The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) is currently investigating Van Oord, an international marine contractor, for suspected bribery in Kazakhstan. This investigation follows a report by

Follow the Money (FTM), an investigative journalism platform. While the OM has confirmed the investigation, they have not disclosed any details. Van Oord has also refrained from commenting on the matter.

According to sources cited by FTM, the OM suspects that an agent who assisted Van Oord in securing contracts in Kazakhstan may have funneled money to a company connected to the former president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In 2015, Van Oord won contracts worth half a billion dollars in Kazakhstan, including a significant dredging project for an oil and gas facility access channel.

The case centers around an agent whose collaboration with Van Oord was terminated prematurely. In 2017, Van Oord revised its internal procedures to adhere to legislation, resulting in the non-renewal of several agent contracts. The company ended an agreement with one agent, compensating them with 5 million euros for the contract termination and 19 million euros for a non-competition clause. The 2017 annual report indicated that this transaction might not comply with legal standards, as there was no clear, demonstrable consideration for the payment.

"Due to the fact that this non-compete agreement cannot be proven to have been concluded at arm’s length, there is a risk of material consequences for the annual financial statements in connection with possible non-compliance with laws and regulations," the company warned investors on page 91 of its 106-page report.

The OM deemed this payment sufficient grounds to initiate an investigation into Van Oord, which has been ongoing since 2020. Van Oord explained their reliance on agents to secure and execute contracts in various parts of the world, acknowledging that this practice can increase the risk of non-compliance with laws and regulations. They stated that agents typically receive a fixed percentage of the contract price or a success fee for their services.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s first president, rose to power swiftly after becoming the country's prime minister in the mid-1980s. He remained president from 1991 until his resignation in 2019, maintaining strong relationships with Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin during his tenure. Photo by Ninaras, Wikimedia commons.