When British American Tobacco (BAT) closed its factory doors in the small town of Zevenaar in 2007, it donated 400,000 euros to set up ‘Stichting Cultuur BAT’, a foundation supporting local cultural events. Meanwhile, the municipality bought real estate from BAT and received a part of its renowned Peter Stuyvesant art collection. The mayor arranged these deals mostly on his own, while side-lining the municipal council.
The main reason for BAT’s cultural donation was to promote the memory of the company in the town of Zevenaar. However, from the perspective of the Dutch Tobacco Law (2003) this could be considered a prohibited form of tobacco marketing. When The Investigative Desk obtained documents about this episode via the Dutch Public Access to Government Information Act (WOB), we discovered several gaps in these documents, particularly during the most crucial phase of the decision-making process. When we started legal proceedings to force the municipality to account for this gap, it deleted the mayor’s email communication with BAT.
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