| Willem Matser |
(spook, deep state functionary, forger, fraudster, businessman)
|money laundering, forgery, fraud|
|time served plus a 3 months suspended sentence|
| • forgery|
Willem Matser is a Dutch spook. He was "one of [NATO Secretary General] Lord Robertson's top policy experts", who was charged various offences in connection with a $200m (£120m) money laundering operation between Colombia and Romania. Matser denied the charges, but found guilty of fraud and forgery, he was sentenced to time served (almost 1 year).
Willem Matser was an officer in Dutch Military Intelligence and Eastern European affairs adviser for many years to the NATO Secretary General, George Robertson. Matser saw the Secretary General on a daily basis and his work with NATO took him all over the world. As of May 2017, the NATO website still featured material attributed to him. In 2001, Matser wrote for NATO Review on "NATO-Russia relations in the wake of 11 September and the prospects for improved cooperation".
Matser's 2003 arrest for a 9 digit money laundering charge was front page news in Romania and the Netherlands and was reported briefly by the commercially-controlled media in the rest of Europe, but in USA appeared to be subject to a news blackout. In 2004 he was found not guilty of money laundering but guilty of forgery and fraud. Matser's 14 month prison sentence was waived in view of time served (almost 1 year), so he was released with 3 years' probation.
After the trial, the UK Secretary of State for Defence was asked about the matter in parliamentary question time on 11 February 2004; the response was given by Adam Ingram, (Minister of State for the Armed Forces): "I have not received any official reports regarding this case, nor have I raised the matter with the NATO Secretary General."
Ovidiu Tender connection
In 2002, he went to two meetings of secret services in NATO countries and candidates in Romania: April 2002 in Sinaia when he was co-opted in Tender's business, and in September 2002 from Snagov, where one of the sponsors was the Romanian tycoon Ovidiu Tender, owner of Timisorene. Matser was introduced to Tender in April 2002 by Ioan Talpes, a special adviser to President Ion Iliescu, at a NATO-related conference at a Romanian ski resort. Matser spoke at an intelligence services conference in 2003, in Sinaia, Romania, to which he personally contributed around £50,000. There he met up with director of Tender SA, one of the country's largest diversified concerns. At the first meeting between Col. Matser and Mr Tender, two generals from the Romanian secret services were present.
Before Matser's arrest, Tender announced to the Romanian media that he and Matser were going to bid to gain control of PETROM National Society (SNP), a Romanian oil-company, which produces 10% of the Romanian GDP. Together with Tender SA and Halliburton, Matser sought a controlling 51% share (at a cost of approximately US$ 1 billion). A few days after the announcement of this trio’s interest, Matser was arrested and charged with having worked out an illegal financial arrangement designed to bring $200 million to Romania from Colombia. Romania's Economy Ministry subsequently announced that the Matser/Tender/Halliburton consortium was no longer being considered for the privatisation of PETROM.
Matser had an interest in Ovidiu Tender's (45 per cent acquisition of assets for $ 140 million and then "tandem" participation in Petrom's privatization). Tender also had an interest in Frank Timis / Rosia Montana - Gold Corporation. Another key man in the business was then Romanian Head of the National Security Department, Ioan Talpeş.
On 3rd February 2003, Willem Matser, then aged 50, was arrested in his office at NATO HQ in Brussels on suspicion of laundering around USD 200 million for a Colombian drug cartel. Police seized a $200,000 transaction document issued by Bank Santander in Bogota, Colombia in favour of Tender SA, together with a CD detailing a $200,000,000 transfer to the company. Matser was arrested with Pietro Fedino, aged 64, an Italian crime boss connected to the Columbian Cali cartel.
The investigation of Matser led Dutch prosecutors to Romania, where they interviewed Ovidiu Tender about his business dealings with Matser. Tender told Dutch investigators that he had attended a meeting between Matser and the Romanian prime minister, Adrian Nastase, at which Matser had announced that he had $2–3 billion to invest. The inquiry revealed that Matser possessed forged bank documents relating to Tender SA and had misused the company's name in the transactions under investigation. The Dutch investigation also revealed that Tender had strong ties to the Romanian intelligence community.
“Matser claimed that he had such gigantic sums at his disposal because he ran a sort of freelance brokerage business in the short-term money markets. He claimed that he operated on a 40% commission for companies seeking short-term loans, and that with this business he had amassed a fortune which he wanted to invest. Specialists consulted during the trial said this was simply impossible.”
The UK Times reported:
- “According to documents seen by The Sunday Times, the investigation began last September after customs police at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam received a tip-off about a FedEx parcel sent from Colombia to an address in the Netherlands. The parcel was found to contain a receipt for a £120m deposit at a bank in Bogotá and a fake document authorising the transfer of the same amount of money to Tender SA, a company registered in the Romanian town of Timisoara. The company is not suspected of any wrongdoing.”
And here some more background on the investigations from the same report:
- “The information was passed to a police unit working for the Dutch finance ministry that specializes in combating organised crime. The package was fitted with a bug and resealed. It was allegedly received by Fedino, who is suspected by the Dutch police of being an Italian mafia boss. Five agents monitored him around the clock and listened to his telephone calls. It was this surveillance that led police to Matser. In a call taped on September 7, a man later identified as Matser said he was "going to be leaving NATO in half an hour".”
- “In a further conversation, on December 27, Matser allegedly said: "I’ll make false documents for the entire transaction... It’s no problem; my computer’s very patient and I can even recreate the official notary seals from old documents." Matser also held several meetings with his alleged accomplices. One meeting with [Mohammed] Kadem on Christmas Eve at the Airport hotel in Rotterdam was filmed by the surveillance team. Kadem was already the focus of four international drug investigations and had been sought by Interpol since 1996. Investigators believe Matser helped to set up the scheme when NATO sent him to Romania last year to instruct central European intelligence chiefs on how to raise standards.”
Matser stood trial on charges of fraud, forgery, criminal conspiracy and money-laundering. Most reports state that he was charged with with two other men, Pietro Fedino, an Italian crime boss and and Willem van Voorthuizen, a Dutch estate agent with a string of fraud convictions. The BBC published one report on the matter, which contains the claim that Matser was tried with 3 other men, including another (unnamed) Dutch co-defendant. The trial began in Haarlem on 13th January, 2004. Prosecutor Henk Dijkstra said he would ask for the charge of money laundering to be dropped because the 200 million dollars was never found in the Colombian account.
A Dutch court on 27 January acquitted Matser of charges he attempted to launder $200 million by channeling money from a Colombian bank account to Belgium via Romania. The judge said prosecutors had failed to support the money-laundering charges. Matser was found guilty of forgery and fraud on two other counts. All three were found not guilty of being involved with a criminal organization and previous charges of money laundering leveled against Matser were also dropped.
The judge[Who?] expressed sympathy with Matser, saying that as there were no previous convictions against him and since his actions were not solely for personal gain, a shorter sentence was more suitable. Matser was sentenced to 14 months in prison, but was ordered released because he has already served two-thirds of the sentence in pretrial detention. He was given three years' probation. His co-accused, Pietro Fedino and Willem van Voorthuizen of Nijmegen, were respectively sentenced to jail terms of 15 and 18 months of which three months was suspended.
The unusual surname "matser" facilitates exploration of reporting on the case. Commercially-controlled media reporting of the case has been very low.No US newspapers or TV channels are known to have reported on the arrest, trial or sentencing of Willem Matser. The Washington Post has made no mention of "Matser" since 2005 (earlier references are paywalled).
Sibel Edmonds draws parallels between the Matser case and the organised drug trafficking of which she uncovered evidence in her work as a translator. Belgium, she alleges is a highly important hub for large scale drug trafficking because NATO is headquartered there and this provides better security in matters such as controlling phone tapping by intelligence agencies.
- Dutch Nato official Willem Matser was working for an Italian crime boss and the Cali cartel, 22 July 2003
- The privatization of Romania's oil industry has enriched the well-connected—and corrupt, January 25, 2005, Paul Radu
- Ex-Nato official on fraud charge, 12 January, 2004
- "AP and AFP reported"