Netherlands: Governing VVD expels convicted terrorist Soumaya Sahla over allegations she swindled ex-leader out of €85,000

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Former convicted terrorist-turned-deradicalization expert Soumaya Sahla has been expelled by the governing Freedom and Democracy (VVD) party in the Netherlands following media allegations that she defrauded its elderly and vulnerable former party leader out of approximately €85,000.

A recently published article in HP/De Tijd alleged that Sahla had swindled significant amounts of money from Frits Bolkestein, a 90-year-old former politician who led the VVD from 1990 to 1998 and served as an EU commissioner from 1999 until 2004.

“The Main Board of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has terminated the party membership of Ms. S. Sahla with immediate effect. She is therefore no longer a member of the VVD,” a party statement read.

It cited the recent allegations made by Bolkestein’s close family as the reason for her party membership being revoked, and the party confirmed it had been in contact with the family and had “determined the accuracy” of its claims.

The elderly man’s nephew, Martijn Bolkestein, accused Sahla of defrauding his uncle at a time when he was seriously ill to the tune of €85,000 after encouraging him to pay her rent and provide her with a living allowance, in addition to transferring large sums of money on multiple occasions.

The victim’s nephew evidenced a number of “inexplicable” cash withdrawals from his uncle’s debit card, which he claimed were “strange” because the former party leader rarely leaves the house anymore. Around €20,000 in cash withdrawals were recorded over a period of three years in addition to several large bank transfers.

Sahla denied the allegations published in the HP/De Tijd magazine, insisting Bolkestein, who she described as her mentor, had funded her lifestyle of his own volition.

“He wanted to guide me, but I had no budget,” a statement from Sahla read. “And then, to help me develop my talents, Frits offered to pay for my PhD. Frits then said very clearly: ‘I will finance that.'”

Sahla was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the proscribed Islamist terror organization De Hofstadgroep back in 2005. Upon her arrest, alongside her husband and fellow member Nouriddin El Fahtni, a loaded Agram 2000 submachine gun was found in a backpack in their possession.

She served three years in prison before turning her head to mainstream politics and becoming an activist for the VVD, rising through the ranks to become the party’s primary spokesperson on terrorism and radicalization.

“As a party, we gave Ms. Sahla a second chance, which was not always easy given her conviction for terrorism,” said VVD chairman Eric Wetzels in response to the latest allegations.

“In our view, she has squandered that second chance in a morally extremely reprehensible manner. That is why there is no longer a place for her in our party,” he added.

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