ING boss says proposed pay rise was major error of judgement

ING chief executive Ralph Hamers told MPs on Wednesday that his proposed pay rise earlier this year was a major error of judgement. Hamers was the ‘star turn’ at a parliamentary finance committee hearing set up to look at the financial sector 10 years after the start of the financial crisis. The pay rise and the money laundering scandal should ‘never have happened,’ Hamers said in his opening address. And he said he understood that there is a negative view of the bank. ‘Advances have been made in the past 10 years and there have been setbacks. It is a slow process,’ he told MPs. In March ING's supervisory board withdrew the proposed 50% pay rise for Hamers, saying it had 'underestimated the public response in the Netherlands on this clearly sensitive matter'. Hundreds of customers are thought to have closed their accounts in protest at the pay rise and the proposal to increase Hamer's pay to €3m was condemned as 'arrogant' and 'out of touch' by politicians across the political spectrum. Money laundering ING took a second hit in September when the public prosecution department said it had reached a €775m out of court settlement with ING for failing to properly monitor money transfers for potential money laundering. The department said between 2010 and 2016, the bank's clients were effectively able to launder hundreds of millions of euros because ING was not doing its job properly. Banks are required by law to report suspicious transactions. ‘How can you rebuild trust in the financial sector if you know that you are committing fraud and accepting a million euro pay rise?’ said Labour MP Henk Nijboer.  More >

Buddha claim is inadmissable, court says

A group of Chinese villagers who had gone to court in the Netherlands in their battle to prove they are the rightful owners of a golden Buddha have been told by the judge their case is inadmissable. The court said that the committees from the villages of Tangchun and Dong Pu are not legal entities and so cannot take legal proceedings. The court did not rule on the ownership of the Buddha, which which contains the mummified body of a monk. The villagers say the 1.2 metre high Buddha was stolen from them 22 years ago. Oscar van Overeem, said to be the owner of the statue, told the court earlier this year that he no longer owns it and that he does not know the identity of its new owner. Van Overeem told the court he had swapped the Buddha with another collector in a paper-free deal because he was 'fed up' with the legal wrangles surrounding it. News programme Questions about the 1,000 year old Buddha’s ownership arose when it was the star item in a show at the Hungarian natural history museum in Budapest in 2015. Pictures of the Buddha were shown on a Chinese news programme, leading villagers in Yangchun to claim it had been stolen from their temple in 1995. The statue contains the mummified body of a monk, who the villagers claim is local man Zhanggong Zushi. But Van Overeem disputes their claim, saying the Buddha he owned did not have a hole on its left hand or signs of a break on the neck.  More >

No-deal legislation plan undemocratic: MPs

The Dutch cabinet's emergency legislation which it will enact if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal gives the cabinet uncontrollable powers, most parties in parliament say. The legislation gives a minister the right to change or withdraw laws without parliamentary approval and without being put out to consultation to the Council of State. 'If something has to be sorted out quickly, parliament can meet on Saturday and it can be implemented on Monday,' CDA parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt told current affairs show Nieuwsuur.  'This emergency legislation has fewer guarantees than a calling for a state of emergency.' The cabinet has to change the proposed legislation, said D66 MP Kees Verhoeven. 'Brexit might be a unique situation but that does not mean you can bypass parliament. Haste and panic are the wrong reflexes.' And GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver has said the legislation 'is more appropriate to a dictatorship than a democracy'. However, VVD parliamentary party leader Klaas Dijkhoff said the concern is premature. 'This emergency law cannot come into effect without parliament,' he said. 'We need to strike a balance between proper preparation and being able to act in a targeted way. But we cannot predict everything, and sometimes parliament will have to lower its voice, if the situation demands it.' No deal Foreign affairs minister Stef Blok sent the emergency powers legislation to parliament last month as part of the preparations for a no-deal Brexit, which pundits say is becoming increasingly likely. He said at the time that the aim is to make sure that people can still travel to the UK without too many problems, and to deal with practical matters, such as the legality of a British driving licence in the Netherlands. 'The law gives the government the option to take emergency measures,' Blok said. 'Brexit is a completely new situation and a no deal Brexit may have far reaching consequences.' He will discuss the draft legislation with MPs in January.  More >

Avicii tops search list

Swedish dj Avicii, who died in April, was the most popular search term on this year, followed by singer Glennis Grace, who took part in the America's Got Talent tv show, and troubled reality soap star Barbie. Actress turned British duchess Meghan Markle also made the top 10, as did Jos Brech, who is accused of murdering an 11-year-old boy 20 years ago. Top of the search engine's questions was 'what is dividend tax?', followed by 'what is the dragnet law?' - the nickname for new legislation giving the security services much greater powers to tap phones and the internet. The football World Cup was the top event, followed by the Tour de France cycle race and the Pinkpop concert. Surprisingly, Amsterdam football club Ajax did not make the top five most searched football clubs. PSV topped that list followed by FC Twente and Liverpool.  More >

Household income rises for many families

Some 500,000 Dutch households had purchasing power of more than €50,000 last year, a rise of 120,000 on 2013, the national statistics office CBS said on Wednesday. Purchasing power is disposable income adjusted for differences in household size and composition and is also referred to as standardised income, the CBS said. The Netherlands has some 7.7 million households and the figures show 7% have purchasing power of more than €50,000, mainly due to economic growth, the CBS said. Some 55,000 families had purchasing power of more than €100,000 - up around 12,000 on 2013. The CBS survey also showed that the self employed are more likely to be high earners - with 20% having purchasing power of more than €50,000. In the population at large, just 7% of workers earn such high amounts.  More >

Albert Heijn to cook meals on the spot

A forecast halt to turnover growth is forcing supermarket leader Albert Heijn into a change of concept for its shops and possible closures, the Financieele Dagblad reports. Ahold Delhaize boss Wouter Kolk told the paper online shopping is partly the reason the shops are doing less well. It is time supermarkets take on ‘a different role’, the FD quotes him as saying. In practice this means that there will be less space for traditional products like pet food and cleaning products. Instead, more room will be made for food-oriented services with kitchens where takeaway meals are prepared, and home delivery services. The move means that a small number of shops could face closure, ‘I don’t think we’ll have over a thousand shops in the Netherlands in future. And we don’t need to. But the number of shops will not fall drastically because they will be needed for direct consumption and a fast delivery service’ he told the FD. The first Albert Heijn with its own kitchen will open in Amsterdam early next year.  More >