Dutch government asks prosecutors to probe tax office

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch government reported its own taxation office to public prosecutors on Tuesday, seeking an investigation into possible discrimination in a long-running scandal centered on civil servants trying to track down parents fraudulently claiming child care benefits.

The case involves thousands of parents who had their child care benefit payments stopped or were ordered to repay money amid fraud investigations. In some cases, parents were plunged into financial problems after being wrongly accused of falsely claiming benefits.

The investigation into possible discrimination between 2013 and 2017 comes amid reports of possible profiling by tax authorities as they sought to identify fraudsters. Dutch media have reported that one of the criterion used to select parents for investigation was having dual nationality.

The finance ministry said in a statement that an independent expert who looked into the case based his suspicion of discrimination on “questions in Tax Service systems based on origin.”

Government officials have apologized for the scandal and in March earmarked 500 million euros ($550 million) to compensate more than 20,000 parents.

Prosecutors also have been asked to look into whether civil servants deliberately demanded wrongful payments.

The Dutch minister that oversees the tax office, Alexandra van Huffelen, said it’s important for prosecutors to investigate. It will be up to prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.

“Hopefully, this far-reaching step will contribute to closing in a just manner this painful chapter for so many people,” Van Huffelen said.