THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch prosecutors declined Thursday to open an investigation into possible discrimination by staff at the country’s tax office, saying they found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in a long-running scandal linked to efforts to track down parents fraudulently claiming child care benefits.
The Dutch government asked prosecutors to consider opening a criminal case in May amid reports of possible profiling by tax authorities seeking to identify fraudsters. One of the criteria used to select parents for investigation was having dual nationality.
Over several years, thousands of parents had their child care benefit payments stopped or were ordered to repay money amid fraud investigations. Some parents were plunged deep into debt after being wrongly accused of falsely claiming benefits.
A parliamentary inquiry issued a scathing report into the scandal last month, saying that “fundamental principles of the rule of law have been violated” in attempts to root out welfare fraud.
However, the Public Prosecution Service said in a statement that after analyzing the case it found “no criminal suspicion” of civil servants wrongfully claiming public funds or discriminating. It added that because the tax office is part of the state apparatus of government, it’s immune from prosecution.
“Responsibility for culpable acts attributable to the state must be sought in the political domain and not in criminal law,” the prosecution service said in a statement.
That could add to pressure on Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government to take responsibility. There has been speculation that the government could even resign over the scandal. A parliamentary debate is expected to be held on the issue before a general election scheduled for March 17.
Government officials apologized for the scandal and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($550 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents.
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.