Several hundred, possibly more than 2,000 civil servants and teachers in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have lost up to fifteen pension years because the premiums they paid up to October 10, 2010, have disappeared.
The Dutch senior citizens party 50PLUS is upset and has sought clarity from the Dutch Government.
Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Jan Nagel of 50PLUS, who was confronted by victims during a working visit to the Caribbean Netherlands in April this year, submitted written questions to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Saturday.
In a letter to Plasterk, Nagel explained that during a visit to Saba on April 20, he was approached by a teacher who told him that 12 of his pension years had disappeared. A day later, when the Senate’s delegation visited St. Eustatius, Nagel was again approached by a teacher. She too said she was faced with a loss of multiple pension years. The teacher said many of her colleagues also had been duped.
50PLUS decided to investigate the matter further. This investigation showed that pension money deducted from the salaries of civil servants and teaching personnel in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba up to the dismantling of Country the Netherlands Antilles in 2010 had disappeared on a large scale.
When the Netherlands Antilles was dismantled, it was agreed that the pension obligations of the Netherlands Antilles General Pension Fund APNA would be divided over the three countries Curaçao, St. Maarten, and the Netherlands on behalf of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
Caribbean Netherlands Pension Fund PCN took over the obligations for the three smaller islands. However, PCN’s first pension overviews after 2010 showed that the pension rights of several hundred civil servants had disappeared. The victims have duly paid their premiums and many can prove this with the salary slips they have kept.
Victims turned to PCN some five years ago, but did not receive clear answers as to what had happened with their pension money. PCN stated in a letter on May 4 that the civil servants and teaching personnel had not been included in the APNA administration and that PCN had not received money for this group at the time of the division of APNA’s assets.
PCN stated in its letter: “Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation. Aside from you and your colleagues, it also concerns participants who worked for other government and education institutions prior to 2010.”
Senator Nagel stated that PCN’s correspondence made clear that the pension fund could not acknowledge and settle the victims’ pension claims as long as it had not received the premiums with interest, despite the proof and salary slips provided by the victims. 50PLUS blamed PCN for not making this case public.
In a subsequent letter, dated June 16, PCN recognised that indeed premiums had been deducted from the group of civil servants and teachers in question, but said these premiums had not been paid. The employers, the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, have been trying to retrace the missing information, but apparently in vain.
This is a very serious case, in the opinion of 50PLUS. Nagel is not only demanding clarity as to what happened with the millions of pension premiums that have vanished, but he also wants those responsible for the nontransferred funds to be prosecuted for fraud. “Millions have disappeared. When collected money is untraceable, it means that it was stolen,” he said. The party called for a criminal investigation.
“Those who committed fraud by collecting the premiums but refraining from transferring them must be severely punished. We are talking about more than 2,000 persons who are now in service of the Dutch Government who have dutifully paid their pension premiums and are now missing up to 15 years in pension years,” stated Nagel.
Nagel asked for a commitment of the Dutch Government that the duped employees will be completely compensated for their losses. “It is unacceptable for 50PLUS that hundreds of employees who faithfully paid their pension premiums have to continue to live with this insecurity,” stated Nagel in a letter to Minister Plasterk.
According to Nagel, this group of people who have been duped in such a severe manner while they are not to blame should not be abandoned. The Senator posed a number of questions to Plasterk in which he asked exactly how many persons had been duped, how many millions had disappeared and “into whose pockets the money disappeared.”
The Senator announced that he would bring up the matter in a debate in the Senate with Plasterk about the constitutional evaluation of the Caribbean Netherlands. It promises to be a long debate: the Senate has reserved almost the entire day and evening of Tuesday, June 21, to discuss the evaluation.
The Daily Herald.