INTRODUCTION: Until a year ago, 78-year old Dutch millionaire Pieter Menten was virtually unknown -- living quietly in Holland in a 50-room mansion with a vast art collection.
INTRODUCTION: Until a year ago, 78-year old Dutch millionaire Pieter Menten was virtually unknown -- living quietly in Holland in a 50-room mansion with a vast art collection. Unknown, that is, until a Dutch newspaper reported that Menten was about to auction some of his treasures. That was the end of his obscurity -- and the beginning of one of the most sensational war crime investigations in recent years.
SYNOPSIS: The case to date involves Menten's flight across several European frontiers, an attempt to hide in Switzerland, his expulsion, and arrest by Dutch police. Now, a team of Dutch lawyers and detectives has arrived in Moscow to take up the Soviet connection. More than 30 years ago, in the wilderness of the Western Ukraine during World War Two, Menten is alleged to have massacred several hundred Jews in prison camps. It is said he was a feared Nazi SS officer. If convicted, he faces the death penalty. Soviet authorities are co-operating in the investigation.
The dutch team discussed the situation with Soviet legal officials before setting off to the Lvov region of the Ukraine, near the Polish border for a two-week inquiry. Menten himself, a diabetic, is being held in a Dutch prison hospital in the Hague. He has not yet been formally charged, and has denied all the allegations. Dutch authorities, meanwhile, have also set up a commission to investigate other allegations that Menten escaped prosecution for war crimes in 1948 because he had high government connections. The team of on-the-spot investigators is led by an examining judge. The others include a public prosecutor, a police commissioner, and an inspector. They'll be questioning local residents, examining the site of the prison camps, and looking through public records to try and fit together pieces of a grisly past.