Forty years of searching: where is that damn Heineken money?

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Forty years of searching: where is that damn Heineken money?

The missing Heineken ransom is one of the most evocative stories from the country’s criminal history. The tentacles of the myths surrounding the 8 million guilders extended into high-profile lawsuits. Willem Holleeder, his sisters Astrid and Sonja and many others have been talking about it for whole days. But who is right? Now there is a book that maps fact and fiction, and helps the reader distinguish between sense and nonsense.

Podcast and book

The Heineken ransom: How the disappeared millions are still haunting is a book by journalist Harry Lensink and Crimesite editor-in-chief Wim van de Pol. It emerged from the research for a podcast series they did together with Sophie Blok. The podcast series (The hunt for the Heineken ransom) is released simultaneously with the book, as a co-production of Follow the Money and Dag en Nacht Media/Podimo.

Forty years

On November 9, it will be forty years ago that beer magnate Freddy Heineken and his driver Ab Doderer were kidnapped in the center of Amsterdam. A ransom was paid and the kidnappers later put away with prison sentences.

But of the 35 million that was transferred in different currencies and buried somewhere in the Utrecht forests, 8 million guilders remained missing. That money was out of the picture and was invested, probably with a return.

Willem Holleeder and Cor van Hout knew more about it, but served their prison sentences in silence and remained silent.


After their release things started to get spooky. There were stories about it in the newspapers:
Cor and Willem are said to have invested their millions in the Red Light District. The Metropolitan Police investigated, but it was unsuccessful.

In the meantime, the stories persisted: it was said to have been burned on the beach, it was said to have been invested in prostitution houses in Alkmaar, and in a brothel in Amsterdam South. Was it reburied in the Parisian Bois de Boulogne or near a tree in Lage Vuursche? Did it go into the drug trade or was it laundered at border exchange offices?

“Construction worker”

Did “Construction Worker” or “Buildie” Rob Grifhorst waste the money in his Christmas tree on real estate companies? Or did Willem Endstra, who was shot dead in 2004, do that?

Were the prostitution properties on the Alkmaar Achterdam owned by Cor van Hout, who was also shot dead in 2003? Was that paid for with Heineken money? And had Van Hout already sold his real estate before his death or not?

And why did Astrid and Sonja Holleeder, as witnesses in the murder case against their brother, lie to the court and the court about Cor’s inheritance?

Gerard Holleeder

Harry Lensink and Wim van de Pol map the route of those lost 8 million. They spoke to Heineken kidnapper Jan Boellaard, the son of Rob Grifhorst, and also Gerard Holleeder. That is special, because Willem’s brother has never spoken out about family matters before.

They also interviewed investigating officers, city administrators and Red Light District entrepreneurs and delved into old and new criminal files.


The government’s frustration that the damn 8 million was never captured is great and has never really subsided. And so the shadow of the disappeared Heineken ransom is long.

In a drawn-out case, Marcel Kaatee is currently on trial in the court in Amsterdam for the second time for laundering Holleeder’s Heineken millions, after he was fully acquitted in 2009. Kaatee bought two arcades from Willem Endstra in 2002. But the judiciary insists that Kaatee is a straw man and Holleeder is the true owner.


Once again a court has to wade through all the (very old) files. But on paper there is absolutely no shred of evidence for Holleeder’s ownership. Once again the court must orient itself on witnesses, myths and monkey stories.

What is the connection between De Wallen and De Achterdam? The authors of The Disappeared Heineken Ransom also pored through the files and heard the stories.

Where has the Heineken money gone? Is it invested in real estate? But where? Or is it somewhere safe in a bank account?


Excerpt from chapter 3: The Division

On Saturday evening, August 10, 1996, the telephone rang at the home of Amsterdam entrepreneur Jan Otten. It is his childhood friend ‘Fat’ Charles Geerts, owner of a trio of buildings in the red light district. He has been drinking, Otten hears: Geerts is in a cheerful mood. He is calling from Maastricht, where he was a guest at the wedding of lawyer Bram Moszkowicz.
‘I have something for you, Jan. You really want Casa Rosso, don’t you?’
Otten has been leasing the sex theater from Rob Grifhorst for years. He recently indicated that he wanted to get rid of that.
This is how the conversation must have gone that evening in 1996. Less than a month later, on September 4, Otten drives to the Baambrugse Zuwe, the road full of millionaires’ homes that cuts the Vinkeveense Plassen in two and where Grifhorst also has a villa. When he walks into the garden, which borders the water, Otten feels like he is ‘in a mafia movie’. There are stacks of documents on a long table with coffee and sandwiches. They each represent a real estate object of the resident: two arcades, the Banana Bar, Casa Rosso and the Erotic Museum.
Everything is for sale. Grifhorst’s wallet is spread out like in a Monopoly game. (…)

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