser Jules van den Oever. ‘Those people who took the risk of buying a ticket have their reward.’

‘Fine summer’ cancelled

In June health minister Hugo de Jonge promised ‘a fine summer full of festivals’ thanks to a steep decline in coronavirus case numbers and the availability of the single-shot Janssen vaccine.

But the ‘dancing with Janssen’ plan proved to be a fatal misstep as cases increased sixfold in the week after nightclubs were reopened. De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte later admitted they had made an ‘error of judgment’ in not anticipating the effect of the Delta variant of coronavirus, which became the dominant type during July.

On Monday the cabinet said one-day events for up to 750 visitors could go ahead as long as everyone attending could show proof of vaccination, a negative test result or proof that they had recovered from a recent infection.

Ministers chose to follow the advice of the Outbreak Management Team that larger events and overnight stays were too risky.

The government originally wanted to wait until August 13 to make its decision but brought the announcement forward after organisers threatened to go to court to force an earlier ruling.



Youngsters can bring forward their second vaccination date from today

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Everyone over the age of 18 with an appointment for a second coronavirus vaccine in the second half of August can now bring that date forward, health minister Hugo de Jonge has said on Twitter.

There is sufficient capacity at vaccination centres to allow people to have their second jab earlier, De Jonge said. Everyone eligible will be send a text message by their regional health board inviting them to make a new date.

The minimum time between two Pfizer vaccines is 21 days, and for Moderna 28 days. Some 60% of Dutch adults are now fully vaccinated and the figures will be updated again on Tuesday.



Syrian girl, 11, found alone with a suitcase at Utrecht’s main station

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Utrecht police are trying to solve the mystery of an 11-year-old Syrian girl, found alone in the city’s main railway station walking around with a suitcase.

The girl was spotted by NS workers, who called in the police. Conversation was difficult because the girl spoke neither Dutch or English, but a passerby was able to step in and act as interpreter, police said in an Instagram post.

The police are now trying to establish if the girl has been in the Netherlands for some time, or if she recently arrived, news agency ANP reported.



Test for entry system is hardly used, but costs €1m a day: VK

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The much criticized ‘test for entry’ system may be virtually dormant since clubs were closed again, but the 11 companies involved are notching up €1m a day between them for providing the service, the Volkskrant reported on Friday.

Ministers ordered clubs to close and banned festivals on July 9 following the surge in coronavirus cases, with over 1,000 infections traced back to one event alone. The test for entry system is now only being used for seated events such as sports matches and last week just 68,000 tests were taken, the paper said.

In the first week of July, over 500,000 people had a fast test so they could attend an event. The 11 commercial companies which have won contracts to provide the tests are paid on the basis of capacity, not tests, even if it is not used.

They get €387 per placement, each of which can carry out 200 tests a day, plus €130 an hour in personnel costs. Last week, the companies had 1,100 placements spread across 110 locations.

Capacity cut

Pier Eringa, chairman of Stichting Open Nederland, the foundation running the testing system, told the paper that capacity has now been reduced by half. ‘But we have to keep the shop open, even if there are not many clients,’ he said.

‘That is the price we pay to be sure we have enough capacity when it is necessary. ‘There is a risk that the companies would decide to do something else,’ he said. ‘And we don’t pay the fire service per fire they put out.’


Eringa told the Volkskrant he did think the time is right to streamline the different testing trajectories into a single operation in order to be more flexible and efficient.

Currently, people with symptoms are tested by regional health boards, for example, and people who have free test so they can travel abroad are treated separately again. The government will decide on August 13 if it is possible to reopen clubs and sanction festivals.

The total bill for the project, which was initially to run until the end of August, is now put at €700m, down from an earlier estimation of €1.1bn.



Police raid ‘most professional’ crystal meth lab ever found in NL

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police have discovered what they say is the biggest and most professional laboratory for the production of highly addictive crystal meth ever found in the Netherlands.

The lab, raided on the basis of information gleaned from an encrypted chat service, was located in two large sheds on land near the village of Nederweert in Limburg. One person, a 62-year-old Polish national, was in a house on the property at the time and arrested.

Specialist police teams are now dismantling the lab and taking samples of the chemicals, police said in a statement. That is likely to take until Sunday. Police say more arrests cannot be ruled out.

Last year, Dutch police closed down 32 meth labs, more than three times the 2019 total.



Rare moth not extinct, just hiding under cover of night

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A rare moth experts thought extinct has been spotted near Biervliet in Zeeland, 50 years after the last sighting.

Landscape preservation organisation Het Zeeuwse Landschap was sent a picture of the moth, a Dusky Sallow, on Facebook by a member of the public. ‘Two experts then went to the spot and found at least 30,’ spokesman Marcel Klootwijk told local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland.

The organisation will keep an eye on the population to see if the congregation of moths is a fluke or whether the species is here to stay. If caterpillars appear at the end of the season, it means the animals are procreating.

If that is the case it may well mean the experts were hasty to declare the Dusky Sallow extinct. ‘People were probably just not looking for them. They are nocturnal after all,’ Klootwijk said.



Elderly must conquer their virus fears and get out more, doctors say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Isolation is becoming a bigger danger to the elderly than coronavirus, geriatric medicine specialists have warned, as many are afraid to go back to their old activities despite being fully vaccinated.

Loneliness, malnutrition, dehydration and broken bones because of falls are all on the the rise, specialists say, because many elderly still won’t leave their homes, even when the rate of infection was low some weeks ago.

‘We are seeing people who are showing the first signs of dementia who are rapidly declining and who have to go into a home,’ Arend Arends, chairman of the Dutch association of geriatricians NVKG told the AD.

‘Elderly people who don’t get enough exercise are more likely to fall and break something. I understand their fears, but isolation is becoming a bigger danger to their health than coronavirus.

It really is safe to go out and do things.’ While social distancing is still an important factor, and large-scale events are best avoided, the elderly should not get too used to an empty social calendar, geriatric specialist Karen Keijsers said.

‘Now we see more serious illness among the elderly because they have stopped doing their daily round of activities, or because they feel they have nothing left to live for,’ she told the paper.


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