Society designer arrested for tax fraud

Dutch interior desinger Jan des Bouvrie in better days.

By Philip de Witt Wijnen

Dutch interior designer and society figure, Jan des Bouvrie, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of real-estate related tax fraud.

Des Bouvrie was still being held in custody on Wednesday morning, sources in law enforcement and close to Des Bouvrie confirmed. Both the designer’s company and the public prosecutor refused to comment.

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Des Bouvrie’s arrest has been linked to the recent arrest of an Utrecht real estate trader, Evert Kroon of Kroon Real Estate, and Kroon’s fellow managing director Arjen de G. Both are suspected of committing tax fraud and forging documents. They are thought to have embezzled 1.5 million euros in the construction and renovation of their private real estate property.

Wrong company gets the bill

By billing one of Kroon’s companies for these private jobs, the two were able to fraudulently reclaim VAT. The public prosecutor believes the suspects “probably paid for private renovations with taxpayers’ money,” according to a statement on Tuesday.

The nature of Jan Des Bouvrie’s involvement is still unclear. It is common knowledge in real estate circles that Des Bouvrie and Evert Kroon are friends. Bouvrie is Kroon’s main interior decorator, and he has done work on both his office and his yacht. Evert Kroon is a well known businessman in Utrecht, where he was both sponsor and a member of the board of local football club FC Utrecht.

Jan des Bouvrie (67) became a national celebrity in the Netherlands through his frequent appearances in the society columns of Dutch newspapers and on TV. He is a frequent guest at jet-set parties and fashion shows. Des Bouvrie also hosted his own TV show from 1995 to 2003.

Des Bouvrie was a trendsetting interior designer for the Netherlands' nouveau riche, but he has also had numerous corporate clients.

Earlier troubles with the taxman

At times,though, Des Bouvrie’s fame and achievement outpaced his financial success. In the 1990s, Arthur Andersen accounting firm had to clean up the books at Des Bouvrie’s company after it had gotten into a fiscal mess. Last year, Des Bouvrie asked his 25 employees to sacrifice ten percent of their pay because his furniture store was suffering a lack of liquidity due to the recession. According to its latest annual results, Jan des Bouvrie Holding made half a million euros in profits in 2007, with revenue amounting to 8.8 million.

An operator working at Des Bouvrie’s furniture shop could hardly believe her boss had been arrested. “We have an honest man for a boss,” she said on Wednesday.

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