Rabobank banker says she was deceived in controversial face mask deal

Rabobank’s top banker Barbara Baarsma said she was “deceived’ in entrepreneur Sywert van Lienden’s controversial face mask deal with the government. According to research platform Follow The Money (FTM), Rabobank was “an important support” for Van Lienden during the negotiations, and Baarsma acted as mediator.

“At the start of the initiative, I was approached as a banker by Stichting Huptroepen Alliantie (Van Lienden’s company). Like all other major brands involved in the initial phase, I judged the initiative as sympathetic and necessary. It is socially unacceptable that the initiative turned out to be commercial. I was also deceived,” Baarsma said in a statement. Rabobank said it shares that disappointment.

According to FTM, Baarsma, director of Rabobank’s Amsterdam branch at the time, was CC’d in an email from Van Lienden to the Ministry of Health about the face mask deal.

The bank also reserved 115 million euros for financing the transaction, FTM wrote in an article about a forthcoming book by two FTM authors on the case. The book is titled “Sywerts Miljoenen” and comes out on March 24.

As a cooperative bank, Rabobank aims to support social initiatives, often at an early stage. “Like that of Stichting Huptroepen Alliantie at the time, in the urgent situation of a face masks shortage. In general, not all financing applications end in the actual granting of a loan. If trust is broken, that is very regrettable.”

The bank also repeated that “because of the relationship of trust with its (potential) customers,” it will not share data with the media. “Whatever the situation or background, regardless of its effect, we don’t think that’s pure.”

The Ministry of Public Health is investigating the face mask deal. On Monday, the Ministry announced that the investigation had been delayed again. The Deloitte researchers are unable to complete the investigation before May. The Ministry now aims to submit the first report to parliament before its summer recess, Minister Conny Helder of Long-term Care wrote to parliament. A criminal investigation into Van Lienden is still ongoing.

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