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Dutch justice minister, junior minister resign over misleading parliament

In the Netherlands, a political scandal has erupted over a court payout to a drug dealer in 2001. The Dutch justice minister and his junior minister have resigned, saying MPs had been misled about the value of the deal.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government faced a shake up on Monday evening with the announcement of his justice minister's resignation over a criminal case dating back to the early 2000s.

Earlier in the evening, the justice ministry had revealed a massive payout worth roughly 2 million euros (4.7 million Dutch guilders at the time) to a drug trafficker in 2001. The Amsterdam public prosecutor's office had struck the deal after being unable to prove that the accused, Cees H., had illegally obtained his money.

Although the deal was legal, the sum revealed on Monday evening was far greater than what Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten (pictured) had originally told MPs last year, when the case came to light. Opstelten stepped down hours later, citing his misrepresentation of the details.

The scandal also forced the resignation of his junior minister, Fred Teeven, who served as Amsterdam's public prosecutor in the Cees H. deal.

Reuters news agency further reported that Prime Minister Ruttke had also faulted the justice ministry leaders for failing to find the documentation relating to the deal. They had reportedly been lost.

The resignations on Monday threatened to further weaken Ruttke's conservative Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) ahead of upcoming provincial elections, in which it is already projected to incur major losses, according to news agency DPA.

The center-right leader has been struggling to lead a stable government with junior coalition partner, the Labour party. Shortly before Christmas, disagreement between the partners over a healthcare bill

triggered political deadlock

and sparked concern of the government's collapse.

kms/gsw (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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