Rotterdam: Home care company suspected of fraud

A home-care company is suspected of swindling elderly Muslims who barely speak Dutch out of up to several millions of Euros.

The administration of the 'U en Zo' care company , aimed at helping Muslims, coaxed clients of money meant for their care. According to the prosecution the administration fooled the elderly saying that they should hand over their home-care money to 'U en Zo', and the company would then handle all the care for the clients. But this care never materialized and the administrators pocketed it.

The swindle was possible since the suspects acted as an agent in spending the individual budget and extending care in kind. The prosecution suspects that the clients don't know how much money they had been tricked out of. It is still not clear how many people were victimized.

In order to get a definite answer, police searched the 'U en Zo' headquarters in Rotterdam and branches in Amsterdam, Schiedam and Eindhoven yesterday, and took the paper-work as well. Four of the administrators were arrested - three Moroccan Rotterdam residents aged 21, 33 and 34 and one 50 year old Moroccan from Schiedam.

Police suspect the men of forgery, embezzlement, money laundering and being part of a criminal organization. According to the articles of 'U and Zo' the administrators left the company in 2005. It is unclear if they had continued working for the company.

One of the current managers didn't want to comment, saying only that they will first look internally at what precisely has happened. He didn't want to say if he was informed of the possible fraud by his colleagues.

According to reports from Rotterdam law week, immigrants in need of help are more and more often approached in bad faith by offices who help in spending their personal budge. In order to prevent fraud, the ombudsman and Per Saldo, are working together to make an approval mark.

The four arrested former administrators of 'U en Zo' are known in the neighborhood as 'strict Muslims' with their long beards, djellabas and orthodox behavior. A good acquaintance says that he can't believe they stole from elderly needing help. It's in conflict with Islam.

The strong Islamic tinge of the big swindle investigation attracted the AIVD's attention. Probably especially due to Bouchta T. (50) from Sciedam. The imam of a Tilburg mosque, 'Brother Bouchta' is well known outside Brabant among Muslim youth for his internet koran lessons. The Rotterdam prosecution says that the security service is not involved in the investigation any more. The millions of euros were embezzled purely for their own financial gain and the Moroccans are suspected only of theft and nothing points to terrorism.

The three men are especially known in the Oude Noorden area of Rotterdam. The oldest is himself paralyzed. After years of experiences with care institutes he set up 'U en Zo' in 2003 due to cultural differences. A home-care club which is strict in Islamic doctrine: men and women work in different offices, just as the help is separated. A Muslim needing help would only be washed by somebody of the same sex. The young men brought in clients also through the Abou Bark Mosque, where they waited for visitors. Until several months ago they came here to pray.

Chairman Abdel Kaddouri never heard bad stories. The same goes for an administration member of the Moroccan Cultural Association of Rotterdam (MCVR). "My mother-in-law was very happy with her help. Especially because of the language."

This Rotterdam resident particularly knows the youngest suspect, an old neighbor that he saw grow up to a believing Muslim. "He didn't want to shake hands with women. With his beard and dress he was a special man, but also a good man. he never spoke badly of others. How can he have stolen money now?" He thinks that the suspects always worked at 'U en Zo' even though they weren't part of the administration anymore.

In the care institution on Bergsingel the day after the police raid, where all the paperwork was taken away, is a day like all others. Young Muslim men rush here and there. An employee who opens the door emphasizes that the care continues and that they have informed all their clients of that.

Nobody wants to say anything further about the case, which started after large amounts of cash - once even 100,000 euro - were picked up several times.

Sources: AD 1, 2 (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Muslim home-care

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