For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.
Whenever a Dutch municipality starts an investigation, to control and verify the right for social assistance benefit, there is a burden of proof and a number of actions they will have to perform. In our specific case, the Municipality of Dordrecht claimed they had started the investigation to determine the right for social assistance benefit and to control if fraud had taken place. When a municipality performs such an investigation, they have the ability and are required to do (at least several of) the following actions:
- To check all of our personal finances;
- To check all of our bank statements;
- To check all of our phone records;
- To check all of our OV-Chip (Public Transport) records;
- To check all of our utility bills;
- To perform a thorough house search;
- To perform a neighborhood investigation;
- To perform observations (to spy) in regard to all our daily routines and activities;
- To invite us for a (mandatory) meeting;
- To perform an interrogation.
In the case Robin & Esther Prijs versus the Municipality of Dordrecht, the municipality has NEVER checked our personal finances, NEVER checked our bank statements, NEVER checked our phone records, NEVER checked our public transport records and NEVER checked our utility bills. They also NEVER requested or demanded for those documents. They NEVER performed a house search, NEVER performed a neighborhood investigation, NEVER performed any kind of observations, NEVER invited us for a (mandatory) meeting and NEVER interrogated us in any way or form.
Instead they abused their authority and started an illegal investigation into the ministry, without any reason or cause, while pressuring us to hand over not only the annual reports, but also all the personal details of all the people involved, from everyone who ever donated and from everyone the ministry had ever donated to (financially or materially). Our offers to just give them the annual reports, without the personal (contact) details of others, were rejected time after time and interpreted as a failure to comply with the investigation.
By not investigating us personally and by not hearing us, the Municipality of Dordrecht violated the legal hearing obligation (Article 7:2, AWB). By pressuring board members of the ministry to gain illegal access to sensitive financial and personal information from the ministry, the Municipality of Dordrecht violated the Dutch Criminal Law (Article 365, Criminal Law).
The normal course of events is that a personal investigation is carried out. If the outcome of such an investigation shows that illegal activities have taken place or if a reasonable suspicion arises, further action can be taken. However, if this does not concern private persons but an external legal entity, without ties to the municipality, as is the case here, the case should be transferred to the Public Prosecution Service (Article 3, 297, BW2). In a case like this, there is not a single law that grants authority to a municipality to go as far as they did here. Therefore, it is abuse of power, of which the board will file a police report.
In a normal case, according to the law, the Public Prosecution Service is being involved. They can legally demand all the financial records, the annual reports and the personal details of all people involved. Still a legal person is not legally required to cooperate with such a request. If the Public Prosecution Service wants to enforce their demands, they will have to present that request to a judge. In order for a judge to approve such a request, they will have to proof that there is a least a reasonable suspicion. Only when the judge signs the order, the demands can legally be enforced. That is the protection the law gives us against power hungry officials from the Municipality of Dordrecht, which still acts without any evidence or reasonable suspicion.
Since the law doesn't acknowledge municipality officials to do an investigation into this ministry, our board didn't and doesn't acknowledge them either. The response of the board has always been: Do it by the law and you'll have our full cooperation. The request for personal (contact) information of all the people involved was definitely a bridge to far, which would cause us to violate the European privacy laws. At several occasions the board has invited the Municipality of Dordrecht to hand the case over to the appointed and lawful investigative body, which is the Public Prosecution Service. As the board of this ministry, we have even told them that we would voluntary cooperate with any such investigation, without the need for a court order. After all, when it turns out that illegal activities took place they will be involved anyway, and we have nothing to hide. However, time after time the Municipality of Dordrecht refused and choose to continue their illegal investigation.
Even though we did not agree with the request for all personal details of all the people involved, we did hand them over the annual reports over the last years within the timeframe, as a sign of goodwill. However, since they requested for so much, we delivered it to them digitally, by giving them a link to the cloud storage of the ministry, which contained all the requested documents. What followed was silence. After the timeframe passed and after we asked them for the status, the claimed they had never received the documents in the right way. No, they were not going to access our cloud. We had to print each and every page and physically bring it to them. Which they told us after the timeframe passed, because of which we were set in default. But even after we delivered them all the pages on paper (about 1800 pages), they still did nothing with it. No, now they demanded it to be on the letterhead of an official government accountant. Just to be clear, the price tag connected to that request would have been several thousands of euros, which neither the ministry nor we had. The ‘investigator’ told us that “in America people like you are also flying in private planes”, so there must be something to be found. What he meant were Christian leaders, for that is the image they have of Christianity. Talking about bias… No matter what we gave them, they always requested more. Meanwhile they did nothing with the requested documents and an investigation to our ministry was therefore never executed nor concluded.
In court the judge noticed the same thing as well and asked the Municipality of Dordrecht when it would be enough according to them. They answered the judge by saying: “We don’t know.” But then the attention was directed to the duty to report. When you receive a social assistance benefit, you’re required to report all of your activities, which we did. However, in court we suddenly heard the Municipality of Dordrecht claim that we had never reported anything to them. When I tried to show the judge a copy of every email I had sent them, including acknowledgments of receipt from the Municipality of Dordrecht, we suddenly heard them claim that we had falsified those emails. To our great surprise nobody took the time to even look at it and the judge decided that he couldn’t decide whether the emails were real or not and was therefore ruling against us.
When you paid attention, you can clearly see that the verdict of the court was made without any investigation. An investigation to my wife and me personally was never conducted, an investigation to the ministry was never executed or concluded, our actual evidence was thrown out and assumptions without factual substantiation from Dordrecht were accepted as the truth. And the icing on the cake? The ministry was never made a party in all of this and therefore had no right to defend itself in court. And that happened in the nation that hosts the International Criminal Court.