THE NETHERLANDS: Prince in Double Dutch

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Prince Bernhard, the globetrotting royal businessman accused of being on the take in the Lockheed scandal (TIME, Feb. 23), was charged last week with doing some palm greasing of his own. The Netherlands' leading newspaper, Amsterdam's Telegraaf, implicated Bernhard in a $12 million bribe paid 25 years ago to the late dictator Juan Peron and other Argentine officials to clinch a $100 million railroad-car contract for the Dutch firm Werkspoor. The bribe, which was authorized by the Dutch State Bank and approved by the government, also included the gift of a deluxe presidential train for el Lider and $12,000 in jewelry for his second wife, Evita.

What made the report all the more intriguing was the role played by Marinus Holtrop, one of three men appointed by Prime Minister Joop den Uyl to investigate the allegations against Bernhard in the Lockheed case. Holtrop, it turns out, was president of the Dutch State Bank at the time the bribery money was placed in Swiss bank accounts held by Peron and other Argentines.

The Telegraaf report—confirmed by Dutch officials familiar with the deal—stated that Bernhard was acting under government orders when he persuaded Peron to make the deal. Curiously, some Dutch businessmen regarded the disclosure as a defense of the beleaguered prince. Said one executive: "There's a difference, after all, between giving bribes and taking bribes."

Prime Minister Den Uyl has ordered an investigation of the Peron affair, but regardless of how it comes out, the accusations are another blow to Bernhard's shaky public image. Presumably, public pressure will grow more intense for his wife, Queen Juliana, to remove the prince from the limelight. To do that, she might have to abdicate.