DH | Knops implicated in dubious land deal

State Secretary Raymond Knops | Suzanne Koelega

THE HAGUE–State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, during his time as Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, is said to have personally benefitted from a property transaction involving the construction of his house in Hegelsom, Limburg.

Two Dutch newspapers, NRC and De Limburger, arrived at this conclusion based on extensive research. The newspapers on Saturday published damaging articles with the headline “Knops favoured with land development Limburg.” According to the newspapers, the 48-year-old Knops benefitted by several 10,000 euros.

The alleged advantage took place through a business structure of the province Limburg, which is managed by former delegates of the province Limburg. This company sells land that is ready for building on, where large pig houses formerly stood.

The system is such that individual persons would buy the agricultural land from the farmers and subsequently sell 1,000 square metres (m2) to the company of the province Limburg for 4.50 euros per square metre.

This company arranged a change in the zoning plan to turn the land from an agricultural destination to a residential destination, and prepared/sanitised the land. With the profits of the sales of the ready-to-build-on land, the province earned back the subsidies for the destruction of the large pigsties.

The structure with buying/selling agricultural land and buying back residential land is known as the “space-for-space” arrangement, and was introduced during the time that Knops was Alderman for Physical Planning from 1999 to 2005. It was part of a broader policy to diminish the large number of large pigsties in the province. In their place, large villas were built.

According to NRC and De Limburger, Knops was one of the more than 100 individuals who constructed a house via the company in question. At that time, in 2010, he was a Member of the Second Chamber for the Christian Democrats CDA.

Knops is said to have been given preferential treatment because he was awarded 1,175m2 of land to build his house, while other individuals were allocated 1,000m2. The newspapers found out during their research that Knops not only received more ready-for-construction land, but that he also paid for a lot of 750m2 at the notary.

Knops has denied the allegations, and said he did not pay for a specific number of square metres, but paid a standard amount set under the space-for-space arrangement. The newspapers requested an interview with the state secretary, but were told this was not possible due to time constraints.

In a statement to the two newspapers, he explained that the land transaction did not yield him any benefit. He said the space-for-space arrangement was not about the number of square miles, but about a standard amount per building lot. “I have paid a market-conforming unit price, determined by the space-for-space,” he stated.

Two university professors who were asked by the newspapers to respond to their research findings said something was not right about this deal. They said it gave the impression of political favouritism. Another expert, asked by Knops to look into the matter, said the state secretary did not receive a financial benefit.
Bron: Daily Herald

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