herald

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Irish woman locked up in Dutch police blunder

INNOCENT: Dublin film-maker seized at airport over ¤100k fraud

A DUBLIN woman who was arrested and held in Amsterdam for suspected internet fraud has spoken of her nightmare ordeal.

Louise Williams, a documentary maker, was arrested at Schiphol airport after officers suspected her of being involved in a €100,000 fraud.

The Rathmines woman was held for hours before she was eventually released in the case of mistaken identity.

Louise was travelling home from Amsterdam on February 5 after giving a training course. Things took a turn when Louise arrived at passport control.

"They were staring quiet hard at the computer. They told me they needed to check something and we went into an office," she said."I wasn't worried at this point, but it was a hassle, as I had a plane to catch home."

However, Louise was left stunned when Amsterdam police were called and she was told she was under arrest for internet fraud.

"I'd never even heard of internet fraud and I knew I'd never committed any fraud so I told them they were wrong and wrong to be doing this.

"They took off my shoes and belt and put me in a cell. A woman came in wearing rubber gloves, you just don't know what kind of search they were going to carry out. It wasn't a cavity search, she just went through my clothes.

"I kept thinking, 'nobody knows I'm here', I wasn't allowed to make a call. I was just staring at the white tiles."

After several hours in custody police escorted her from the airport back to a police station in Amsterdam city centre.



Screaming

"The police walked me out of Schiphol airport on either side of me. All the passengers were looking at me, it's Amsterdam Airport so they probably thought I'd been caught trafficking drugs. It was humiliating," she recalled.

Louise was told her identity had been used to commit a crime. "I didn't even know what crime it was so I didn't know how to establish my innocence."

The Dublin woman was then held for several more hours in an Amsterdam cell. "Other prisoners were banging on the walls, there were all these voices and people were screaming. It was an absolute nightmare.

"Nobody knew I was there and that was worrying me."

Louise was finally brought to see a detective, who told her she had been arrested because her name had been linked to the theft of €100,000.

The money had been taken from an account in 2005 and €16,000 had been put into a Post Bank account opened in her name in Holland, she was told.

The detective accepted that Louise had been the victim of identity theft and she was finally allowed to leave.

"Believing my identity had been stolen I was worried about where else there could be a warrant out in my name," added Louise, who travels extensively in sub-Saharan Africa for work.

Several weeks after she arrived home Louise received a letter from the Dutch police telling her the case had been dropped due to insufficient evidence but could be reopened in the future.

However, when she attempted to bring the matter further she discovered that she had been the victim of a police error.

"I contacted Post Bank and their security team got back to me and informed me my identity had never been used to open that bank account."

The bank account had been opened by a Mr James Williams from Niger, who shared the same date of birth as Louise.

After months of writing letters to the Dutch authorities Louise finally received a letter apologising for the mistake and informing her that the wrong data had been put in the system.

Now when she travels Louise carries extra documents with her. She has also been told the the mix up could cause problems for her entering the US.

"If I'm ever stopped again I will know a lot more about what questions to ask and they will have a lot of questions to answer," she said.

She was so determined to get to the bottom of why she was arrested that she made a radio documentary which was broadcast on RTE.

hnews@herald.ie

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