Mr. Ronald Lafeber, owner of the Gyron Crew Ltd. in Netherlands, Gyron Shipping, Singapore and Gyron Crew Inc., Manila was arrested in a series of crackdowns by the Dutch IND (Investigation Department of the Inspectorate of Social Affairs).
The Singapore-based Dutchman was the third person arrested following the arrests of Mr. Dolf Kornet, chairman of the Gyron shipping group and their secretary, Ms. Angela Greeg.
The three were accused of exploitation (a form of human trafficking) in the Dutch inland river trade.
The arrest was confirmed by the Public Prosecutor. According to them, there will be more arrests following their current inquiry.
On the day that Mr. Dolf Kornet was arrested in his hometown in Werkendam, Netherlands, the Court of Appeals in Hertogenbosch also pronounced judgment of a civil case in which the three Filipino seafarers who were recruited by the Gyron Crew Manila would be paid tens of thousands of Euros in back wages.
The Dutch National Police and the Inspectorate of Social Affairs have been in a comprehensive investigation against exploitation in the inland shipping trade. The weekly magazine in Netherlands Schuttvaer has followed the case since it emerged few years ago, particularly after complaints from the workers union Nautilus.
Now that Dolf Kornet, the chairman of the Shipping group in Netherlands is under arrest, his job is temporarily taken over by Rolf Malieaard. The members of the shipping group of companies have no idea as to whether Mr. Dolf Kornet will return as chairman in case he is released.
The arrested chairman employed Filipino seafarers in the inland river trade through its agency in Manila Gyron Crew Inc., at a salary below the minimum wage.
Their company in Werkendam, Netherlands duped Filipino seafarers into signing two different contracts; one with a monthly salary of 1285 Euros and another with a basic monthly salary of USD $400.00. The employment contract with the higher wages was used to obtain work permits in the Netherlands.
Mr. Ronald Lafeber is suspected of forgery, facilitation of unauthorized residence in the Netherlands and exploitation in the form of human trafficking, according to the Dutch Department of Justice. The Filipino seafarers were made to work long days of 10 to 11 hours and 6 to 7 days a week and work for 8 months straight on board inland river ships which is not allowed in the Netherland laws.
Gyron Crew Netherlands also withheld their service record books, residence permits and other documents during their period of leave so that they could not complain to the authorities. Working without permits in the Netherlands, like in any other countries, would make them illegal aliens. Some of the Filipino crew who were able to get their papers managed to apply in other companies to get a good salary.
Confiscation of properties
The decision in the appeal at the Court‘s-Hertogenbosch, confirm the interim decision of August 12, 2010 by the District Court of Breda. The decision was in favor of the plaintiffs (Filipino sailors) against Gyron Crew Inc. (Manila) and Gyron Shipping (PTE) Ltd., (Singapore), and Gyron Crew Ltd. in Netherlands.
In the appeal, the owner of the companies, the Singapore resident Dutchman Ronald Lafeber, fought for the decision to be reversed in the lawsuit filed by the four Filipino seafarers who were at that time still employed on board a Dutch inland river barge to prevent further garnishment of properties of Gyron companies.
Fined for Exploitation of Filipino Seafarers
In the Tinig ng Marino issue published last January-February, it was said that the Gyron Crew BV, the manning company of Ronald Lafeber, was meted a hefty fine of Euro 456,000 (about $ 579,850) by the Department of Justice of Netherlands for non-compliance with the regulations concerning the proper employment of foreign nationals in the country.
The Department of Justice of The Netherlands came to the decision after the Labor Inspectorate and some elements of the Dutch police raided its offices in Delft and Werkendam based on the information that the company is actually engaged in slave-trade and exploitation of Filipino seafarers in the inland shipping of Netherlands.
Some 100 ships sailing in the inland waters of Netherlands were inspected by the authorities last year and they found out that from the initial 38 barges they inspected, some 44 Filipino seafarers employed by the Gyron Crew BV were found to have incomplete papers and were considered illegal aliens in the country. On the same raid, the police also netted 11 Romanians, two Slovakians and one Bulgarian who were also improperly documented.
Around 120 Dutch shipping companies were tapping the services of Gyron Crew BV to employ Filipino seafarers on board their vessels, which only means how lucrative the trade is for the recruiting company earning millions of dollars annually by exploiting seafarers.
In addition, the investigators found out that the recruiter Gyron Crew BV did not explain or interpret to the hired workers the UWV labor agreements, which was normally written in Dutch.
Tinig ng Marino started to expose the exploits of Ronald Lafeber as early as in the late 90’s. In the November-December 1998 issue, TNM ran a story of the case filed by Mrs. Luz Alicer who sought for the blacklisting of C-Link Singapore, the former company of Ronald Lafeber, for non-payment of manning processing and communication fees, non-remittance or late payments of salaries, withholding taxes and SSS contributions, unauthorized deductions from seafarer’s salaries, illegal recruitment through unlicensed agency C-Lines and direct intervention in Crewlink operations.
Instead of paying for what he owed from Mrs. Luz Alicer, Ronald Lafeber bought another manning agency named Jzel which was then owned by Capt. Rodolfo Estampador.
In October 30, 1998, Atty. Reynaldo Regalado, then administrator of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) handed a decision after a long drawn investigation, the blacklisting of C-Link from recruiting Filipino seafarers and a fine of Php 100,000.00. The blacklisting covered also the company’s entire officials including Ronald Lafeber, Fred Rookhuijzen, wife Ellen, brother Peter and Florence Molina.
Regalado ruled that Jzel, then headed by Capt. Rodolfo Estampador, and C-Link connived with each other to mislead POEA officials into accrediting the Seri Kemarin 804, a non-existent offshore tugboat purportedly operated in Brunei waters by Wisjsmuller Marine Services.
Tinig ng Marino also discovered that the ploy enabled Jzel to deploy four seafarers in January 1999 to work on genuine tugboats represented by Crewlink Inc. Seri Mutiara 803 and Seri Kemangan 801.
Instead of paying his dues to Mrs. Luz Alicer, Ronald Lafeber merely changed the name of his companies from C-Link to Gyron and Gyrom PTE., continued his crafty business and filed a libel case against Engr. Ramirez.
Engr. Nelson P. Ramirez is wondering why Ronald Lafeber is still allowed to operate in the country considering the so many legal cases he is involved and found guilty in.
In his letter to POEA administrator Atty. Hanz Leo Cacdac, he sought for the revocation of the license of Gryron Crew Inc., Manila and the permanent banning of Ronald Lafeber in the recruitment business.